The Lego Movie was easily one of the biggest surprises of 2014, in a good way. What initially sounded like a huge advertisement for the popular building toy turned out to be a heart-warming and exciting story about the power of imagination. Found within this rich story were countless numbers of franchises that added to the frantic and hilarious narrative, ranging from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Star Wars. However, easily the most memorable side character from a pre-established franchise was Batman, voiced brilliantly by Will Arnett. He was a cynical and harsh parody of the character whilst also having a certain admirable charm to him. Due to the film’s huge critical and commercial success, multiple spin offs and an official Lego Movie Sequel are in the works. First up is a spin off based around the caped crusader, with the original title of The Lego Batman Movie. And whilst in essence this film is a parody, it’s easily the best DC film since The Dark Knight.
Gotham City is once again under attack by the Joker, The Riddler, Two Face and literally hundreds of Batman villains, and it’s up to Batman to save the day. Everyone loves Batman, as he the ideal hero that everyone looks up to. But unfortunately for Batman, when he’s done saving the world, he has nothing else to do. He’s a lonely man who spends all day hanging around the bat cave. However, Batman has to deal with his greatest fear, becoming part of a family again with the introduction of Dick Grayson into his life. Dealing with the responsibility of saving the world and acting as a positive role model for his adoptive son, Batman is thrown into yet another action packed adventure. And whilst that is basically the foundation of the plot, there’s some surprisingly thought provoking moments, as we are watching a parody of what has been in the past one of the darkest comic book characters of all time. Even the recent portrayal of Batman by Ben Affleck in Batman vs. Superman is a tortured and damaged individual. It is therefore pleasantly surprising that the LEGO version of Batman is not only the hilarious character he was in the original Lego Movie, there is a complexity to him, exploring the issue of family and loneliness, something we haven’t really seen before.
My first major positive with the film is its animation. It’s absolutely stunning, much like in the original Lego Movie. Literally every environment is made to look like a humongous LEGO set, constructing a bold and vibrant portrayal of Gotham City and a number of other locations in the DC universe. The film is colourful, the character design is flawless (especially for large figures such as Clayface) and is a true portrayal of every child’s (and adult’s) imagination when it comes to playing with the LEGO Batman toys. Even though spectacular animation is something that audiences have come to expect with incredible animation in the Pixar films, the animation in the LEGO based films are mind-blowing in that their style is truly unique, and this film is no different.
Another impressive quality that the film possesses is the undoubtedly talented voice cast. As mentioned before, Will Arnett crafts this particular version of Batman as antisocial and isolated, whilst also being incredibly snarky and sarcastic. We see a more emotional side to Batman in this film, questioning his purpose in life once the fighting stops, and this is where Dick Grayson AKA Robin comes in. Michael Cera brings his signature performance as an awkward and adorable character who I personally felt the most empathy for, which seems a ridiculous thing to say given that the character is a tiny plastic person. The personality of Robin is so accurate to what the audience would feel if they stepped into the bat cave and got the choice to fight alongside Batman.
Ralph Fiennes is also memorable as Batman’s butler Alfred. Alfred provides the foundation to explore Batman’s emotional side, urging him to take some parental responsibility in order to find life outside of crime fighting. The touching relationship between Batman and Alfred has always existed in the Batman law, yet not to the degree that it is portrayed in this film. Another standout performance was Zack Galifianakas as The Joker. Taking on one of the most iconic villains in entertainment history. Yet Galifianakas brings a fresh take on the character. The Joker is not the menacing genius he was in The Dark Knight. Instead, he is in a way a pathetic Batman fan boy who thrives of Batman’s hatred for him. However, Batman’s questioning of the Joker’s ability to oppose him is not only a hilarious parody of a relationship, it is an important plot point that sets the Joker’s plan into action. Rosario Dawson voices Barbara Gordon/Batgirl and does a fine job of introducing a love interest into Batman’s life, someone who he can find a way of escaping the lonely lifestyle he is currently enjoying. There’s also a couple of returning cast members from the original Lego Movie, which I won’t spoil, as there are some genuine surprises.
What I loved most about this film was its ability to make fun of Batman’s history on Film and TV. Despite parodies often falling short, such as the Twilight parody Vampires Suck, The Lego Batman Movie effectively pokes fun at the many different iterations of the character. I won’t give them all away as part of the fun is spotting references to other films that you recognise. Some of them however are The Joker’s plan in The Dark Knight being referenced, and the iconic onomatopoeic words that appear spontaneously into thin air when Batman and Robin hit their enemies being used in the fight scenes. There are so many Batman based jokes in this film that I am certain I have missed quite a few, certainly increasing the re-watchability of the film. This film isn’t just for children either. Batman is such an icon for multiple generations of viewers, and there are jokes that older viewers will get that children won’t, and vice versa, a major positive to the film’s credit.
Speaking of the action, it’s surprisingly exciting for a LEGO based film. The battle sequences are fluid and successfully blend Batman’s laugh out loud comments with awesome camera work and editing to create thrilling fight scenes. The opening fight featuring the countless DC villains is a standout for sure. I was also in awe of the number of side characters that the film makes use of. They may only be in the background, but seeing genuine DC characters such as The Condiment King and Calendar Man was brilliant, considering their obscurity and ridiculous concept as a villain (which the film makes fun of). And without giving anything away, DC is not the only franchise that the film draws iconic villains from. Seriously, there was a moment when I was blown away that these certain villains had made it into a LEGO movie.
Despite the film’s numerous positives, there are unfortunately some elements holding the film back a little. One is that whilst I loved the jokes and parodies that the film contains, there seems to be an overload of them at the beginning of the film, which I didn’t have a problem with. The jokes just kept on coming and I was laughing out loud multiple times. The first act is undoubtedly genius. However, the film slows down dramatically in its second act, which may be a jarring change of pace for some. And when we reach the climatic confrontation in the third act, I felt it went on a bit too long, and I lost interest a little in the events occurring on screen. That is what I would say is the film’s only true flaw, it’s pacing. I would certainly agree with those that believe the first half of the film is much better than the second half. Also, I feel that the message of the first film was more effective than this action heavy sequel, yet this was only minor, as the action was mostly amazing in this film, as well as the message still being meaningful and thought provoking. Some viewers may not find as much enjoyment in this film due to the reliance to have some relationship with the Batman franchise to understand a large quantity of the jokes, so know that going in.
Despite the small number of flaws, The Lego Batman Movie is a fun, thrilling and funny adventure that takes a new spin on a franchise that is in opposition to the complaint that many have on the superhero genre. It is not a generic narrative, it is definitely a fresh one. Whilst the film may not have the impact that the original Lego Movie had, with some noticeable structural issues, the film should be congratulated for making audience connect and care for animated LEGO figures. We’ve got more to look forward to this year from the LEGO franchise, with The Lego Ninjago Movie releasing this September. But for now, we have this effective spin off to enjoy. Definitely go and see this one.
I give The Lego Batman Movie 7.5 out of 10