So I watched The Lego Batman Movie…
I was apprehensive about going to watch this film. If you’ve been reading this blog long enough or have ever casually bumped into me, you’ll know how much I LOVE Batman. So when anything comes out with his name on it, I want it to be excellent. Furthermore, spin-offs can be tricky because just because we liked a character in small, infrequent doses doesn’t mean we’ll love a whole movie dedicated to them. Luckily for me, my fears were all in vain.
Okay, basic plot: While foiling The Joker’s most recent plan to destroy Gotham, Batman (Will Arnett) casually laughs off the tag of The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) being his ‘Greatest Villain’. This drives The Joker insane (well, more insane than usual) and causes him to come up with his most devious plan yet. Meanwhile Batman has to deal with the fact that new police commissioner, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) has come up with a new strategy of defending Gotham that is completely unreliant on Batman. Eager to prove that Gotham still needs him (and that he needs no one), Batman comes up with a plan to stop Joker’s villainy forever. This, however, plays right into Joker’s plan and forces Batman to come to terms with the fact that, even though he’s a muscular billionaire-ninja, he has fears and can’t win this fight alone.
This movie is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! From the opening credits of the film it’s made clear just what kind of movie this is. The Lego Batman Movie functions both as a spoof (that mocks the genre) but also a worthy addition to the history of Batman. It reminded me a lot of Kingsman: The Secret Service in that way and of course Deadpool. This is due to a team of immensely talented writers (Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern and John Whittington) who craft a script that manages to never take itself too seriously while also never being too much of joke. It’s a wonderful continuation of what was started in The Lego Movie both in terms of the individual character of Batman and the overall style of storytelling the lego animation provides. Now that I think about it, it’s amazing how similar this film is to Deadpool. The Lego Batman Movie is in no way a rip-off but rather a parallel that unlike Deadpool young children will be allowed to see (well, at least legally).
As much praise as I throw to this film’s screenwriting team, I have to throw equal amounts, if not more praise to director, Chris McKay. McKay worked on The Lego Movie as a co-director of animation; but it’s his work on another one of my favourite pieces of animated comedy that I think was the key to this film’s success – Robot Chicken. If you’ve never seen Robot Chicken you haven’t really lived. Robot Chicken is an animated series and the brainchild of Seth Green and Matthew Seinreich. The show centres around pop-culture parodies brought to life through stop-animation. The style of comedy in that series is evident in this film. The lack of rules that exist in this animated medium allow for the comedy to be more outrageous and for an ensemble cast to appear without the usual fight for screentime that having so many notable actors in a live action film would cause.
Speaking of the cast, this film has a stellar one. Firstly, I have to bow down to Will Arnett who honestly is in my list of Top 3 Batman Actors of all time! He’s sensational. He perfectly delivers the gritt and guile of Batman while also adding comedy and a silliness to the character that we’ve never quite seen. His performance highlights everything that is good about this film in terms of its writing and setting. Michael Cera who stars as Dick Grayson/Robin also deserves a round of applause for his fun and light-hearted interpretation of the character. Honestly, I could go on and on praising every single member of this film’s cast individually because they honestly deserve it. I’ll just mention Rosario Dawson who gives an entertaining performance as the strong, independent Baraba Gordon; Ralph Fiennes – who puts in a regal as well as rumpus turn as Alfred (Bruce’s butler and surrogate father) and Zach Galifianakis who is inspired as The Joker. I bow down to all of the actors’ tai chi in this film.
You don’t need to have watched The Lego Movie to enjoy this film nor does this film use The Lego Movie as a crutch to stand on. This is a standalone movie that works beautifully and relies on its own comedy and heart to entertain. That being said, there are plenty of references to other pieces of work from Adam West’s Batman to the Animated Batman Series all the way even up to Batman vs Superman and Suicide Squad. There are probably a million others that I missed. This film’s awareness that it’s a movie but ability to function as a movie is astounding.
Overall, The Lego Batman Movie is a giant homerun! It’s funny, has great characters, wonderful, creative minds working behind the scenes and actors who do tremendous work to bring it all to life. It’s definitely worth seeing. 8/10