Can The Lego Batman Movie “build” on the successes of The Lego Movie, and create another enjoyable, constantly surprising film, as well as a commercial hit, and cater to hard to please bat-fans?
The Lego Batman of The Lego Movie was a fantastic exaggeration of some of the best and worst aspects of The Dark Night. A super confident, super competent, super-hero, who was completely self-absorbed and “emo”, more interested in his “darkness” (his song, not his personality trait) than anyone around him. Basing a whole film around him, even with Will Arnett’s inspired voice work, could have been a huge mistake but the team assembled by Warner Animation Group including director Chris McKay manage to nail the character of Batman better than anyone has in almost a decade.
Hard on Crime, Easy on the Eye
From its opening, fourth-wall breaking narration, The Lego Batman Movie takes the madcap pace and gag-heavy nature of The Lego Movie and dials it up to 11, setting up repeated gags of its own, as well as cracking jokes referencing Batman’s entire history. The opening five minutes of the film alone feature more bat-villains (including obscure characters like Egghead from the 60s TV show) than any Batman film ever!
Like Grant Morrison’s take on the character, the filmmakers treat all of Batman’s history as having happened to the one man. Yes, all of it, from the 2016’s angst-fest Batman V Superman, all the way back to his earliest appearances (plus that weird time in the 1960’s) setting up some fantastic jokes and references for long time fans of The Bat, while still leaving room for growth. For example Bane speaks with Tom Hardy’s accent while Zach Galifianakis’ Joker is a variation on all those that have gone before with his own spin.
Atomic Batteries to Power
That’s not to say that it’s just all scattershot jokes. While the plot changes gear more times that the Joker changes outfits, the film consists of number of very loose stories woven together; Batman dealing with his fear of losing people; Dick Grayson becoming Robin; Barbara Gordon taking over as Gotham police commissioner; The Joker trying to resolve his interpersonal issues with Batman and a late twist that, like that of The Lego Movie, is too fun to spoil.
Amazingly it all works and at the same time it all feels like Batman.
While on the surface Arnett’s Batman is basically a cleaned up version of Gob from Arrested Development, you could almost imagine Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, (or maybe Val Kilmer) saying the same lines if some of the physical comedy was dialled back. Bale’s portrayal in The Dark Knight Rises springs to mind during a particularly whiny conversation with Alfred.
Turbines to Speed
While not explicitly referenced, there are ties to The Lego Movie if you look hard enough. Batman is still a master builder and creates some exquisite machines that will no doubt be found adorning geeks desks and shelves everywhere soon. The filmmakers also litter every single scene with detail as far as the eye can see. Some of the Lego cityscapes are astounding and even in the slightly smaller space of the Bat-cave, there’s enough detail in the background to pore over for days.
In fact with references to bat lore, (and other surprises) an obsession with pop songs of the 80’s and old romantic comedies, the humour may be more enjoyable for adults than children, however there should be enough slapstick and inappropriate laughter to keeps kids occupied (plus IT’S A MOVIE MADE ENTIRELY OF LEGO!!!). While it doesn’t quite feature an “earworm” like “Everything is Awesome” the soundtrack, a mixture of 80’s hits, bat-raps and original songs, is still extremely catchy and hummable.
Despite all this The Lego Batman Movie can’t quite live up to the impossibly high standard set by The Lego Movie. That level of surprise and delight is a trick you can only pull off once. You can’t help but have high expectations going in to The Lego Batman Movie and while it does live up to them it can’t quite exceed them.
Starring: Will Arnett, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera and a host of others!
Directed by: Chris McKay
Official Site here.