Film review by Jason Day of The Lego Batman Movie, based on DC Comics characters and the children’s toy bricks.
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When he’s not busy saving the frequently imperilled city of Gotham, posing for photo-ops with disadvantaged children whilst simultaneously hawking merchandising gear, self-styled hero Batman (Will Arnett) lives a quiet life as Bruce Wayne in an enormous, isolated mansion with only his devoted butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) for companionship. But when his arch-enemy The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) releases the most evil baddies and creatures from popular entertainment (Jaws, Godzilla etc.) from a jail called The Phantom Zone, the caped crusader accepts that to beat them he cannot work alone. So he joins forces with Alfred, the new city Commissioner (Rosario Dawson) and eager orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) to save Gotham one more time.
Review, by Jason Day
First sequel to the critically acclaimed and popular animated toy bricks blockbuster from 2014. With another two scheduled for release over the next couple of years, we can safely say a series has been born.
I’m sorry to report then that despite looking forward to this, the full-length film left me feeling tired and bothered.
To explain, its always been a bug-bear of mine that animated film is generally (although I admit, not all the time) a gratingly rapid mixture of anachronism, wildly glib sarcasm and silliness over substance and style.
That’s not to say such cinematic ingredients can’t be enjoyable. I’m all for a little sark and daftness, but animated film over-eggs the pudding here and I’d always pass on the desserts for a tangy starter and filling main course.
Maybe this is the grumpy old man in me rearing his wrinkled head, the po-faced geriatric critic who gets easily riled by such things. The opening short film ‘Chicken Master’ doesn’t help my sensibilities. Mistaking its tiresome, unfunny tone for an over-long trailer. It was a cute idea for an advert, but was stretched atom-thin into a over-stuffed, noisy featurette.
This is the trouble I had with The Lego Batman Movie. It’s a clever story, professionally executed. An ingenious and smart film, the idea that Batman and The Joker are locked in a co-dependent, incipiently homosexual relationship, is knowingly and jokingly worked-in throughout.
Batman’s narcissistc body fascism and loathing of close personal relationships beef up the psychological side of the traditional comic narrative.
But it heaps on more and more action, events, visual gags, stunts, colour, effects, noise and spectacle until it becomes too much. Its a sensory overloaded appetiser and migraine fuelled main. A full 15 minutes after the film finished, I still couldn’t focus my eyes properly and staggered around a local supermarket – and this was after a 2D screening. (Admittedly, the fluorescent lighting in Marks & Spencer was as pupil-piercing as Lego Batman).
There’s a great little movie in here and the director should have kept a closer eye on it and reined in the excesses inherent in the script.
In the end I found myself wanting less, wanting this tightened up…and wanting to leave the cinema and have a lie-down.
This being said, in a cinema full of mostly children and their parents, the kids seemed genuinely entertained, quiet expect for the odd crack of laughter and mostly still in their seats. And you have to admire the writers’ energy as they fling so many ideas at you.
One thing that must be said in praise of this movie is the staggering and minute detail to the animation. You’d be forgiven for thinking this is stop-motion, considering the amount of Lego bricks seemingly used, right down to the individual, transparent orange ‘flame’ bricks to represent sparks and bullets.
The film is, of course, all 3D computer generated animation, but Lego hats and wigs off to the technical team as it looks so incredibly real.
There are cross-overs into the ‘reality’ of actual cinema (Tom Cruise romancing Rene Zellweger in a toe-curlingly awful scene from Jerry Maguire, 1996), but the ‘real’ sequences of the Lego-based world look and sound more authentic than Cameron Crowe’s post-modern pap.
Despite the ingratiating, machine-gun pace of the film, there are sublime moments. Characters make shooting noises as they fire guns; Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) purrs her lines (“Meaow! Meaow! You’re in! Meaow!”) and the Batmobile registration number is BTITUDE.
Michael Crea as Robin and especially Arnett as Batman who must have ruined his voice aping Michael Keaton/Christian Bale gruff, ultra-macho sounds are to be commended for superbly entertaining voice work.
Cast & credits
Director: Chris McKay. 104mins. Animal Logic/DC Entertainment/Lego System A/S/Lin Pictures/Lord Miller/Vertigo Entertainment/Warner Animation/Warner Bros. (U)
Producers: Roy Lee, Dan Lin, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller.
Writers: Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers.
Music: Lorne Balfe.
Sets: Grant Freckelton.
Will Arnett, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Crea, Rosario Dawson, Mariah Carey, Zoe Kravitz, Zach Galifianakis, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Adam Devine, Seth Green.