Wednesday 5 April 2017

Film Review: The Lego Batman Movie

The Lego Batman Movie finally bursts onto Australian cinema screens - but does it continue the blockbusting success of its hugely popular predecessor? 

The Lego Batman Movie sees Bruce Wayne (Will Arnett) grappling with his own crippling loneliness while defending Gotham from a relentless wave of crime spearheaded by the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) and his aide Harley Quinn (Jenny Slate). After adopting a young orphan called Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), and with new police commissioner Barbara Gordon's (Rosario Dawson) new plan for the GCPD to join forces Batman, Bruce must face up to the fact that sometimes going it alone isn't always the best plan of action.

After serving as editor on 2014's The Lego Movie, Chris McKay transitions into the director's chair with ease. Having worked on a range of Adult Swim properties including Robot Chicken in the past, McKay applies that zany animation experience to Lego Batman to tremendous effect. Everything you loved and laughed at about Batman in The Lego Movie is here and built upon (pun intended), simultaneously poking fun at the character whilst also showering the Batman mythos, rogues gallery and everything in-between with love, affection and an undercurrent of sincerity.

Where Batman v Superman struggled to find a strong or coherent message for the Caped Crusader, Lego Batman delivers one in spades; Bruce Wayne is lonely and afraid to let anyone into his life. It's nothing new for anyone who has ever watched or read a Batman story, but it is consistent and told in a clear, effective manner.

It works for all ages (remember, this is a kids movie) and offers a poignant reminder that sometimes the best way to face your fears is to open yourself up others, let them in and accept their help. It's an origin story for the Batman family of sorts, with Robin, Batgirl and Alfred pitched as the trio of people desperately trying to connect with Bruce and help him.

This means that The Lego Batman Movie effectively recaptures the same heartwarming spirit as its predecessor, albeit without the detour into live action. Kids will hopefully learn a thing or two in between the laughs and adults can rest assured that their little ones aren't going to be bombarded by humour above their age group. It really is one of those perfect family films that hits all the right notes for every stage of life.

The animation is gorgeous to behold; filling the screen with all manner of colour and motion, McKay outdoes 95% of modern mainstream comedies by using a full range of techniques, from inventive framing, sound design and effects to quirky visual comedy and referential rat-a-tat dialogue that moves along at lightspeed. It's enough to make your head spin, but you'll probably be too entertained to notice.

In terms of voicework, Lego Batman consistently impresses throughout its sprawling ensemble cast (and I mean sprawling). Arnett display impressive range and comedic timing in the lead role, finding that perfect sweet spot that is both parodies and honours Batman actors of yesteryear. Before the first scene has even started, Arnett has you clutching your sides with laughter.

Cera is great as Dick Grayson also, displaying adorable earnest and blissful ignorance as the orphan/vigilante protege. Dawson and Fiennes complete the quartet with equally sincere and complete voice performances. Galifianakis is a more classic take on the cackling Joker, filling his vocals with gleeful mirth and fun.

The rest of the cast list is as long as your arm; Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill reprise their roles of Superman and Green Lantern respectively, Adam DeVine is the Flash, Billy Dee Williams finally gets to play Two-Face, Conan O'Brien plays Riddler, Zoe Kravitz is Catwoman, Doug Benson is Bane, Jason Mantzoukas voices Scarecrow whilst Kate Micucci and Riki Landhome from Garfunkel and Oates play Clayface and Poison Ivy respectively.

The list goes on and on, but I don't want to stray too far into spoiler territory. Safe to say, Lego Batman is a veritable treasure trove of nerdy goodness that just keeps on giving well into the feverish third act. The number of in-jokes and cool asides that are thrown into the mix is gigantic to say the least, but it's not so overwhelming that only diehard fans are going to have a good time. There is a lot on offer here for people of all ages.

The Verdict: 9/10

Warner Brothers Animation have knocked it out of the park once again; The Lego Batman Movie is everything it promises to be and more. Boasting a wonderful voice cast, frenetic action, colorful animation, a touching narrative and in-jokes for days, this is one Batman film that won't confuse or make you feel like garbage afterwards.

The Lego Batman Movie is in cinemas across Australia now

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