Review: The Lego Batman Movie

It’s not as good as The Lego Movie, but The Lego Batman Movie is one of the better films about Batman, despite being made for kids.

Batman/Bruce Wayne (Will Arnett) is insufferably good at keeping control of crime in Gotham (or so he thinks). When Commissioner Gordon resigns to be replaced by daughter Barbara (Rosario Dawson), Batman faces a crisis only accentuated by accidentally adopting the hyperactively naive Dick Grayson (Michael Cera). The Joker (Zack Galifianakis) meanwhile struggles to convince Batman of their “special” relationship, and takes matters into his own hands, with meta results.

This film is just like The Lego Movie in that it appears made for children, but the sheer depth of jokes and references are designed for adults, specifically those only too aware of all things Batman. So as a consequence it is, at times, absolutely hilarious, with the jokes and comedy never far away – returning co-director of The Lego Movie Chris McKay ably utilises talent and technology for a ridiculous romp. It only pales in comparison in that it all feels too quick, and too keen to moralise come the end (as with every kid’s film), but after giving it thought I realised the conclusion is another great exposure of the frankly ridiculous character.cym_yo1w8aqqn_z

McKay utilises the same technology as in The Lego Movie, with the realistic looking characters and world so eerily like their real-life toy equivalents that you forget you’re watching special effects. It really is a remarkable achievement that I still don’t quite understand, and a great positive example of CGI. There’s little original music in the way of songs (a shame after ‘DARKNESS! NO PARENTS!’), but some well-timed uses of popular music add laughs or colour, while the soundtrack from Lorne Balfe feels like a mash-up of every previous doomy Batman score, which is the highest compliment I can give.

Will Arnett is a hilarious comic actor, and I’m pleased he’s got a leading role even if it is just voiceover. The actor’s laughably deep voice, and cocksure characters of the past, are perfect preparation for Batman, and Arnett’s smarmy tones brilliantly bring to life the character’s many, many issues. Michael Cera is also great as weedy, ridiculous Dick (many a knowing joke made about that name), whose idiocy and innocent nature help Batman open up, while offering a large part of the laughs for smaller viewers. The meta-textual nature (no spoilers) was quite a surprise, though I really should have seen that coming after The Lego Movie, and might well confuse some viewers wondering why certain things are happening!

Ralph Fiennes is very well cast as fatherly, doting Alfred, bringing a sort of resigned annoyance to Alfred, who’s always trying to remind Batman that he’s Bruce Wayne, and not just the superhero (hilariously so here). Rosario Dawson has to play the straight(wo)man Barbara to the idiocy taking place , and does this well enough, though it’s a bit of a thankless role; while Zach Galifanakis brings a sort of tortured sadness to the Joker, who really just wants to feel validated in his relationship with Batman (making for some of the funniest, loaded conversations). Also listen out for an A-lister’s arrogant performance as Batman’s Kryptonian pal – it’s worth watching the credits for a couple of minutes to be surprised by some of the voices!

Batman and film nerds alike will want to pause the movie to catch all its references, while casual filmgoers and those aware of Batman’s idiosyncrasies will enjoy it just as much (some early scenes in particular mock the ‘rich lonely orphan’ stereotype perfectly). For me, the best aspects were that scene-by-scene, I realised no other Batman film (whether grim-dark Bale/Affleck or whimsical Adam West) has quite outlined just how stupid the character is. Batman’s problems here, as always, stem from his lack of attachment versus his need for attachment, and the plot twists this every which way, poking holes in his seriousness to great effect. It gets right to the heart of Batman’s bizarre personality and motivations, like none of the other movies did – because it points right at them and mocks them, rather than pretending it’s cool to be an angry rich bloke beating up criminals in a bat-suit.

If The Lego Batman Movie could have been a little longer, with more jokes and less moralising, it would have been perfect! It’s great, but The Lego Movie is still funnier…

 

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