Whilst we await the next live action Batman solo film, we are gifted with a Batman ensemble film, in the form of Lego. On the heels of the 2014 surprise hit The Lego Movie, Batman, one of the standouts from that film gets his own film in The Lego universe. The question is, does this film reach the heights of The Lego Movie?
The film follows Bruce Wayne/Batman (Will Arnett) as he struggles with loneliness and isolation during the day time, but as soon as The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) starts to terrorise Gotham with plans of destroying the city, Batman must learn the importance friendship and teamwork in order to sabotage The Joker’s plan.
I didn’t see this film in 3D but after seeing it, I wish I did. The animation is sharp and vivid and I can only imagaine the 3D would enhance the striking visuals and with a larger depth of field. The city of Gotham looks full of life and the character designs looked great and were animated impeccably. The use of colours and lighting really made the visuals pop, to the point where it was attractive to look at. Also the stop motion looking aesthetic that they mastered with the first Lego film is present here, all of the animation looks as if it was all being created with real Lego bricks. It’s a treat to the eye.
Director Chris McKay shot the film with a lot of energy and personality, which made the finished product bold and loaded with confidence. He knew exactly what style of film he wanted to bring to the screen and he did exactly that. He directs the action with the same level of flair that you’d expect to see in a live action superhero film, and because of this we get some very engaging action scenes.
It sounds weird to say but Will Arnett’s Batman is one of the best we’ve seen on the big screen, he effectively voices the vunerable Bruce Wayne. All the little character moments where we see Bruce struggling with not having a family anymore really work. Then as soon as the cowl is on, his Batman voice is excellent and suitably deep without overdoing it in a way that would seem to match and potentially mock, Christian Bale’s Batman voice. His comedic timing is also spot on, which was essential for the majority of the comedy in this film to work.
Michael Cera shines as the voice of Dick Grayson/Robin. His youthful tone and enthusiasm really makes him a loveable character. Robin and Batman’s dynamic is the fuel for some great laughs. Zach Galifianakis’s Joker was also a pleasure to watch, the way his relationship with Batman is depicted is played for plenty of laughs which really work, they take the familiar theme of Batman and The Joker needing each other to exist and put a very funny relationship spin on it that adults will catch onto and appreciate. Ralph Fiennes voiced Alfred very well, and Rosario Dawson was just fine as Barbara Gordon. The rest of the cast who voiced a lot of the side characters did a good job with their respected characters.
Let me make this very clear, this film is damn funny. Funnier than most modern comedies you’ll see nowadays, there are multiple different factors that contribute to the humour in the this film working so well. Firstly, this film is loaded with tons of smart and hilarious references that Batman fans will pick up on, some are subtle and others are more obvious but either way they pretty much all are successful regardless. Secondly in this film we get to witness Bruce Wayne go about normal daily activities in Wayne Manor. Little things such as Bruce in a dressing gown with the cowl on his head, paitetnily waiting for some food to warm up in the microwave, before peacefully eating it is hysterical. It may not sound it, but just wait, when the moments comes I’m sure you’ll be laughing. We get to see him during many day to day scenarios that I won’t spoil, because they provided me with some of my most memorable laughs of the entire film, but it’s a major credit to the writing that something so simple can work so well and effectively.
Whilst the script is successful at maintaining a rapid fire rate when it comes to the humour, on the story side of things it can be considered lacking. The story itself is paper thin and is just vessel to initaiate the jokes and surprise cameos. When I left the cinema after watching the film I saw this as a negative aspect to the film. The plot doesn’t have much depth within the narrative itself, but as I let my thoughts marinate over the past few days since viewing the film, I’ve actually changed my mind. I think the plot was subtably basic, in order for there to be the heavy focus on humour and surprise appearances. The film manages to send out a strong message about friendship and the importance of it, so there’s still a lesson for younger children to learn whilst watching the film which is something they can take away with them once it’s all over. But for adults though, these scenes did feel a bit too by the numbers and cliche. The basic plot line also allows for the run time of this film to be short and sweet, it does not overstay it’s welcome or drag itself out long enough for the jokes to start misfiring. It’s a perfect run time.
One thing I hoped to have seen more, is Batman doing more Batman-like things, the heavy emphasis on references and jokes does take away slightly from us being able to witness Batman do more fighting or gliding etc. It would’ve been fun to even witness him in detective mode for a portion of the film.
I’m very glad the marketing team kept the entire second half, especially the third act a secret. It is full of surprises that I will absolutely not spoil. But I will say one of the true highlights of my viewing experience with this film was witnessing the “character surprises” as I will call it, towards the final act of the film. It’s genius and something I just didn’t expect to see. Despite that, the first act of the film is by far the strongest. The rate of successful jokes slow down in the final act, whereas a lot happens within the opening 15 minutes, but the film manages to juggle all the different things it’s trying to do effectively without every dropping the ball on its referential humour.
Overall, The Lego Batman Movie offers enough fun and enjoyment for both kids and adults, especially those more in tune with The Caped Crusader. It’s gorgeously animated, full of energy and stuffed with laughs from beginning to end.
(4 Stars out of 5)
The Lego Batman Movie; Starring Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson and Ralph Fiennes.
Directed by Chris McKay. Opens in UK & US Cinemas February 10th.