Three years after we were wowed and bamboozled by The Lego Movie and that damn “Everything Is Awesome” song has now finally gotten out of our heads, it’s time to revisit one of its popular characters in his own standalone film. The Lego Batman Movie takes our dark, broody and narcissistic Dark Knight and puts him front and centre of a bright, funny and self-deprecating comedy.
Batman / Bruce Wayne (Will Arnett) is a vigilante superhero of the highest calibre, loved and adored by all the citizens, and easily foiling the villains terrorising Lego Gotham City. However things are about to change, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) is now succeeding her father as the new Commissioner and suggests that Batman always stopping the villains but not letting them get captured isn’t ideal. Adding to his troubles The Joker (Zach Galifianakis), offended by Batman’s refusal to acknowledge him as his arch-enemy rounds up his fellow villains to surrender, leaving him with little else to do. However The Joker has bigger plans up his sleeve and decides to unleash a higher class of villains straight out of the Phantom Zone upon Gotham.
Director Chris McKay (who animated The Lego Movie and worked on countless eps of Robot Chicken) gets to steer screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) around a story that’s jam packed with pop culture references and in-jokes. But aside from the hilarity it’s actually a rather poignant tale examining friendships and family. The Batman of this film is probably one of the loneliest committed to screen, isolated in Wayne Manor on Wayne Manor Island except for his trusty butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) and even trustier ‘Puter (voiced by Siri). And even though he puts on a front of acting like he’s fine, the mere mention of his long deceased parents gets him a little emotional.
So when he accidentally adopts an over-zealous teenager Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) who discovers the Batcave and wants to be his new sidekick, it all just happens in one of those blink and before you know it moments where he’s teaching Dick now Robin, dressed in a “reggae Batman” outfit how to be a hero. Arnett gets to gravelly-voice a character that borders as a narcissistic sociopath and prefers his alter-ego to being Bruce Wayne, so much so that he only takes the cowl off once to attend a party. But where Arnett gets to take the characterisation of the Dark Knight to a new level is by combining comedy with the edge and grit we’ve come to expect, he might just be our new favourite Batman to date.
But where this film differs to the first is in it’s purposeful, hilarious, self-awareness of the superhero genre and in particular the long and varied history of the character of Batman. McKay and Grahame-Smith drop every possible reference and nod to past Batman’s that it even extends out to include some of his more obscure villains from the rogues gallery including Polka Dot Man and the Condiment King. And in a hilarious case of more is more, they even then tap into a wider array of villains from the pop culture realms such as Sauron (Jemaine Clement), Voldemort (Eddie Izzard), King Kong (Seth Green), and a destruction of Daleks all to face off against our Dark Knight.
Like with the first film, this is also a visual extravaganza that is constantly popping with colour and texture thanks to the medium of Lego. It at times does feel a little over the top and ADD like but that just means that you’re rarely ever feeling bored. Which is perfect for the little ones who find it difficult to focus on anything for too long. And one enormous plus is that the theme song “Who’s The (Bat) Man” by Patrick Stump is not quite as much of an ear-worm as “Everything Is Awesome”.
The Lego Batman movie takes everything we love about the bright colourful world of Lego and smashes it together with the world of superheroes. The jokes are practically non-stop and we’re also given a poignant film about the need for family and friends in your life. It brings us a new, hilarious and endearing version of the Dark Knight character that we both deserve and need right now.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Lego Batman Movie will screen in Australian cinemas from 30 March 2017 through Roadshow Films and Warner Bros Pictures.
Running Time: 104 minutes