Directed By: Chris Mackay
Starring: Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson and Ralph Fiennes
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Before I start this review I would like to point out how hard it is for a grown adult to go and watch this film. Yes, I imagine a large demographic of its audience is going to be children but finding a showtime after 6:00pm around my area has been a nightmare! After the critical success of The LEGO Movie as both a great children's film and a clever, witty film for grown ups, it has been completely baffling to me why cinemas have been giving this film a curfew. As someone who is in work until 5:45pm every shift, this has made going to see the film a chore. Even on weekends! I'm pretty sure when I was 12 I was allowed up past 8. So, why isn't this movie? A message to all the major cinemas in the North West of England: If you want people to go the cinema more, put on films more than once a day.
With that rant over, we go straight into tonight's main event: The LEGO Batman Movie!
I'm not going to lie, my expectations were high. I loved the LEGO movie. I think it had the right tone, a great story and a great message. It didn't talk down to the audience, was visually impressive and the comedy within the dialogue was gold. When it was announced that the BATMAN from the film was to get his own feature length shot at the silver screen, I was giddy. I'm not a sourpuss when it comes to Batman. I love the 1966 tongue in cheek TV series for its silliness and lighthearted look at an otherwise sombre, dark character. And having just somehow survived 2016's 'Donald Grump' of a Batman in the DC movies, I was ready for a laugh and chuckle at the Dark Knight.
Will Arnett opens the credits perfectly. His return to the role is the Batman we all need. As a fan of Arrested Development, this man has a direct line to my funny bone, so it was no surprise that I found him to be the highlight of the film. Obviously being the lead role lends a hand in that accolade however, I would like to point out that it isn't often that the actor portraying Batman is the highlight of a Batman film. This is no ordinary Batman film, granted, yet I still feel that if it wasn't for Will Arnett, this version of the character and this film would have struggled. I have a feeling a lot of what he said and recorded was improv, off the cuff stuff. Like Robin Williams portrayal of the genie in Aladdin, and it was all belly achingly funny.
Alongside the world's greatest detective is Michael Cera playing the boy wonder, Robin. This was probably the best casting that the studio could have gone for as Cera nailed the over-accentuated, boyish innocence of Robin in this portrayal. He is a perfect character for younger viewers to latch on to and laugh at without resorting to something as mundane as a fart joke.
Speaking of Jokes, we had our main villain, The Joker, done by none other than 'the fat, bearded guy out of The Hangover' Zack Galifianakis. I was worried about how he would sound but fear not Bat-family! His vocals are just what the film needed. Not too scary but not too far away from the crazy, eerie Joker we all know and love. He wasn't amazing but I think Zack performed the lines he was given as well as he could do, which brings me on to what I didn't like about the film.
This film's biggest problem is its story. The setup and concept for the film are actually quite entertaining. It essentially asks the question, what is Batman without his enemies? Is there actually a relationship between Batman and The Joker? On top of that, you have Batman facing a rogues gallery the likes of which you've never seen in any previous incarnation of the caped crusader. Throw in some clever homages and nods to Batman films that have been and gone whilst also poking fun at the whole concept of Batman itself. After all, he's an infinite, everlasting icon in pop culture so it's completely acceptable and is sure to get a laugh out of even the sternest fan. This is a sure fire hit, right?
Riddle me this, what happens when you don't answer the questions you pose in your own film? You get one unsatisfied Bat-fan. The film seems to forget about the first question, merely using it as way from act 1 to act 2. A means to an end as it were. As for Batman and the Joker's relationship? I thought that was to much of a pretty, meaty subject to tackle in a LEGO movie that's primarily aimed at kids, and it turns out that it was. Just like Bruce discovering that him and Superman had the same mum's names (seriously, it's nearly been a year and that's still the benchmark for lazy/ stupid writing), the confrontation is concluded so quickly that it really takes away from the gut of the film you've just watched. Not many times in a cinema do I disappointedly say "Oh," out loud without realising. Add on top of this some really confusing Michael Bay-esque like sequences in the final battle and you are left feeling confused, underwhelmed and slightly cheated out an ending to a film that has been building up to, whether it liked it or not, not being just another LEGO movie.
I think it was always going to be compared to its predecessor. No doubt about that, and what helped it stray away from this comparison was its originality. We could see in the trailers that the team seemed to know that they had enough material (over 75 years) to make this film a great success and its own 'thing', WITHOUT having to revert to the 'EVERYTHING IS AWESOME' tagline of the LEGO Movie. Unfortunately someone higher up must have disagreed because that's the message that we get and that just simply doesn't match what I just sat through. But unlike The LEGO Movie, it does talk down its audience, no real story (as a story is only as good as its ending) and was confusing to watch at points.
You might be thinking, "But JB, this is a kids film. Why so serious?" Just hear me out. This film is not without its merits. As aforementioned all voice actors were on point, background characters were hilarious (Bane and a character I'll refer to as "Eddie Izzard's character", especially), the banter between Joker and Batman is fantastic. Setup like two adolescent teenagers trying to figure out their relationship is genuinely funny to watch. In fact, all the scenes before the final battle are well shot and animated. Making it all the more confusing as to why the last scenes were so messy. With that being said, it doesn't warrant the studio executive approved, LEGO Movie safe ending that you're left with. And without it having the originality or magical story of the LEGO Movie, that ending loses its shine. To both adult and child.
Well worth a watch, just don't expect to walk out with a smile on that face.