Forget Justice League. Forget Wonder Woman. Forget Thor: Ragnarok. If there is one superhero movie you need to watch this year, it’s The Lego Batman Movie.
“But it’s a movie about LEGO! That’s for kids!”, you say? If that’s the reason you’re giving for missing one of the year’s funniest and most entertaining movies so far, then you need a four-by-four Lego brick stuck up your … er… nose.
Will Arnett’s Batman was the breakout character 2014’s The Lego Movie, and the decision to give him his own movie was utterly justified. Like its predeccesor, this film also revels in the freedom and the boundless creativity the Lego universe thrives on, and, brick by brick, builds a superhero movie that is quite unlike any other.
The movie hits the ground running from the get go, with a major attack on Gotham by its greatest villains, led by the Joker (Zach Galifianakis), and including Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, The Riddler, Mr Freeze, Two-Face, Egghead, and, er, Condiment King (Google him, he is an actual Batman villain).
Anyway, they all come rushing in on their respective themed vehicles that are on-screen for two seconds and probably exist just so that Lego can make playsets out of them (yay!), and threaten to bomb Gotham to smithereens. Of course, Batman shows up and kicks everyone’s butt while singing a song that proves just how awesome he really is (choice lyrics: “Who’s the manliest man? Batman!/ With buns of steel? Batman!/ Who always pays their taxes? Not Batman!”).
After a great big parade where everyone cheers and thanks Batman for saving the city (again), he goes home to … a sad, lonely existence made barely tolerable by eating microwaved lobster thermidor and watching Jerry Maguire.
Then, Batman’s life is turned upside down when the beautiful Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) becomes the new police commisioner, and he accidentally adopts an orphan named Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), who becomes his sidekick, Robin. The Joker also hatches a plan to make Batman confess that he is his greatest enemy (it’s complicated, because apparently Batman doesn’t do “-ships”), which involves an army of villains that you really have to see to believe, including, er, “British robots” and “80s monsters” and a giant eye.
You thought The Lego Movie was fast? Wait till you watch this one. The entire movie moves along at a furious pace, a blur of kaleidoscopic pastel colours with so many cool details in every scene that you would probably need multiple viewings to catch all the Easter eggs in it. There is also a seemingly non-stop barrage of jokes, one-liners and gags, though some of the biggest laughs are those that will be more familiar to Batman and Lego geeks.
In essence, Arnett’s Batman has more in common with the 1966 Adam West TV series than Christopher Nolan’s brooding Bat-trilogy or even the current, brooding Batfleck incarnation. There are numerous references to Batman ’66 here, including the infamous Bat-shark repellent, and even a live-action clip of it as Alfred refers to it as “the weird one in 1966”.
Despite the fact that this is a movie about a Batman Lego mini-figure, director Chris McKay seems to understand the essential elements that make Batman, well, Batman; namely his relationship with his Bat-family, and most importantly, his emnity with The Joker.
There’s a reason why some of the best Batman stories and movies have featured the Clown Prince of Crime – Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke graphic novel, Tim Burton’s 1988 Batman movie, Nolan’s The Dark Knight … all these stories have featured the Joker in direct conflict with Batman.
The Lego Batman Movie takes this rivalry one step further by suggesting that one cannot exist without the other. Of course, this being a Lego movie, the angle plays out in a hilariously irreverent fashion that will actually make you cheer for the Joker at the end.
Make no mistake about it, this is essentially one big commercial for Lego’s Batman products. But it is also a tremendously funny and action-packed movie that will please general moviegoers and Bat/Lego geeks at the same time. And it even makes you more eager to see more of Lego Batman than its current live-action counterpart. Sorry, Batfleck.
The Lego Batman Movie
Director: Chris McKay
Voice cast: Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes