It’s remarkably telling that the best Batman movie in nine years has come, not from the DC’s own cinematic universe, but from those Lego guys. For years, since Adam West first hung up the pointy ears, the character’s subsequent appearances on the big screen (Joel Schumacher era aside) have been getting progressively darker than a winter evening. As much as that makes sense (Nolan made it work, Snyder slightly less so), a Batman that has no compunction against branding and murdering his victims is in danger of alienating fans of his established morals or more youthful fans who may simply be to young to watch their hero cave in a thing’s skull with a packing crate.
This, thankfully is where The Lego Batman Movie comes in. Effortlessly stealing the show in his first outing in The Lego Movie, Will Arnett’s gruff narcissistic bat-jerk graduates to his own picture to satisfyingly fun effect. And sick abs, don’t forget the sick abs.
After saving Gotham for the umpteenth time, Batman drops the bomb on the Joker (Zach Galifanakis sounding like Patton Oswald) that he just simply does not see him as his arch enemy (“I like to fight around.”). In a fit of jealousy the clown prince of crime decides to trade up when it comes to his fellow villains and break even more badder dudes from the Phantom Zone to REALLY shake things up. Meanwhile a lonely Bruce Wayne, tired of returning to a deserted batcave, watching Jerry Maguire on repeat and constantly eating reheated lobster thermodore for one, accidently adopts the wide eyed, eager to please and ever-so-slightly flamboyant Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) and has to learn to work as a team. All the while this is going on, Commissioner Gordon has retired and his successor, daughter Barbara, has no intention doing her job by simply turning on the bat-signal.
Like all the best modern kids films, while the frenetic visuals and general silliness keeps the ankle biters rapt, it’s the humour and in jokes that keep the adults enthralled and make no mistake, Lego Batman is very, very funny.
Also any Bat-fan who has more than a passing knowledge of his history, the sheer level of bat-jokes ingrained in the script is absolutely astounding. Whether it’s the dredging up of Z-list villains such as Condiment King and EraserHead or a Michael Keaton sound bite employed to sell snacks (“You want nuts? Let’s get nuts!”) or even the casting of Billy Deep Williams as Two-face, the bulk of in-jokes simply can’t be absorbed in one sitting.
Plus the utter lunacy of the Lego world allows an anything goes approach that is so bizarre it’s genius. I mean, would you NOT want to see a film where Bruce the shark from Jaws is defeated by the legendary Bat-shark repellent spray, or where the Batwing has to avoid joint attacks from the Eye Of Sauron and a pack of unruly Gremlins?
While arguably not as smart or as herculeanly meta than The Lego Movie this is still a great film for kids and great film for Batman fans and it’s nice to say that, once again, the two are now no longer mutually exclusive.