The LEGO Batman Movie (U)
As The Joker launches his most sinister and seemingly unstoppable attack on Gotham City, Batman must learn the importance of teamwork and accepting help from those who care.
Let’s face facts for a moment, the fledgling DCEU has so far produced two films that have been brutally savaged by critics. Now, I quite like BVS and Suicide Squad had some minor merits (Batman was in it). However, DC has been having a really rough time and it doesn’t look like they’ll be having much luck with their upcoming efforts.
Luckily the newest DC movie has nothing to do with the DCEU and is much better for it. I am talking about The Lego Batman Movie, which is a spin-off of the hugely successful and hugely enjoyable LEGO Movie. The two films are quite different in spite of the fact that they exist in the same world and have a few crossover characters. Of course, sequels and spin-offs of commercially successful films aren’t always good as Independence Day: Resurgence and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them prove.
However, Lego Batman was all I hoped it would be and much much more. In fact, I can only think of one criticism and that is its somewhat lack of universal appeal, which the The LEGO Movie had so much of. Every child knows what LEGO is, but not every child has an in-depth knowledge of the entire history of Batman and that means that some of the in-jokes and references will be utterly lost on them. There is still plenty of slapstick humour there that they will enjoy and it will certainly keep them amused, despite the lack of any song that comes close to the brilliance of “Everything Is Awesome”.
I seriously think that long-term Batman fans and DC comics fans will get so much enjoyment from this film. It has so many smart and obscure references that filled me with so much nerdy joy. For example: Two-Face is voiced by Billy Dee Williams, because in the Burton Batman films, Billy Dee Williams played Harvey Dent: the man who would become Two-Face. That’s the level they’re pitching at. It’s nice to see he finally got to play the part that he was destined for so many years ago.
This is a film that isn’t at all afraid to bite the hand that feeds it, and I admire every last shot it takes at some of the less brilliant decisions made by Warner Brothers/DC in the past. Nothing is safe: BVS, Suicide Squad, Tom Hardy’s Bane are all targets in this comedic masterpiece.
The voice acting is spot on, with Will Arnett reprising his scene-stealing role as Batman. Delivering every line in an excessively gruff and macho tone that was been employed with a humourless lack of irony by Christian Bale. Michael Cera voices Dick Grayson, giving the first incarnation of Robin an adorable and extremely childish naivety that will almost certainly win over even those with the hardest of hearts. With the exception of Scott Pilgrim I would say that this is Cera’s best role to date. Ralph Fiennes does an excellent (if rather predictable) turn as Alfred the Butler, putting his delightfully posh voice to very good use. For me, however, the greatest joy of all was the appearance of Barbara Gordon voiced by (the incredible) Rosario Dawson who displays a talent for voice acting and a complete disregard for brand loyalty that must have the producers of Netflix’s Daredevil sitting with their heads in their hands. It was really great to see Barbara Gordon utilised so well, especially after her loathsome treatment in the repugnant animated feature: The Killing Joke. In The Lego Batman Movie she is a fantastic character who is self-assured, capable and much better at cleaning up crime than Batman is. Unlike the other police characters, Barbara is determined to stop crime herself rather than just activating the Bat-Signal. Her Batgirl costume is spot on (purple with yellow boots) and her snarky comment of “can I call you Bat-Boy?” is well-delivered and extremely sharp.
How is it that this film manages to be so good? Well aside from the exemplary voice acting the writing and direction is clearly the key. With Phil Lord and Christopher Miller gone to a galaxy far far away to direct a Han Solo prequel movie, it would have been easy to get any old schmuck in to fill the director’s chair, but no. They went with Chris McKay who directed several episodes of Robot Chicken, the stop-motion show that parodies pop-culture icons to within an inch of their lives. A wise directorial choice in my mind as this film embraces much of the style of humour that Robot Chicken goes for. As for the writing, the screenplay was penned by Seth Grahame-Smith, the man behind the novel of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and I think his back catalogue more than speaks for itself.
An excellent parody and an excellent Batman movie in its own right. Will Arnett is a joy, reprising his role as Lego Batman and Rosario Dawson shines as Barbara Gordon, washing away the bad taste left by her character’s treatment in The Killing Joke. While it lacks some of the universal appeal of its predecessor and is missing a really fun and catchy song like Everything Is Awesome, The Lego Batman Movie manages to be a rip-roaring, fast-paced comedy that will keep you laughing until you are exhausted, and above all… it gets NUTS!!!