Not that Batman himself gets an easy ride. Gotham City authorities have grown weary of his all-singing all-dancing entrances and exits, his ludicrous show-off vehicles and showboating speeches. Little do they realise how tormented he’s become, his Citizen Kane-style melancholy amplified by the gigantic hollowed-out island he now calls home. Meanwhile, the Joker seems to have formed an unhealthy emotional attachment to him and a there’s this kid called Dick who wants to get himself Bat-adopted. Then the true darkness descends: every time he tries to fire up his favourite Tom Cruise scene in his giant private movie theatre, he can’t remember which HDMI input to select…
The LEGO Batman Movie grasps the bat rope of affectionate silliness and swings with it. It certainly has plenty of raw material to work with; Warner’s frequent re-booting of the live action franchise under different teams has left a legacy as schizophrenic as any Arkham inmate. From the opening seconds when we hear Will Arnett’s spot-on growling tones narrating the importance of those multiple moody production company logos, we know what we’re in for. If anyone needs to duck the hardest to avoid the flying barbs that follow it’s probably Christopher Nolan whose up-itself era gets a jovial kicking at every opportunity, such as the early assurance that this movie will ‘definitely be better than the one with the two boats’.
Scripter Seth Grahame-Smith might not whack every DC sacred cow in the time available but certainly gives it his best shot. Suicide Squad? Absurd concept. Justice League? Just an excuse for a giant cosplay party. You get the idea, but this is no hatchet job, more like affectionate roasting by a creative team who clearly love these characters and the immense heritage of the DC universe
For LEGO master builders, there’s a renewed commitment to stretching the possibilities of construction as far as possible and then a bit beyond; attempts at depicting fire in CGI LEGO, for example, just look like the image is over-pixelating. But most of the time you’ll be applauding the ambition of sequences like the traditional Bat-fight enacted with the cartoon ‘ZAP!’ and ‘POW!’ captions lovingly rendered in ye olde Danish brickage.
It’s not a complete glory run; the decision to inject a giant dose of schmaltz into the final act feels tacked on and derails the fun in much the same way Will Ferrell’s ‘Glue Dad’ did to the first movie and the Joker’s psychological hang-ups are milked to decreasing comic effect. Nor is there a musical moment as joyfully memorable as the first movie’s ‘Everything is Awesome!’ sequence but, as no small compensation, fans of John Williams’ Superman score will feel appropriate chills when we visit the Fortress of Solitude.
As with the first film, it’s the little details and character moments that stay with you. Scenes of Batman alone in his giant super-cave, hunched in front of his microwave and eating dinner alone on a little Rosebud Bat Boat unexpectedly move you in ways LEGO mini figures really shouldn’t. When the Joker’s face collapses in the pain of rejection at one key point, your heart will truly go out to the little plastic bastard. Director Chris McKay’s layering of these delightful character beats amid the frantic action is a balancing act that pays off in spades and will have you watching this on rewind.
No surprises then: another slam dunk for that LEGO lot.
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: CHRIS MCKAY / SCREENPLAY: SETH GRAHAME-SMITH, CHRIS MCKENNA, ERIK SOMMERS / STARRING: WILL ARNETT, JENNY SLATE, RALPH FIENNES, ZACH GALIFIANAKIS, MICHAEL CERA, ROSARIO DAWSON, BILLY DEE WILLIAMS / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 10TH
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10