The Lego Batman Movie (Review)

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⭐⭐ (Poor)

Director: Chris McKay
Starring: (voices of) Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes
Certificate: U
Run Time: 104 mins

‘The Lego Batman Movie’ is a spin-off focussing on the iconic, titular character that featured in a supporting role in 2014’s surprise hit, ‘The Lego Movie’. That film recieved near universal acclaim and I was very much looking forward to seeing it but when I did, I found the humour too meta, annoying and unengaging. I’m very pleased that as a spin-off, the producers have chosen to focus on this character which should be more appealing to all. The narrative follows Will Arnett reprise his role as Batman in his quest to stop The Joker from wreaking havoc on Gotham City whilst at the same time trying to work with newly-elected Barbara Gordon. The trailers for this film have looked as if this has reverted and I laughed all the way throughout the promotional material for this film which features some intelligent gags and is very genre-literate.

‘The Lego Batman Movie’ is a film of two halves – its first act is particularly impressive and constantly cracks jokes left, right and centre and is surprisingly very cine-literate. The opening sequence which is a fight between Batman and the Joker is particularly well-crafted and the gags keep coming at a rapid pace and there is so much to absorb on-screen, little references to the character and previous incarnations scattered across the screen – it is pure eye-candy. The voice cast are generally pretty strong and Lorne Balfe’s score is generally competent and there are a couple of memorable, dark and brooding themes that elevate the narrative, particularly in the opening fight sequence. Unfortunately, the film completely tanks in its second half. The reason why it tanks, primarily is because it chooses to go down a specific narrative which I won’t spoil but it really doesn’t do the film any favours. Part of why the first act works really well is because the filmmakers are clearly respectful of the source material but all that respect goes out of the window in the second half and this very much becomes a film centered for children.

When the film is firing on full cylinders, the script constantly cracks jokes that appeal to both fans of the character and children. This is something that all the best comedies do and for it to have the ability to juggle both of these characteristics is impressive. I particularly enjoyed all the references to all the previous Batman films and the film smartly pokes fun at some of the less successful ones without being narcissistic.

The major factor as to why this film falls off the rails in its second act is due to its story which is misjudged.  Rather than go down a route where it thoroughly explores Batman and his supporting characters, McKay chooses to shake things up and try and mix in popular culture with this iconic superhero. This does not work at all and as the film progressed, really started to get on my nerves. By the time the credits started to roll and I was being lectured on the subject of working together, I was seething. This is an insult to fans of the character and completely undoes all the good work the film managed to do in its first act.

That said, the voice cast here are great and if they were in a better film, the film could be a classic. Will Arnett continues the great work in ‘The Lego Movie’ as the voice of Batman, Ralph Fiennes works as well on the screen as he does on paper as Alfred and Michael Cera is suitably annoying as Robin. Zach Galifiankais as The Joker, in the first act, is suitably menacing and charismatic but the film’s choice of narrative negatively impacts on this iconic character. The only weak link is Rosario Dawson who as an actress is competent but I found the character of Barbara Gordon unnecessary  and annoying.

Overall, ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ is a crushingly disappointing feature whose second half completely negates all the good work done settting up the storyline and the characters in the first half. If this was the other way round, I probably would have given the film the benefit of the doubt as it is always better to finish a film on a high note rather than on a low one but this doesn’t happen and the film continued to get progressively worse until the credits started to roll. It’s such a shame that two-for-two, I’ve been disappointed with these films and I find it baffling how both ‘The Lego Movie’ and ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ have recieved near-perfect acclaim. I suppose at least, there’s plenty to see in the first half. That’s the film I wanted, not the one that followed.

⭐ ⭐ (Poor)

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