Directed By: Chris McKay Starring: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Zach Galifianakis, Ralph Fiennes Animated Film Review by Jack Bottomley
When The Lego Movie arrived in 2014 it was met with heaps of cynicism and why wouldn’t it be? In an era where emojis are getting their own movie, why would people expect a branded movie from a toy company to be anything else but a big screen advert? Well, if all adverts were this much fun, we’d never leave our homes, The Lego Movie emerged as a unforeseen hit, with an emotive final twist and lots of anarchic enjoyment in its amalgamation of franchises, toylines and brands. However, Will Arnett’s Batman really was a stand out, so surprise surprise, he now has his own movie, which ironically comes with huge expectations.
The film sees Bruce Wayne/Batman (Will Arnett) living the high life as Gotham’s beloved hero…but it is a lonely life being Batman and it is about to get worse as new commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) is calling for Batman to work with the police and relax his crime fighting ways. While Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) is trying desperately to get master Bruce to abandon his lonely way of life and open his heart to the young orphan (Michael Cera) he recently – unbeknownst to him – adopted. But worse yet, The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) is up to something. It’s not easy being black and yellow!
Now upon watching this frenzied and mad little movie, one thing is very clear, this was made with huge love for DC Comics. The film affectionately roasts certain aspects of the problematic DC Cinematic Universe (Batman v. Superman’s grim tone, the silliness of Suicide Squad’s premise), as well as parodying many aspects of Batman’s decades of cinema (Bane’s voice in The Dark Knight Rises, Joker’s grand schemes in Burton’s Batman and Nolan’s The Dark Knight, the campy 60s show, etc.). The references come thick and fast and the film is undeniably a hoot, chock full of character cameos (some of whom are really niche) and features some splendidly chosen vocal cast members (Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face, a role he never got despite playing Dent in the 1989 film).
Watch the official Movie Trailer for The LEGO Batman Movie above.
Sadly, the film does loose its way a bit in the final third, with a well-meaning final act about friendship for the kids (and a cringey closing song which just feels out of place for Batman), which jars a bit with the movie’s better and more effective moments. Also, the character-filled final act, featuring many characters from other films and brands, while still fun, does feel like a bit too much craziness for a film that (unlike its predecessor) was centered on one universe and didn’t really need to recruit other ones. Plus there are a few broadly kid-aimed gags that miss the mark and are repeated too much (the beep-bop Batman stuff wears).
This being said, those flaws do not sink a movie this lively and enjoyable, the opening 10-20 minutes are quite literally perfect and are that good they would feel in-keeping in an actual Batman caper (that villain fighting song (“Who’s The (Bat)Man”) by Patrick Stump is pure genius). The animation is fantastic and the movie will benefit from being re-visited, as there are lots of jokes that could have got lost in all the chaos. Will Arnett owns the role, from his send-up of Bale’s lozenges needing Bat voice to the surprisingly human essence he brings to the character. Dawson and Cera are also great and very appealing characters as Barbara and Robin respectively, while Zach Galifianakis actually makes for a great Joker (spouting some lines you can well imagine a Ledger, Nicholson, Hamill or Leto taunting Batman with), just as Ralph Fiennes makes for a spot-on Alfred.
You get the impression that some things could have been tightened up here and there to get the film to that next level but for its few faults, this is just loads of fun and a treat for Batman fans of all ages, with some excellent action sequences, voice-work and an opening stretch that knocks it out of the park. Everything is still awesome for Lego’s hopeful movie universe.