The LEGO Batman Movie – The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)
Directed by: Chris McKay | 100 minutes | animation, action, adventure, comedy, family, fantasy | Original voice cast: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Siri, Zach Galifianakis, Jenny Slate, Jason Mantzoukas, Conan O’Brien, Doug Benson, Billy Dee Williams, Zoë Kravitz, Kate Micucci, Riki Lindhome, Eddie Izzard, Seth Green, Jemaine Clement, Ellie Kemper, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Adam Devine, Hector Elizondo, Mariah Carey, Lauren White | Dutch voice cast: Gerard Ekdom, Katja Schuurman, Dennis Weening, Buddy Vedder
In recent years, the Marvel films have left a big mark on the cinema landscape that we know today. Superhero movies are springing up like mushrooms and many studios are eager to get their share. So is Warner Bros, who own the rights to Marvel’s biggest competitor, Detective Comics. The attempts so far made at one large film universe are mainly failed projects. Warner Bros. has been lagging behind for a few years now, trying to offer an alternative to the Marvel universe with their dark, serious approach. How ironic it is then that the extremely cheerful and colorful ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ is Warner Bros’ best superhero film since 2008’s Batman classic ‘The Dark Knight’.
The most confusing thing about this whole situation? This is the film that understands the character best and manages to integrate any additional philosophy into the story in a coherent way. The relationship with Batman’s (Will Arnett) greatest enemies, in particular the Joker (Zach Galifianakis), is discussed as well as whether the superhero himself is responsible for the formation of this deluge of villains. The dichotomy between Batman and his alter ego Bruce Wayne also gets a deeper layer, is Batman still the man in the mask? Issues that fans of the first hour have recognized from the comics for years… They have had to wait for a LEGO version of the character to work it out well on film.
In ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’, however, the formation of the Bat family is central. After the death of his parents, will Bruce Wayne be able to love people and put his own ego aside? To help him with this, his surrogate father and butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) advises him, his adoptive son Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) makes him take responsibility, and Police Chief Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) keeps the bat down to earth. Weighty costs it seems; but we know from ‘The LEGO Movie’ that these films are not afraid to dwell on the more mature subjects, as long as the material is presented with a lot of humor. And ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ is certainly not lacking in humor.
The jokes are fired at the viewer at a very fast pace, to the point that a first viewing is actually not enough to pick up every reference and joke about the Batman universe. There are jokes about previous films for fans of Tim Burton’s 1989 ‘Batman’ and Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight Trilogy’ from 2005 – 2012. But it only gets really intense when you are a fan from the very beginning and can feast on references to the 1940s series and ‘Batman Beyond’, an animated series that aired sometime in the late 1990s. Even for the people who are not fans of Batman (although that does help of course) there is plenty to experience. The plot asks for quite a few cameos from other series and franchises to which Warner Bros has the rights.
However, the barrage of cameos and jokes ensures that the film can come across as quite busy. There is hardly any time to catch your breath, the energy is extremely high and that will not go down well with everyone. This also ensures that a lot of voice work is lost in the crowds. For example, Jenny Slate is a great Harley Quinn but she can’t say more than five sentences. And especially poor Billy Dee Williams who finally got to play his role as the villain Two-face; in 1989 he played alter ego Harvey Dent but was replaced by Tommy Lee Jones when the time came to actually play the villain. In this film, he finally got the chance to portray the iconic villain, with two sentences.
It shouldn’t spoil the fun too much, ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ is a hyperactive roller coaster ride where many a superhero lover, film fan and child (because that is and remains the target group of course) will have a lot of fun. Director Chris McKay may do more superhero movies, but maybe that Warner Bros film universe will finally get off the ground.