Director: Chris McKay
Screenplay: Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, John Whittington
Starring: Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes
Runtime: 104 Minutes
It’s becoming readily apparent that this new Lego series might be one of the most delightfully subversive and intricately detailed animated cinematic endeavours of recent years. Following up the instant classic The Lego Movie with a spinoff focused on the comedic side character of said film was a troubling scenario to comprehend. Against all odds, those at the helm of this franchise have pulled it off yet again.
Pulling away from much of the brooding darkness of the character in recent years – in both the Nolan series and the currently ongoing DCEU – The Lego Batman Movie both undercuts the apparent grownup attitudes of anxty man-children everywhere and sets its own course as one of the most entertaining, thoroughly re-watchable Batman pictures ever.
Much of the context of the films barring is to play up to the attributes of every incarnation ever conceived for the character, screen or otherwise, and brewed a celebratory concoction of colourful beauty on a verbal, visual and aural level (the construction from Lorne Balfe’s fabulous score is infused with call-backs). All of this actually serves as a great core for the film's story and themes.
Batman (Will Arnett) wants to work alone, growing to such a level of detachment that he refuses to even commit to his arch-nemesis the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) in one of the films many examinations of the relationships that he shares with many characters in his universe. The entire film is about Batman basically getting over himself to save the day, and cooperating with the much-maligned figures of his mythos, such as Robin (Michael Cera), Batgirl (Rosario Dawson) and even Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) to an extent. This works toward actually making this comical version of the character a relatable, three-dimensional character through an arc that challenges his perceptions of himself and actually garners up some rather touching moments. The vocal work from everyone is just fantastic typecasting shorthand at its best, with Arnett delivering a career-best performance.
First and foremost this is a comedy film, and it delivers on the same laugh a minute level as its predecessor, alongside a new influx of Bat jokes. The visual details and jokes are just as astonishing as before, and besides the quick-witted screenplay, Chris McKay’s direction is so well attuned to some of the quieter moments of comedy; including an extended and excruciatingly funny reveal of just what Batman/Bruce Wayne gets up to while alone in the mansion.
The final act is probably where the speed and precision falters a little. In the midst of the Joker’s elaborate scheme to invade Gotham city with an abundance of villains from the Phantom Zone (the crossover possibilities are more endless than you could imagine), it feels as though there are one too many emotional beats being hit in succession that dilute with each occurrence and drag down the pace. There’s also an entire sequence involving the Justice League that appears to lack a payoff. In general, it’s really hard to take against something this alive with energy, focus and wild imagination – even if it doesn’t quite reach the same transcendent levels of the original movie’s climax.
The Lego Batman Movie excels at exactly what it sets out to do in spades. Not only working as a sensational feature-length comedy roast at the expense of the caped crusader’s previous incarnations on the big screen, but also operating as damn great Batman and superhero movie overall.