The Lego Batman Movie
Jacob Richardson | 29/03/2017
The Dark Knight returns, this time with humour, meta gags and butt jokes rather than sincere gravitas and Tom Hardy growling through a mask. And it works!
2014 saw the release of one of the biggest surprise hits of the decade, an animated comedy adventure film featuring the world's most popular toy Lego. The Lego Movie fought off cries of consumerism and money-grabbing studios to deliver one of the most inventive, funny, relatable and original films in a long time. One of the standouts of that movie was the self-obsessed, noir obsessed Batman. Ironically, this spin-off from director Chris McKay probably still faced many of the same problems that the original Lego Movie faced. It is hard to look at the film as anything but a desperate ploy by studio heads to boost their returns. But after having seen The Lego Batman Movie (very original title), it is easy to say that McKay has managed what Phil Lord and Chris Miller did with The Lego Movie; creating a film that rises above the noise and proves itself to be very much deserving of its place on the big screen.
The Lego Batman Movie opens with our titular hero (Will Arnett) defeating, once again, the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) and his cronies. However, in the process, he does something the Joker can’t forgive – he refuses to recognise the Joker as his greatest villain. Hurt like a spurned lover, the Joker uses the appointment of new police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), a honey-voiced woman who already has demonstrated her capability for the role and her disdain for Batman’s vigilante policies, to turn himself in to the police. Once every criminal in Gotham is in custody, the Joker believes that Batman will be inconsolable, and indeed he is right. Batman, whose home life seems to revolve exclusively around lobster thermidor and old re-runs of Jerry McGuire, is lost without an enemy to fight, particularly as Bruce Wayne seems to, after all these years, have been lost behind the mask.
Thrown into this psychoanalytic study is orphan Richard Grayson (Michael Cera), who Bruce Wayne has unwittingly adopted. Wayne’s struggle with his subconscious belief that whoever he loves winds up dead comes to the forefront as he finds himself caring more and more for the effervescent young sidekick.
Much like The Lego Movie, this film plays well to both young audiences and older audiences. The script is rapid-fire and full of wit, with subtle (and not so subtle) jabs at previous incarnations of the Dark Knight, along with recurrent high-brow gags and the odd butt joke tossed in here and there for good measure. McKay also paces the film well. Schtick from the first third of the film is generally entertaining, and only starts flagging slightly before we are thrown into some CGI-generated action goodness to clear our palette.
Some of the visuals are also stunning. The Lego recreations of famous scenes from other Batman movies are beautiful, and even some of the not-so-referential shots convey a real sense of cinematic gravitas that is often sorely missing in animation. When Batman dives off a plane to save Richard Grayson from plummeting to the ground, you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching a Nolan-directed live action Batman movie.
While a few of the “family” references feel cheesy, and occasionally the son subplot veers into distraction, The Lego Batman is still a thrill (and laugh) a minute ride; as lovingly created as it is enjoyable.
McKay doubles down on the in-jokes and referential humour, and in doing so gives us a kid friendly Lego Batman movie that is just as hilariously enjoyable for adults.