LEGO is timeless and always will be. It brings generations together and is creative beyond what your imagination can comprehend. With so many brands tied in with LEGO products, there is little not now associated with it in terms of pop culture. 2014s ‘The LEGO Movie’ introduced us to a fast-paced, frantic and fun exploration of what it means to be an adult in a child’s word.
On the popularity of supporting character Batman, he now gets his own spin-off LEGO film. It’s funny to think that now Batman is DC’s front-runner in the super-hero race, and Superman is nothing more than support. That makes me sad because it proves how lackluster Superman is today in films and other areas to audiences as a main man. Christopher Reeve must be turning in his grave.
But, I digress. This is Batman’s story, and he makes sure you know about it!
Will Arnett is the grizzliest Batman since Christian Bale, and the grizzliest Bruce Wayne EVER as he voices our Dark Knight. A Dark Knight who loves himself, his work and his status, but who is lonely and afraid to admit it. For all the 1hr 40min of this, the main crux is Batman being alone and how much he needs family and friends. This is pretty much the main thread of the film, but surprisingly it does come across as one of the most humane Batman stories in recent years.
The supporting cast are spot-on in their roles, with special mention to Michael Cera as Robin and Ralph Fiennes as Alfred. Both wonderfully sensitive and sweet in their own right, and have brilliant delivery. In fact, all the cast shine here and there. Zach Galifianakis is comically crazy as Joker and Rosario Dawson has enough spunk and sass as Barbara Gordon. Everyone else in the cast does a good job, even though there are so many characters they all get lost behind the main cast. Even Channing Tatum’s return as Superman, much like the character, is unmemorable and flies by in seconds.
Now, as the crux of the film is exploring Batman’s relationship with himself and others - the tongue-in-cheek homo-eroticism under-play of the relationship with the Joker is cleverly played out - this can wear a little thin after the first half-hour. We hear and see so many times the same point. Batman is a loner. Batman can’t work in a team. Batman needs family. We know, we know. All this is built around a plot that just boils down a crazy climax littered with some of cinemas greatest villains such as Sauron, Lord Voldemort, King Kong and even the Daleks. Yes, it’s crazy and chaotic BUT it’s LEGO at it’s finest, with no restriction on creativity and imagination.
All the action in this is very well produced and shot, with lots of ‘Master Builder’ sequences from ‘The LEGO Movie’ coming back here in a variety of ways that look very slick on film. The animation is spot on in the world built out of LEGO, and there is so much attention to detail here and vibrancy on screen, your senses will be assaulted at all times. It’s bright and colourful and energetic and fun, far more so than most DC offerings.
For me, this could have been a 30 minute short. Get Batman to battle the Joker, cut out the over-played family issues, have all the villains come together at the end and you’re done. That would have worked fine, but for me there was little meat to this bar from the beginning and end. The middle was just non-stop joke after joke after gag after gag. It never gave the film chance to develop from being a non-stop gag fest.
With so many characters and popular villains to include, not much screentime is given to those we may want to see bar a few fleeting seconds. The Riddler, Clay Face, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy and even a Billy Dee Williams voiced Two-Face are all there but...don't really do anything. Again, this is Batman and Joker's movie...when Joker gets his chance, anyway.
The best parts for me personally were the truckloads of references to Batmen of the past. All the way from Adam West back in the 60s to Ben Affleck in the 00s, the historic legacy of Batman is kept canon here and referenced multiple times, and I loved that. From hints of Zimmer and Elfman in the soundtrack, to a wonderfully spot-on Tom Hardy era Bane (voiced by Doug Benson), to lots of Michael Keaton winks (“You want to get nuts?! Come on! Let’s get nuts!”), I, and the audience, was chuckling away at all these homages.
Warner Brothers aren’t shy in poking fun at themselves also, from Batman amusingly referencing his issue with ‘Batman V Superman’, and a dig at ‘Suicide Squad’ (“Villains fighting villains? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!”), this is a celebration of all things Batman and it’s a joy to see and hear. I found this more entertaining than the thin story it’s all built around, but it’s packed so full of humour and heart for LEGO and Batman himself and the comic-book universe he is in, it’s hard not to be far from a smile throughout.
It's not as substantial as 'The LEGO Movie' on the whole, but it's the best Batman film since ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, which doesn’t say much for the multi-million attempt at making Ben Affleck the new DC hero in this era. Will Arnett can do it with his voice alone and a bit of animated CGI plastic.