The word Lego strikes a chord with people around the entire world and, like Converse shoes and Rubik’s Cubes, the brand outlasts generations of kids and conjures an immediate affection to anyone whose youth was in some way connected with it. Lego is now more popular than ever, and with the trademark encompassing all kinds of mediums (including theme parks, television, video games and film) its current trend relies heavily on nostalgia, self-awareness and pop-culture references, much of which was exploited to hilarious success in the groundbreaking 2014 film The Lego Movie.
The same creators have dropped their proverbial crane into The Lego Movie claw machine, plucked out one of that film’s most beloved characters – Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) – and given him his own film, The Lego Batman Movie. In doing so they have created a new cinematic Lego universe that is likely to endure countless sequels and spin-offs. What we have here is a clever, frenetic and wickedly funny satire that will get a rise out of everyone from kids, parents, gamers and comic-book geeks.
A cheeky voice-over ridicules the film’s company logos before the film even begins, immediately tapping into what most casual moviegoers are thinking. The audience is given a laugh right off the bat (excuse the pun) and the movie barrels along at a breakneck pace from the opening scene through to the final frame, slinging gag after gag at the viewer while refusing to take a breath.
Batman is presented as a self-centred, infantile egomaniac whose private life is empty and devoid of human contact. The Joker bursts on to the screen and is dejected by Batman’s refusal to acknowledge their rivalry, leading the villain on a new mission to destroy Gotham City by unleashing all of the cinematic villains occupying the Forbidden Zone (that place where Superman casts his foes). It is a desperate bid to win Batman’s attention/affection that weaves an ongoing comedic threat throughout the movie, which, despite being laborious at times, provides countless opportunities for hilarity. With the unwanted assistance of his loyal servant Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), a newly adopted son Robin (Michael Cera) and Gotham’s new chief commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), Batman unleashes his vigilante justice with complete disregard for consequence.
Make no mistake, The Lego Batman Movie is hysterical. It is a wall-to-wall onslaught of comedy that fails to relent, which may be to its detriment (or not – stick with me). There is so much going on at any given time that the audience is offered very little relief. No single frame is without multiple focal points, where each gag is eclipsed by several others. While laughing at one joke it’s entirely possible that the audience is missing another… and perhaps that’s the key to the film’s success as opposed to its shortcoming. This incessant barrage of satire might just give The Lego Batman Movie repeat-viewing value.
The animation itself is incredible, and infinitely more detailed than it’s predecessor The Lego Movie. The digital creations are eerily life-like; were it not for common sense you could believe that you were watching actual Lego toys in action. From the limited mobility of Lego-figures to their familiar toy-like environments, everything about this world is nostalgic and self-referential. Parents will connect with the retro-centric throwbacks, kids will lap up all of the comic-book crossovers, while unsuspecting newcomers might just split their sides laughing at the endless barrage of comedy.
The Lego Batman Movie is an overwhelming explosion of lunacy that is guaranteed to raise a smile on the most cantankerous of grouches. Its ferocity is sure to wear some people down, but not before infecting them with a silly fill of high spirits. The cluster of energy on offer will demand a second viewing, and that’s part of what should make this a memorable entry in a hopefully prosperous Lego franchise.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10