Don’t deny it! When Warner Bros. green lit The Lego Movie back in 2011 you sneered. It may have been only the slightest sneer, the twitch of an eyebrow say, but your first thought was: ‘seriously?!’ Yes, on paper it sounded like the most horrendously capitalist commercialised marketing vehicle since Pixar announced Cars 3 and E.T. turned out to be a massive fan of Reece’s Pieces. They even went and announced a relatively little known TV sitcom star as the lead. Hardly wattage… But you were wrong. Nay, we were wrong. Back in 2014 The Lego Movie was glorious. It was…well, awesome! And that ‘little known TV sitcom star’? Only one of today’s biggest blockbusters in the business, Chris Pratt! Mind, any fan of Parks and Recreation could’ve sung his praises years ago.
Lest we get carried away and forget the film’s commercial Geppetto’s, The Lego Movie has now become a franchise. Coming soon is The Lego Ninjago Movie, which is to be followed by The Lego Movie Sequel; but first up…The Lego Batman Movie! Will Arnett’s masked vigilante was a highlight of its predecessor but to lead a film of his own is a different matter entirely. Could the joke, albeit a very good joke, stretch that far?
After saving the world’s most crime-ridden metropolis, Gotham City, from yet another ‘unnecessarily complicated’ dastardly scheme (it involves a plane brilliantly named the McGuffin, which happens to be flying overhead with a crate load of bombs), Bruce ‘Batman’ Wayne finds himself at a bit of a loss. He’s got no family, no friends and nothing to do, so how does DC’s number one hero (‘suck it Superman!’) spend is down time? Eating lobster and watching Serendipity on repeat apparently. It’s no life for the caped crusader but things get worse when every bad guy in town surrenders with the Joker leading the pack. Suspicious and angsty, Batman – and his newly adopted son (just go with it) – seek out a project the Joker into the Phantom Zone and do away with him for good…or bad (it’s hard to tell with this guy!). From there the plot spirals in a way that only a Lego picture could until a concluding act straight from (but much better than) Shrek the Third. Throughout it all, however, the main theme is that of Batman’s inability to express emotion and deal with the psychological baggage of his parents’ tragic demise. Yes, this is deeper than Dawn of Justice.
It shouldn’t come as too much of a shock to hear that the plot is a little all over the place and occasionally doesn’t quite maintain momentum. On the other hand, the gag-rate is tremendous and more than makes up for this, not that it’s too much of an issue anyway. The premise carried over from The Lego Movie is that this is the story of a child’s invention so it’s perfectly fine for everything to be ever so slightly bonkers. Likewise, the requisite superhero-staple-smash-everything-up sequence that inevitably occurs in the closing third for once won’t leave you bored and doesn’t feel stupid. It’s Lego, it’s meant to fall apart and be rebuilt! Plus, the pathos of The Lego Batman Movie’s conclusion has twice the emotional resonance of any live work from Marvel or DC. Quite how I can’t say, but this is a genuinely moving denouement from the little plastic people.
Did I mention the gag-rate? I refuse to spoil any of them – well, except by saying watch out for an inspired dig of last year’s Suicide Squad – because every one’s a belter. The Lego Batman Movie will not only make your face ache with laughter from even before the establishing shot, it will also bestow you with a beam to bounce you all the way home. There are references in abundance for the die-hards and gleeful silliness for those who’s only knowledge of Batman is through Only Fools and Horses. This truly is an experience that should provide something for just about everyone. Even if you come out in hives in the mere presence of a DC film (I wouldn’t blame you to be fair from last year), the animation here is genuinely outstanding. There are times when the CGI that brings the film to life appears so well lit and so incredibly three-dimensional that you could almost mistake it for stop motion. As for the cast, Arnett nails the role with exactly the delivery so perfect in The Lego Movie and Michael Cera puts in a heartwarming turn as Robin. For me though, it was Ralph Fiennes who steals the show as Bruce Wayne’s ever-reliable butler, Alfred.
Deliriously funny, brilliantly animated and, once again, surprisingly touching, this is absolutely the best DC film in years. Whilst The Lego Batman Movie never quite tears up the Instruction Manual, there’s plenty enough creative free-styling to make this a highly enjoyable romp.