Director: Chris McKay
Cast: Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes
Plot: Batman (Arnett) does things alone, without partners, without a family, but when the Joker (Galfianakis) assembles an army of villains to attack Gotham, he needs to turn to his close friends.
How do you improve any movie? Add Batman. That was the rule that The Lego Movie went with in 2014 and it was a roaring success. Parodying that immortality the character is assumed to have and making Batman aware of this fan service, Will Arnett made for the perfect Dark Knight, an impossible-to-hate jock who preferred loneliness and wallowing in his own glory, over modesty and relationships. With the dodgy casting of Ben Affleck in the upcoming Batman movie (thankfully moderately subsided now he has had a chance to show us what he is made of), the world was a little brighter, knowing that Batman fans had Arnett to rely on in the meantime.
In fact, his character worked so well, when the news dropped the supporting star was getting his own film, the reaction was a mixed one. Was this a shameless cash grab at turning the winning star into a spin-off? Or was it a good thing that the best joker (no pun intended), was getting his own spotlight? Batman was solid fun, yes, but half of the joy of him in the Lego movie was the fact the character was able to grapple in and out of the plot at will. In fact, the lack of story surrounding the character was a large part of the charm, the sense that he was just added to another story to bring a few gags and poke the playful tone in the right direction. Thankfully Chris McKay is too keen a director to let a producer’s demands get in the way of a good story. As it turns out, Lego Batman has bundles of story to fill a movie and this is a film that doesn’t only escape the sense of lacking plot, but feels so crammed full of story and jokes that it is set to burst at any given moment. He starts by strapping Batman with a plot that is loose enough to not steal the fun, but strong enough to give the film a sense of direction. Batman is continuing to be a solitary figure, even Ralph Fiennes’ Alfred largely ignored wherever possible by the Caped Crusader. While his life beating up villains is doing excellently, his crowd-pleasing personality winning over the public with ease, his home life consists of eating microwave meals and denying the fact he spends his time staring wistfully at photos of his parents. A nice touch sees Batman spending a lot of his scenes in Wayne Manor, wandering around the house in his pyjamas, but keeping his mask on. However, his desire to avoid relationships frustrates the Joker, who wants nothing more than to be the Moriarty in Batman’s story, but is treated like a second-rate bad guy. While the Joker tries to convince Batman he is worth nemesis status, Batman avoids working with his accidentally adopted son, Robin and the new Police commissioner, who he has a crush on. The story is hardly Nolan levels of complexity, but in only covering the basics, it gives Arnett room to deliver the Lego Batman performance, he perhaps only had time to touch upon in the first Lego film.
Ah, the Lego Movie. Any critic who touches upon this movie, or any form of pseudo-sequel, feels obliged to connect the dots to the film before. However, Lego Batman could be the exception in the review. It is almost impossible to compare the two films. After the twist ending of the first film, where the Lego universe was actually the playground of one family, audiences will wonder how the Lego Batman character will take this development. However, that plot point is, probably for the best, totally ignored. In fact, there are large parts of the Lego Batman movie, where you forget you are watching a Lego movie. The original Lego Movie was constantly showing off how unique its take on animation was, creating every set-piece lovingly out of Lego blocks. With this movie, while the animation is still made out to be crafted from Lego, it doesn’t feel as prominent. The developers force in a couple of references to Master-building and the early jokes, especially a very Lego Movie airport scene, but for the most part, they feel like they are crossing off boxes. As far as the references to Lego go, it is mainly an excuse to cross universes with every other Lego adaptation of famous movies. Cue cameo appearances from Sauron, Lord Voldemort and many more villains from cinematic history (Jaws pilots a submarine to kill Batman, which is adorably daft). But Chris McKay seems far more interested with parodying the Batman universe. This movie is packed, and I mean packed, with Batman gags. The non-Lego movies are parodied to an extreme extent, Tom Hardy’s Bane accent being used to fine use. Cue flashbacks to the Dark Knight trilogy. The comics are riffled through for gags too, Joker assembling the most random Batman villains he can get his hands on (finally the cinematic appearance of Condiment Man we have all been waiting for). It gives this movie so much room for rewatching, as it is impossible to grab every joke on a first watch. You end up pleading with the movie to slow down and let you catch up with the jokes, being assaulted with humour so frequently, the laugh rolls into one constant state of mirth. There is a Killer Croc joke which sent me over the edge. That being said, this is not just a movie for Batman fans, but for anyone that loves tongue-in-cheek humour. Kids will adore the frantic nature of the adventure and adults will be unable to resist the witty sarcasm sprinkled over the whole affair. Just like the first Lego Movie, this is an undeniable crowd-pleaser.
Final Verdict: Holy smokes, Batman! In a world of dark superhero flicks, this laugh-out-loud could be a contender for, not just best animation, but best superhero movie.