Review: The Lego Batman Movie (PG)

Synopsis: Batman meets Lego meets Megamind

Rating: 4/5

In my opinion, the original Lego Movie of 2014 was one of the most inventive ‘kid’s’ films for quite some time. So I had that strange mix of ‘lack of surprise’ and dread when a ‘sequel’ was announced. Such a success had to be followed up for commercial reasons, yet the old Kermodian mantra of “The sequel is never better – except for Toy Story 2 and the Godfather “instantly came to mind and the concern that a poor quality follow-up might taint the memory of the original feature.

Well, in short that didn’t happen. The Lego Batman Movie  is a worthy follow up. Yes, personally, I’d prefer the original, but I imagine that many people will see this as sufficiently different from the original concept for it to stand alone. So, no matter what it’s quality, comparisons wouldn’t have the effect that I mentioned above. Plus, my kids (aged 9 and 12) loved it too. Having gone to see this at half-term there was a sizeable element of children off school and the reaction from every age group was universally positive.

The film tells the story of of an established Batman character firmly winning the war against his array of enemies, proudly led by The Joker. However, when The Joker voluntarily turns himself in, Batman is left trying to work out what he’s up to and what his own next move should be.

As mentioned in the synopsis above, there are echoes of Megamind (and other movies) where the hero looks to rediscover a sense of purpose and meaning when there is no battle left to fight. However, whilst the basic premise isn’t new, it certainly doesn’t go in quite the same direction so you won’t think you’ve seen this before. In fact there’s nothing quite like this movie at all when it comes to sheer busyness. It is a real non-stop affair with wall-to-wall gags and action scenes from start to finish. Most animations have at least a short period where the pace drops, the kids in the theatre get distracted and the audience noise gets a bit of an issue. Not this film…in fact it is so mesmerising that you almost don’t notice any other aspects of the film outside of the visual impact.

But does being mesmerised make it a good film? Well, not necessarily. It will be particularly interesting when this gets to the small screen, to see how much of the problems with the film people start to notice. There are things that bothered me. For example, the original Lego movie was full of jokes and themes about the whole world of Lego itself. That of course led to it exploring lots of themes such as appreciating the simplicity of play and how as adults we can lose that valuable sense of innocence. That was what made the original movie such a good film with such a wide appeal. Rather than risk repetition the makers moved the scenario on from that world of Lego to focus on the specific world of  Lego Batman.  But by doing that the film does feel a bit self-indulgent at times. Granted, the jokes are all really clever and there is plenty of quality material about the various Batman incarnations over the development including a number of nods to the original 1960’s TV series. However, I wonder whether that will restrict the audience somewhat as it lacks the universal themes that original movie could develop.

As far as performances were concerned, with the character exaggeration setting turned up to 11 for most of the main players you can’t say that anyone turned in a nuanced performance. But that’s the whole point of this sort of movie that takes parody to the extreme. Will Arnett (Batman), Zach Galifianakis (The Joker), Michael Cera (Robin) and Ralph Fiennes (Alfred) all do a wonderful job as the main characters. Visually, the film retains the charm of the first Lego movie; slick effects served up in the style of a slightly clunky stop animation that served the first incarnation so well.

All in all, I loved it, but I suspect that the restricted scope for this movie might make some feel a bit indifferent, particularly when it makes it’s way to a home environment when some of the big screen drama is lost.

Steve Perry

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