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Why is it that Will Arnett has become one of the best incarnations of Batman? Batman himself being one of the best parts of the amazing ‘The Lego Movie’, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprising that he got his own spin off movie. Upon hearing of this film I definitely had my doubts about it. But I quickly reminded myself that I felt the same about ‘The Lego Movie’ and ‘Storks’ (which was made by the same studio) and they both ended up being either great or immensely entertaining. I am an avid believer in seeing a film and judging for yourself so a trip to the cinema was in order to see what ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ had in store.
The story this time around almost completely ignores the events of ‘The Lego Movie’ despite being in the same universe. Batman is great, he beats the bad guys, has a huge fan base and has his own soundtrack. The problem is that he is all alone. At the end of every day he returns to the Batcave and Wayne Manor with no one but Alfred waiting for him. That all changes with a bizarre string of events, including new commissioner Barbara Gordon wanting the police force and Batman to work together, Batman mistakenly adopting Dick Grayson and the Joker hatching a scheme that will destroy Gotham once and for all.
Despite the films short run time there is a lot that happens in this film, and almost all of it is hilarious. This film feels less like a film such as ‘The Lego Movie’, an animated comedy with heart at its core, and more like the spoofs of old. Not the disastrous spoof films like ‘Scary Movie’ or anything excreted by Friedberg and Seltzer; ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ is more like ‘Galaxy Quest’, ‘Airplane!’, ‘Top Secret’ and anything crafted by Mel Brooks. Unsurprisingly, this parody is of everything to do with Batman in any form of art or media. We have the obvious ‘Dark Knight Trilogy’, ‘Batman Vs Superman’ parodies, but we also have pokes at the animated series from the ‘90’s and we even go back before Adam West put on the oddly blue cowl and hit the original detective comics. But luckily, much like ‘Airplane!’, you don’t need to know what is being made fun of to find the jokes funny. No joke is just the film makers pointing at a reference (not a joke, a reference) and saying “recognise this and laugh at it!” What we get is a great showcase of perfect timing and well thought-out jokes that mostly come at Batman’s expense. There is an early joke about the old comics and even though I haven’t read a comic book in my life I still laughed at it.
The jokes keep coming and they come fast. Too fast at times really; you can laugh so much at the jokes (particularly in the second half) that you miss the following ones. Some could say that this is an issue but really if your problem is that you are laughing too hard then you can only blame your sense of humour. But I have found that the best comedies tend to have a story with goals and likeable characters who just happen to be funny, not just Adam Sandler putting on a strange voice again. And ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ knows this too.
Let’s be honest, from reading the plot you know exactly what the message that is going to be conveyed is. It all comes down to family and respecting and loving others and not shutting yourself away from those who care for you. We know it, we’ve seen it, all that can be done is to have it well incorporated into the story. And, yes it is. It never gets sappy, although some of these heart-felt moments do have an effect on the pace at times. In fact they are the only times the film slows down from the high gear it drives in. And it must be said that after a fast-paced but stable first half, things get incredibly bonkers in the second half. But the best jokes and references are in that part of the film so I’m not going to complain. Other than that the story really does just give reasons for jokes and character drama so it’s not really worth diving into further.
As for the characters, Batman is still hilarious. Will Arnett brings his A game to the voice work and he perfectly captures the teenage-full of himself persona that the character has this time around. We also get Michael Cera as Robin, who is really just there to deliver the heart to the story but he does well with it. Ralph Fiennes is Alfred and, as I had imagined going in, he turned out to be the funniest character of them all with his dry humour and monotone gentleman voice. Rosario Dawson joins in as Barbara Gordon, who like Robin is just here to deliver heart and move the story along, but again like Robin she does a good job with it and is completely likeable as Batman’s polar opposite. And finally we have Zach Galifianakis as the Joker. The idea for the Joker here is that he has a “relationship” with the caped crusader; he wants to be his worst enemy the exact same way a person wants to be their crushes partner. He even gets jealous when Batman fights other bad guys. I must admit I’ve never seen this before and I found it weirdly hilarious and almost endearing at the same time. There are other guest stars as guest villains but I won’t get into that here.
All else that can be said is that all characters and the world around them are exceptionally well animated. Like ‘The Lego Movie’ it’s really hard to tell if some moments were assembled in a computer or if they actually took the time to stop-motion animate them. Not once does it feel like an advertisement for Lego; it clearly is in the end but you really wouldn’t think it with the respect they give the audience by telling a good story with likeable characters and deliver legitimate laughs. Christopher Miller and Phil Lord have started something really strange with ‘The Lego Movie’. Strange, but by no means unwelcomed.
It never reaches the highs of ‘The Lego Movie’; it’s not quite as funny or heart-warming, and in the end Emit was a more compelling hero than Batman was. But in the end I’m glad I saw it. It’s a good sign that the spoof film is not dead yet and hopefully never will be. It’s ironic and almost sad that ‘The Lego Batman movie’ is a far better film than ‘Batman Vs Superman’; in fact I’d argue it’s better than ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. In a world where superheroes and product placement are everywhere, it’s nice to finally see a mixture of the two that is fully self-aware.