The LEGO Batman Movie Review

LGB-TRL3-3099

The LEGO Batman Movie in cinemas March 30th.
4-Stars

After a delay that felt a lot longer than it was, The LEGO Batman Movie hits Australian cinemas this week. I got to attend the Brisbane premier over the weekend in order to provide you all with a review. Is the movie worth the wait? Read on to find out.

This review talks about some of the basic plot, but doesn’t contain any specific spoilers.

For a lot of people, LEGO Batman was one of the stand-outs of The LEGO Movie so he was naturally a great subject for a standalone adventure. That is actually a fairly accurate assessment – this movie feels very much like it was designed to stand up without any knowledge of the The LEGO Movie. There are a few references that people will spot, but there is no outright linking between the two. There’s no mention of the heroes from the last film for example. I would have loved a cameo or two just to tie the two films together a little more.

After Batman himself narrates the opening logos the movie opens with a sequence that is absolutely hilarious. It’s an opening battle that sets in motion the major conflict between Batman and the Joker while also getting in some of the best gags of the film. I spent the first 10 minutes laughing non-stop. Watching LEGO Batman take on a horde of bad guys while rocking out to a song about how awesome he is was just fantastic. That opening battle is also where a lot of the first batch of sets originate from.

LEGO BATMAN MOVIE

Once the tone is set for an epic, capable and kick-butt Batman things very quickly switch up to explore the emotional core – for all his bravado this is a Batman that has issues.

Batman is closed down to the world around him, trying to convince everyone that he doesn’t need anybody else. The exploration of a Batman that shuts out everybody is handled here a hundred times better than the dark and brooding Batman of Batman V Superman.

LGB-TRL-BC-0038

Thankfully the exploration of Batman’s personal problems doesn’t get too dark and depressing because the delightful Alfred is there to help. There have been some great on-screen Alfreds but this take on the character is a lot of fun. The film explores the idea that Alfred is a more of a surrogate father than just a butler. It’s Alfred that pushes Batman to open himself up and allow Dick Grayson into his life.

070ac_140_layerpack_review_stereo_v002.1975

Dick Grayson, or Robin, has always been a polarising character in the world of Batman but this Robin is a lovable goofball. He’s overly enthusiastic and constantly cheerful. While he desperately seeks the approval of his Bat-dad he never loses his positive outlook. Their first mission together features a lot of laughs. You can’t felt but feel for him as he desperately tries to get a hug from Batman.

115fs_070_layerpack_review_stereo_v006.1157

The other new addition to Batman’s life is Barbara Gordon, taking over the role of police commissioner from her father. While Gotham has so far relied on pressing the button for the Bat-signal to solve all of their problems, Barbara has plans that involve statistics and community engagement. From the second she is introduced Barbara is never shown as anything less than smart and capable.

There are a few moments where I thought they were going to go down the clichéd love interest route, but while it was hinted at a few times the relationship doesn’t take that path. I appreciate that because it doesn’t undermine Barbara as a strong female figure.

LGB-TRL3-2787

The first third of the film was hilarious, and the second third is spent setting out the emotional conflict. The third act is all action. The action set-pieces in the final act were outstandingly crafted. They are better action sequences than a lot of the super-hero films of the last few years. I think the humour suffered a little bit for the sake of more action towards the end, but in a way that helped set the tone for the seriousness of the odds the heroes faced.

That final conflict features a cast of unexpected villains. I won’t spoil the line-up but I will say that there are characters that fall well outside established Batman canon. It seems the filmmakers went to Warner Bros and asked for a list of characters they could us and then picked some at random. It’s never really explained how those characters get to where the Joker recruits them from, but that hardly matters.

For adult fans there are plenty of references that children might not get. Not overtly adult jokes like some kids movies throw in, but call-backs and in-jokes that not everybody will pick up on. Very early on there is a reference to “the thing with the two boats” that the Joker did – an obvious reference to The Dark Knight. The close-up shot of George Clooney’s bat-nipples got plenty of giggles as did footage of 1960′s Batman dancing.

Bat-nipples

The animation itself is outstanding as the same brick-built aesthetic is carried over from The LEGO Movie. While The LEGO Movie featured a lot of locations that all felt like awesome MOCs, a lot of Gotham doesn’t have that same feel. It’s never really explored that closely and exists mainly as backdrop for action. Wayne Manor and the Batcave are shown in more quiet scenes so they do have that MOC sense about them. I expect that a lot of people will be inspired to build their own versions of these in the years to come.

Wayne Manor

Overall The LEGO Batman Movie is, in my opinion, the best Batman movie since The Dark Knight in 2008. The plot could very easily have been used as Batman story in any other medium with minor changes. The filmmakers have captured a Batman with emotional depth and they have created a cast of supporting characters that have something meaningful to offer. They have accomplished both of those things using the medium of LEGO. While The LEGO Movie felt like a movie about LEGO, The LEGO Batman Movie feels like a great Batman movie told with LEGO. It’s a fairly minor criticism considering that this isn’t a direct sequel to The LEGO Movie but it did feel a little less LEGOish. It’s still obviously a LEGO world but it doesn’t feel like you are watching a story played out by a kid and his bricks like with The LEGO Movie. I think this was probably a deliberate choice to make it a bit different. I suspect Ninjago will be the same. As I said it’s a very minor criticism.

Whether you are a Batman fan, a LEGO fan or both I definitely recommend seeing this film. If you have kids take them to see it because they will absolutely love it.

Random Thoughts:

  • Like a lot of stories this film treats Batman as the main character, and Bruce Wayne as the mask Batman wears. I like that they made that choice here too.
  • Your interest in the sets will increase about 200% (at least) after getting out of the cinema.
  • The final credits song is catchy, but not quite as much fun as everything is awesome.
  • I’m certain that there were heaps of hidden references that I missed.
  • Batman’s computer is a character in itself.
  • There are lots of digs at other Superheroes, including Iron Man and a great swipe taken at Suicide Squad.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: