The LEGO Batman Movie REVIEW
After the massively successful, and remarkably good, The LEGO Movie it would have been oh so easy for the company to rest on their cheerful, blocky laurels. Very nearly everything has LEGO these days so they could have churned out an extended toy commercial, scattered a few jokes over it and still laughed all the way to the bank.
Instead, The LEGO Batman Movie is one of the best Batman films ever made. It’s still a massive toy commercial (the whip round to save up for the Scuttler starts, and ends, here!) but it’s also witty, very funny and gets Batman in a surprisingly deep and emotional way.
The basic premise is this: Batman’s awesome. He knows it. He’s totally cool with it. Every night he saves the city from some colossal, obscure plot and every night he returns home to Wayne Manor.
And eats Lobster Thermidor.
And watches romcoms.
But he’s cool. TOTES COOL. SUPER TOTES COOL. Not lonely at all. Like he tells the Joker in an early, and surprisingly dark moment, no one means anything to him. He has no arch enemy, he has no family, he’s Batman. And he’s awesome.
Then, Commissioner Gordon retires. His replacement, his daughter Barbara (a graduate of “HARVARD FOR POLICE!”) wants a very different relationship with Batman for the GCPD. Batman wants very badly to be able to talk in Barbara’s presence. He also wants nothing to change. Which, given he’s just accidentally adopted Dick Grayson and the Joker has the first plan in history that might work, is not going to happen.
What follows is a deeply witty, insightful dissection of Batman as two-fisted rockstar, a family drama and a story about a man opening back up to the world after trauma. It’s surprisingly, and unapologetically, emotional in spots but it never reaches Forrest Gump-levels of crass. Rather there are moments of genuine sweetness, especially towards the end and moments of real jeopardy. There’s a great aerial chase which sees both Alfred and Dick flown from the Batplane that actually makes you gasp. Given they are both made of LEGO, that’s quite an achievement.
It’s not the film’s biggest one either. The clever, in-depth discussion of Batman is married to a gleeful sprint through his history. Every major movie is referenced, other heroes appear and there are knowing winks to just how long he’s been fighting crime. Even better, lots of villains get some screentime, not just the usual few. You may leave this movie wanting a Condiment King minifigure. Don’t worry, you won’t be alone.
Better still, the villains don’t hog the limelight. Michael Cera’s Robin is sweet and innocent with none of the arch approach that he’s unfairly well known for. Ralph Fiennes’s Alfred is a masterclass in long-suffering understatement and Zach Galifankis’s Joker manages to be both smart and a cackling monstrosity. Best of all, though, is Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon. Smart, focused and compassionate in the exact way Batman is not, she could have been boring so easily. Instead, for both Batman and the movie, she represents the future. Something better, more complicated and far more fun than what’s gone before. Plus, the fact that Barbara, and Jim, Gordon are both portrayed as persons of colour here and it damages their characters not even a little is a strong argument for diversity in casting. Even tiny plastic casting.
This movie loves Batman and his world almost as much as he loves himself. It’s endlessly self-referential, lets its lead get away with precisely nothing and celebrates it all. It also contains at least two genuinely wonderful surprises that, somehow, have not been spoiled by the trailers. It is, in short, like its hero, awesome. Go see it.
Review by Alasdair Stuart