THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE [2017]

Directed by Chris McKay

Written by Seth Grahame-Smith (screenplay, story), Chris McKennaErik Sommers (screenplay)

Starring: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario DawsonRalph FiennesZach Galifianakis, Jason Mantzoukas, Conan O’Brien


Warner Brothers surprises with its follow up to The Lego Movie, in that it is essentially mocking its titular character, along with various other tropes of the genre. One gets the sense that WB don’t quite see the subversive nature of this film, as it is all essentially a parody of the entire superhero genre. This is especially apparent after the poorly received Batman vs Superman. Or perhaps they have seen the light and realised that they need to laugh at themselves again.

From the opening seconds, we hear Will Arnett’s hilarious recreation of Batman’s low, grumbly voice as he narrates the opening credits. We soon learn that he has a nine-pack. Yep, “one extra ab”. From here the script is infinitely quotable: during a critical scene that sets up the rest of the movie, when Joker is trying to escape, the two have a couple’s falling out of sorts, culminating in Batman telling Joker that he “likes to fight around”.

Wait, is this really a kid’s movie??

Only basic knowledge of the genre is needed to follow the jokes, and again I wonder, is this really a kid’s film? All I could hear from the children attending the session was the occasional laugh (often when I was laughing; I truly am immature), but more than twice I heard variations of the standard “why did he do that” or “what did he say” type questions. There just as much of that than there was laughter.

Nothing is funnier than the portrayal of Bruce Wayne/Batman as a perpetual man-child; a self-obsessed egomaniac who can’t see anything he does as any kind of wrong. His childish tantrum when reacting to his learning of a function Alfred wants him to attend is priceless, not only cementing the maturity and mental age of Bruce Wayne in this world, but also establishing Alfred as a father figure in Wayne’s life of isolation.

The film’s self-awareness is used to full effect, and unlike Deadpool, nothing feels like a gimmick. Nothing feels cheap. This is satire at its finest, at one point the history of Batman in film is explored in hilarious ways, including a shark-repellent bit. Batman also often fights his enemies to catchy theme songs that he claims he wrote, adding to the depiction of Batman as a narcissistic man-child.

“Cos I’m Batmaaaaan!!”

The film stumbles when it submits to a typical plot involving Wayne needing to grow and find change; to accept others into his life instead of pushing them away for fear of losing them. None of this is particularly sappy or sentimental, but the theme is going to fly over the heads of younger kids, and the laughs dry up as this theme is further explored. That said, there is still fun to be had. But the second half of the film is significantly worse than the first.

This is due to the film being more concerned with the family scenario, as Bruce unwittingly adopted a child at the function Alfred had him attend. Alfred becomes a father figure and Barbara Gordon figures into the equation too. Batman needs to learn that he needs people in his life, and that feeling anything but anger isn’t healthy. It is a very typical character arc and plot, and the film suffers as a result.

 

The visual representation of the Lego world is again fantastic: the flames from the bat-mobile a bright pixelated orange, objects like phones and scissors are insanely oversized, and the range of colours is simply fantastic and might be enough on its own to satisfy younger viewers. Considering the amount of young children in the screening, it was surprisingly quiet overall. The most impressive aspect of these visuals though is the fact that the animation is created with a POV in mind, i.e. a camera. It impressively mimics a few different camera techniques, one example being a slow, zooming away crane-shot, adding another layer to the brightly coloured film.


This film honestly makes Birdman look worse than it already is. This is satire at its finest, and is easily the best film to come out of the DC stable since Nolan. Far from the Nolan films though, this film knows how to laugh at itself, and does so for the entire film. It embraces its own absurdity. If only it weren’t a kid’s film, then the incredibly average plot could have been ditched for something a little more adult and interesting. However, it is still maddeningly funny at times, and its skewering of Batman as a character is consistently funny. Who needs Superman vs Batman; if you want to see Batman destroyed, this is the movie to watch.

Two short of a sixer

4/6