The LEGO Batman Movie : is, in parts, a sequel to 2014’s The LEGO Movie in which Will Arnett’s Batman first appeared. Audience responses to his portrayal were so positive that a film had to be made following this incarnation of The Caped Crusader. Director Chris McKay has been a co-director for a long while (and an animation consultant for The LEGO Movie and multiple Robot Chicken shorts) but being hailed lead for this spin-off finally allowed him to show off his creativity. And this film has better set design and action sequences within the first five minutes than most!
“Because I’m Batman!”: As Batman, Will Arnett is amazing. To this day, there has never been a truer or better representation as the comic books because Arnett is so faithful to Batman’s essence. The way that he jokes around with “I’m Batman” references or that the Batcave password is “Iron Man sucks” really appeals to modern audiences while packing in some comedy - all whilst understanding Batman’s psyche like no other depiction. But unlike most superhero firsts, this is not an origin story. This is a Gotham where Batman has always existed and we follow him at his narcissistic peak. And (thanks to a montage following all of Batman’s angry stages of 2016, 2012, 2008 etc) every Batman film has existed before it thus creating a series of meta-jokes and self-deprivation.
“Bob’s Your Uncle”: Much like its predecessor, the cast for this film is absolutely stellar. Even Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill reprise their roles as Superman and Green Lantern for minimal screen time - just to land a few jokes. Notably, Ralph Fiennes is incredible as Alfred constantly reasoning with Master Bruce but to no avail. Enter young Dick Grayson (cue adult humor) – a lovable orphan with a heart of gold who is Alfred’s attempt to convince Bruce to settle down and start a family. Michael Cera’s performance resembles a giddy child torn between his two new fathers – Batman and Bruce Wayne. And donning the ‘Reggae Man’ costume takes him down a path of fighting bad guys and laying down some sick dance moves. But obviously before bedtime.
Love and Friendship: LEGO Batman reprises The LEGO Movie’s previous lessons about friendship and teamwork. The universe is full of mismatched toys such as Voldemort, Daleks, and even Gremlins (or 80s monsters as Alfred titles them). There is a sensation of childish tomfoolery when these characters meet because it resembles something we would do as a kid – Batman punching Voldemort is an obvious highlight. But surprisingly, the film manages to tap into the loneliness and possible failure Batman faces daily – nothing any previous film has tapped into. The character building is continued when we meet the latest incarnation of Joker (Zach Galifianakis). The legendary rivalry of possibly the greatest Hero/Villain combo of all time is depicted as an ‘anti-romantic homoaffective relationship!’ In the weirdest of portrayals, it actually conveys quite emotionally whilst also being used for spoof purposes.
Block by Block: The animation is absolutely stunning. What they accomplished beforehand with the inventive art style of The LEGO Movie is reborn with an often grittier or darker tone – but also able to achieve a wildly colorful screen. Notably, the lighting is incredibly realistic and simulates actual beauty – odd, huh? Each character illustrates how a LEGO Minifigure would actually move giving an impression of stop motion animation. But the characters are given expressions and the world is given life with flowing water or moving clouds. There is so much to see and, at points, I would like the screen to pause just so I could take in the sheer vastness of the environment and spot Easter eggs.
Exhilarating, humorous, and self-aware. Might just be able to pull DC Comics and their beaten reputation out of the gutter.