By Jack Dignan
“Black.” The first word heard in The LEGO Batman Movie. Fitting, to say the least. What follows is an opening narration that’ll give Deadpool a run for his money, and a perfect little insight into the hilarity that’s about to unfold. This isn’t your typical Batman movie. In fact, it’s better. After having first appeared in 2014’s surprise hit, The LEGO Movie, Will Arnett is back in black with The LEGO Batman Movie. Of the many things that first LEGO Movie did right, their comedic interpretation of Batman was one of their best; so naturally, the spin off movie had a 100% chance of being the greatest film ever made.
The film begins with Batman (Will Arnett) at the absolute top of his game, saving the city day after day and making roundhouse trips to orphanages in order to test out his merch-gun. Life is pretty sweet. Or at least it was, until everything changes. The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) is growing tired of Batman’s disrespectful, unappreciative behaviour towards their constant games of cat and mouse, wanting nothing more than to be looked upon as Batman’s greatest enemy. So he, and every other villain, gives themselves in to new Gotham commissioner, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson). For the first time in Gotham’s history, crime has come to a halt.
Stuck in what can only be described as severe depression, Batman’s life has lost a purpose. Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), his butler and father figure, is concerned for him, especially now that Batman has accidentally adopted an orphan named Dick Grayson (Michael Cera). This brings to life Batman’s greatest fear… starting a family. 104 minutes later, after a countless number of belly laughs, and what we have is an audacious, ballsy, well intended, yet hilariously satirical animated take on an iconic character. It’s hard not to be, but if for some reason you aren’t sold during the film’s opening logos, it’s not going to take you long before realising this film isn’t for you. For everyone else, however, and I would presume this categorizes most people, The LEGO Batman Movie is going to be some of the most fun you’ll ever have in a non-Pixar kids movie.
The film’s writers have gone up and beyond to deliver a high energy, never ending bundle of laughs. This is a film that knows exactly what it is, pleasing more than just its target audience and bringing with it every Batman pun possible. Poking and prodding at the entire cinematic history of DC’s most well known character, which funnily enough serves as the catalyst for my favourite joke in the movie, is not hard. Batman’s past brings with it plenty to make fun of, but it’s choosing what to say when that’s the hard part, and almost every joke works. The entire first act is sheer perfection, laying the groundwork for what seems to be an excellent movie, although perhaps these expectations were placed just a little too high.
I honestly cannot spread enough love for this film’s first act. It’s everything I wanted this movie to be and more, but the only problem with it being as witty and action packed as it is, is that the rest of the film has a tough act to follow. The animation remains aesthetically flawless the whole way through, and the characters are just as distinct and loveable as you’d hope them to be, but the second act takes a slight dive in quality compared to what came before. Laughs don’t come as frequently, and the jokes that work aren’t nearly as creative or inventive as I would’ve liked. Granted, there are some brilliant moments in this second act, especially the relationship between Dick and Batman, as well as a scene involving the entire Justice League. But things are also put on halt. The plot slows drastically and the many villains, each of which are voiced to absolute perfection, don’t get as much screen time as they deserve.
What this second act does best, however, is lay the groundwork for the third act to come. Everybody gets a thorough character arc, and it’s during this second act where a lot of that comes into tuition. This, of course, leads into an explosive and endlessly exciting third act in which everything previously set up culminates into an absolute riot of a finale. The bat-puns are back, now with even more members of the Batman family teaming up and naturally bringing with them plenty of daft humour and erratic set pieces. The film goes out with a bang, all before concluding with a musical number that’s… uh… a little strange, not that catchy and clearly living in the shadow of The LEGO Movie’s ‘Everything Is Awesome!!’ But hey, I mean, it allowed for extra time spent with these oh-so-lovable characters, and that’s never a bad thing.
If you were hoping that The LEGO Batman Movie would top its predecessor, it’s probably best to lower your expectations. For as energetic, amusing and satirical as it is, the first film’s heights are never quite matched. That being said, this remains a remarkably entertaining animated film that’ll please a whole lot more people than just fans of Batman. This film rocks. It’s such a shame Australia took so long to get it.
3 1/2 Stars
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