If you asked anyone what they think is one of the biggest film surprises of pass few years, it would be a definite guarantee that one of the first ones to mentioned would be the 2014 animated film THE LEGO MOVIE. When the project was first announced, a lot of people were very sceptical whether this film would turn out be good since it sounded like it was going to basically be a 90 minute long commercial for Legos. However once the film was finally released, it defined everyone’s scepticism and became one of 2014’s biggest critical/box office smash hits. One aspect of the film that was praised by everyone was Will Arnett’s scene stealing supporting role as the voice of the beloved superhero “Batman”. So it wasn’t too much of a surprise to hear that the studio Warner Bros. was going to make a spinoff film centred around the character, which is hitting cinemas in the form of THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE.
Set three years after the events of THE LEGO MOVIE, we find Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) continue enjoying his life of crime fighting and stopping supervillians in Gotham City. However despite all the love and attention that he receives from the city’s citizens, Batman lives a lonely and insecure existence in his personal life. Concern for his well-being, his beloved butler Alfred (voiced by Ralph Fiennes) needs to form relationships with people again and start a family. However Batman refuses to do so and prefers to be alone without any attachments to anyone. One day things change for Batman when after hearing that new police commissioner Barbara Gordon (voiced by Rosario Dawson) wants him to stop his vigilantism and join the Gotham City police force, his arch nemesis The Joker (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) and all of Gotham’s supervillians decide to surrender. Realising that he’s no longer relevant, Batman doesn’t know what to do with his life until a young orphan that accidentally adopted named Dick Grayson (voiced by Michael Cera) comes into it. Together Batman and Dick they discover that The Joker is secretly up to something and they try to stop him.
I must admit that when I first heard that THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE was being made, a little part of me did wonder whether if it was going to be good. Don’t get me wrong I did have a lot of faith that it would turn out as good as THE LEGO MOVIE but let’s be honest, spinoff films can be a bit of a mix bag in terms of quality. For every good one that gets made (CREED, DEADPOOL, PUSS IN BOOTS), there are some equally bad ones to say the least (X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, ELEKTRA, MINIONS ). So depending on which way the filmmakers behind this film took it, it can easily go either way. Now having seen it for myself, I can tell right now that this spinoff is definitely on the good side that’s for sure. This was an absolutely wonderful and hugely entertaining animated film that truly put a smile on my face from beginning to end. One of the main things that loved about the film is how much of a love letter this is to ‘Batman’ and his history in comics, film and TV. While the film does hilariously poke fun at every aspect that we know of him as a character, it also constantly reminds us why we all love ‘Batman’ in the first place. This is definitely due to both director Chris McKay and the screenwriters (Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, John Whittington), who all clearly have affection for the character and that shines through when in the film you’re watching it.
Director Chris McKay (who makes his feature directorial debut here after directing many episodes of the hit TV animated series ROBOT CHICKEN) did a really great job with his work on this film. I was a bit worried that McKay wouldn’t be able to recapture both the style and tone that directors Phil Lord & Chris Miller bought to THE LEGO MOVIE but he was able to that perfectly. McKay gives the film a rapid fire pace with his direction that’s both truly energetic and fun. Plus he does a great job at crafting the film’s many exciting and entertaining actions set pieces as well. The screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern and John Whittington is extremely well written. It’s very hilarious and really clever script that’s full of fantastic references, homages and in-jokes, which I know all “Batman” fans are going to love. Sure some of it does come across as fan service at times but it works for the type of film this is going for (I especially loved the GYMKATA reference). Plus there was a lot of great dialogue and moments sprinkled throughout the film that I found to be really hilarious. However despite all that fun stuff, the writers develop both the characters and story so that each one feels fleshed out. Especially when it comes to exploring ‘Batman’ and his relationships with the other characters, which I think really added depth to his emotional journey in the film. I mean the fact the this film managed to make me even feel sorry for ‘The Joker’ for how he is treated by ‘Batman’ is definitely saying something.
When it comes to the acting side of things, all the cast members all do really wonderful work in their roles. However there’s no doubt in my mind that this film belongs to Will Arnett as ‘Batman’. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that he’s the best version of the character ever put on film but that being said, he doesn’t miss a beat with his role as ‘Batman’ and he once again gives another terrific vocal performance. He’s take on the character is just great as it was in THE LEGO MOVIE but this time, the added emotional layers of the script give Arnett even more good stuff to work with. Plus he’s backed up by a great supporting cast as well. Zach Galifianakis (‘The Joker’), Michael Cera (‘Dick Grayson/Robin’), Rosario Dawson (‘Barbara Gordon/Batgirl’) and Ralph Fiennes (‘Alfred Pennyworth’) are all equally great in their roles respectively. The stand out definitely being Michael Cera, who brings a great enthusiasm to his role and I like that he approaches ‘Dick’ as if he is the ultimate ‘Batman’ fan boy. Also the score by Lorne Balfe was terrific, all the cameos (from both the Batman and Lego universes) were a lot of fun and the animation was absolutely vibrate. Now you’re probably wondering, were there any aspects of the film that I found flawed? I do have a couple but they are very minor complaints. As much I did love the film, I did feel that it did lack a bit of the creativity and freshness that THE LEGO MOVIE had. Plus it wasn’t as thematically interesting as that film was either when it came to exploring its themes. Also the film’s original songs weren’t really that memorable and outside of our main cast, some of the supporting cast were a bit underused.
Overall despite some aspect of the film that I found to be a little flawed, THE LEGO BATMAN was still a great animated film that was both absolutely hilarious and entertaining. Dare I say I might have loved it even more than THE LEGO MOVIE, which is something I think will shock a lot of you but that’s just me though. However if you are a huge fan of all things ‘Batman’, there is no doubt in my mind that you are going to have an absolute ball with this film. It really is a love letter to the character and his impact on popular culture. Plus if you also loved THE LEGO MOVIE as well, you’ll definitely get a kick out this too. It’s a film that both kids and adults will have a great time with that’s for sure.
Review written by Bede Jermyn