Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online since 2004.
What's the Big Deal?
The Lego Batman Movie is a CG animated family comedy film released in 2017 and is a spin-off of the 2014 film The Lego Movie. Based around DC comic characters as well as the existing Lego toy line, the film sees Batman forced to overcome his greatest fear and an overly enthusiastic sidekick as he attempts to put an end to Joker's latest scheme to destroy Gotham City. The film stars Will Arnett, Zack Galifiankis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson and Ralph Fiennes as well as a host of cameos. The film was a hit with critics and audiences alike with global takings of $312 million and plans were in place for a sequel. However, due to the rights being bought by Universal Studios, that project has since been cancelled. The directors of The Lego Movie - Phil Lord and Christopher Miller - serve as co-producers for this film, leaving the directing duties to Chris McKay for his feature film debut.
What's It About?
In a Lego version of Gotham City, billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne continues to fight crime and stalk the shadows as the masked vigilante Batman. Adored by the public and media for his work, Wayne's existence is actually a fairly low-key affair with his only companions being his faithful butler Alfred and the Batcomputer stashed with his endless supply of gadgets and vehicles beneath Wayne Manor. After thwarting the Joker's plan to blow up the city with a cache of stolen explosives, Batman tells the Joker that he isn't as important to him as he thinks he is which genuinely hurts the Joker's feelings. As he escapes, the Clown Prince of Crime begins to devise a new plan.
The next night at a winter gala to celebrate the retirement of Commissioner Jim Gordon, Wayne is bewitched by Jim's daughter Barbara who is replacing Jim as the Commissioner. Absent-mindedly agreeing to adopt a young orphan named Dick Grayson, Wayne is incredulous to hear Barbara's plans to shape the police force in Gotham to function without Batman's help. As if by magic, Joker arrives with all of the other super villains in the city and immediately surrenders. With Harley Quinn sneaking off in the confusion, Batman knows that the Joker is up to no good - but can he stop him alone this time?
Main Cast (vocal performance)
Bruce Wayne / Batman
Barbara Gordon / Batgirl
Dick Grayson / Robin
Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern & John Whittington*
Release Date (UK)
10th February, 2017
Animation, Action, Comedy, Family
What's to Like?
I admit to being a touch disappointed by The Lego Movie, despite it being a great film. I felt that it lost its way amid the chaotic scenes and myriad of characters and the longer it went on, the more the film unravelled. Thankfully, The Lego Batman Movie is an absolute peach of a film that manages to avoid a similar fate. Arnett's take on the character - an ultra-confident, gravel-voiced superhero oblivious to his own flaws - is superb and here, he is given free reign to go in almost any direction he chooses. Alongside Fiennes as a more-than-serviceable Alfred, the character strikes the right balance between being uber-cool and tragic and this contrast generates plenty of laughs. For fans of the Dark Knight, this film is just impossible to ignore.
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The comedy is a nice blend of slapstick, witty dialogue and sight gags that won't fly over the heads of younger viewers who are undoubtedly the film's target audience. Given how dark the Batman can be, it's a lovely touch to hear baddies shout "pew pew" when they are firing their guns during a frenetic action sequence! Not to say that the film doesn't entertain grown-ups either as this film not only celebrates the rich and occasionally silly world of Batman (does anyone remember Condiment King?) but also provides a cross-cultural melting pot that only the Lego films can really provide. Not since Who Framed Roger Rabbit have so many intellectual properties and characters appeared on screen together. It keeps things interesting and surprising as you're never quite sure who is going to turn up next. This is an endlessly entertaining film that fans young and old will enjoy, providing a new spin on a character who is getting increasingly long in the tooth - something the film itself even points out!
- Among the many celebrities voicing cameos are Mariah Carey as Mayor McCaskill, Conan O'Brien as the Riddler, Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Channing Tatum as Superman (reprising his role from the first film) and Eddie Izzard as Voldemort. Billy Dee Williams also pops up as Two-Face, a reference to his appearance as alter-ego Harvey Dent in Batman.
- The Bat Shark Repellent is a nod to the original 1966 Batman: The Movie which was based on the camp and colourful TV show at the time. In fact, this film references every Batman outing from the character's comic book introduction in 1939 through his appearances in graphic novels like The Dark Knight Returns, TV shows like Batman Beyond and all his movies including Batman & Robin and Suicide Squad.
- Apple's voice-activated virtual assistant Siri provides the voice for the Batcomputer in what is possibly the first 'acting' role for the program. Not only that but when Batman uses the Master Builder protocol to build the Scuttler, it makes the same start-up noise as Apple Mackintosh computers.
- The 'British Robots' mentioned by the Joker are obviously Daleks from the TV series Doctor Who although these are in bright colours as opposed to the typical grey metal. These are the New Dalek Paradigm design which were introduced in 2010 but dropped a few years later due to their unpopularity.
What's Not to Like?
As great as this film is, I do have a couple of points I'd like to raise. Firstly, I wasn't a fan of Galifiankis' performance as Joker which felt underwhelming and didn't seem to fit the role properly. Also, why sharpen the Joker's teeth to make him look like a legitimate monster but have the voice of someone sounding like a goofy clown? Maybe long-time voice talent Mark Hamill was unavailable due to his appearance in Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi or perhaps his performance might have been too scary for children. Either way, I wasn't a fan. I also didn't like the pacing of the film which, unusually, was far too fast. Much of the dialogue flies through your ears at a breakneck speed while the action scenes are too busy and confusing to enjoy properly. For kids munching their way through their favourite E-numbers, this is probably fine but it felt rushed and unnecessarily hurried. I wanted to spend time with these characters, not brush through another frantic storyline that glosses over character development. Why must these Lego movies run so quickly?
Other than that, there isn't much that The Lego Batman Movie does wrong. It's quirky, very funny in places, works on both an adult and a child's level and contains so many references to Batman and the wider DC universe that nerds will have a field-day trying to find them all. This is the first non-Pixar animation I have seen in a long time that achieves the balancing act of entertaining every member of the family and it is also refreshing to see a follow-up film improve on what went before it.
Should I Watch It?
Funnier and more enjoyable than its predecessor, The Lego Batman Movie is a riotous family comedy that offers plenty of thrills, spills and gags that most viewers will appreciate. For fans of the Caped Crusader, it's essential viewing as a real love for the character and mythos shines through the lunacy. But even if you aren't, the film pokes some fun at the ever-popular superhero genre and is a energetic, noisy and suitably bonkers adventure that feels exactly like the sort of thing you would conjure up with your Lego toys.
Great For: fans of Batman, anyone who enjoyed the first film, DC universe lovers, hyperactive kids full of sugar
Not So Great For: fans who take themselves too seriously, anyone who has never played with Lego
What Else Should I Watch?
Part of the appeal of Batman is that he has had various interpretations of the character due to his longevity. Modern viewers will enjoy the dark, brooding style introduced by Frank Miller in his ground-breaking graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns which Christopher Nolan adapted for his hugely successful Dark Knight trilogy. Earlier audiences may enjoy a slightly more light-hearted version of Batman with Tim Burton's Batman or, even more light-hearted, Joel Schumacher's efforts like Batman & Robin. Going back even further, the Sixties see a camp and colourful version of the character in the cult Batman: The Movie which sees a gathering of Batman's greatest foes - and an infamous rubber shark - team up to take on Bats and the Boy Wonder, Robin. Whichever style of Batman you prefer, there are films for you to enjoy.
Having to play catch-up to the current titans of superhero cinema Marvel, DC have cobbled together their own cinematic multiverse known as the Extended Universe or DCEU. Starting in 2013 with the grim-faced Superman film Man Of Steel, the series has unfortunately suffered from inconsistency among the various films released. From highlights such as Wonder Woman and the recent reboot The Suicide Squad to more uneven fare like Justice League, Warner Bros. and DC Films are continuing to mine the creative coalface with forthcoming films Black Adam and The Flash. Hopefully, we'll see more films that are champions and less chumps.
© 2021 Benjamin Cox