The Lego Batman Movie Film Review
At best, The Lego Batman Movie will make you appreciate how great The Lego Movie really was.
In 2014 The Lego Movie was a runaway success with audiences. It had a massive pull at the box office and was beloved by kids and adults alike—a rare feat usually achieved only by Pixar films. Perhaps the most surprised group of fans were the critics. Here was a franchise-hungry, CG kids’ film based on an epically successful line of toys, and it was thematically rich, funny and inventive. The Lego Batman Movie is a more expensive outing and far less of a gamble. Its approach is safer and less focused on expanding the original movie’s universe, instead giving screen-time to one of its popular side characters. The result feels kind of like a sequel to Pixar’s Inside Out (2015) based on Riley’s imaginary friend, Bing Bong. The focus has been taken off the thing that made the first one so great.
The movie stars Batman/Bruce Wayne (Will Arnett) as Gotham’s favourite hero. He’s a show-off who loves the fame and adoration, but he’s a bit of a prick about it. When Batman goes home, however, he’s all alone in a big, empty cave with no one but his computer to talk to. He eats lobster alone, watches romantic comedies alone and refuses to take off the mask despite his butler Alfred’s (Ralph Fiennes) requests. Two things happen to upset Batman’s routine: a new police commissioner, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), wants Gotham to protect itself without always relying on batman and, at a gala as Bruce Wayne, Batman accidentally adopts an orphan named Dick ‘Robin’ Grayson (Michael Cera).
The film’s director, Chris McKay, has crafted a colourful and kinetic spectacle whose script is overstuffed with jokes and Batman franchise references. The thing is, for all its chaos and creative energy, the film feels so much less exciting and new than its predecessor did. Compared to The Lego Movie’s focus on world-building and thematically-driven storytelling, its spinoff feels like an opportunity for pop-culture references and an excuse to capitalise on a popular character. Compiled by five screenwriters, the film fails to have a singular vision like the previous film, whose script was written by its directors and the two brothers behind Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009). It has a mishmash of tones from tongue-in-cheek postmodern jabs to kiddie slapstick to genuine pathos towards Batman’s loneliness.
Surprisingly, the emotional scenes are among the film’s best.
All of this would be fine—if the jokes were funnier. It feels like the screenwriters have thrown everything at the wall and are letting the audience decide what sticks. The action scenes work this way, too. Because the film has a plethora of side-characters, most of the fight scenes consist of Lego characters appearing onscreen and getting punched off-screen in a couple of seconds. Where The Lego Movie took the time to inspire awe in its audience and to explore new territories, The Lego Batman Movie distracts you in the hopes that you won’t notice how narrow its scope really is.
It would be untrue to say the film has no merits. All the actors do a fine job—Cera is perfectly cast as the naïve, fragile orphan whose superpower is being ‘excellent at following instructions’. The visual style, with its cascading Lego blocks and intricately detailed city designs, is irresistible. It’s simply that this movie is passably good, but its predecessor set the bar so high that ‘passable’ is unacceptable.
Feature image via YouTube