Review: 'The Lego Batman Movie' might be the best superhero movie this year

Marcus Goh
Contributor
Batman (Will Arnett) and his toys in The Lego Batman Movie. (Warner Bros Pictures)

 

Secret ending? No.

Running time: 104 minutes (~1.75 hours)

Batman (Will Arnett) and the Lego Justice League in The Lego Batman Movie. (Warner Bros Pictures)

“The Lego Batman Movie” is a 3D-animated superhero action adventure comedy that’s a spin-off from 2014’s “The Lego Movie”.

The film expands on the adventures of Lego Batman, who’s just known as Batman in this film, as he battles his nemesis, the Joker. But the Joker’s newest plot will require Batman to face his deepest fears if he is to triumph against his foe’s greatest plan.

“The Lego Batman Movie” is directed by Chris McKay, with a screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, and John Whittington. It features the voice talents of Will Arnett (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Zach Galifianakis (Joker), Michael Cera (Robin/Dick Grayson), Rosario Dawson (Barbara Gordon), Ralph Fiennes (Alfred Pennyworth), Mariah Carey (Mayor McCaskill), Jenny Slate (Harley Quinn), Billy Dee Williams (Two-Face), Hector Elizondo (Commissioner Gordon), Conan O’Brien (Riddler), Jason Mantzoukas (Scarecrow), Doug Benson (Bane), Zoe Kravitz (Catwoman), Kate Micucci (Clayface), Riki Lindhome (Poison Ivy), Channing Tatum (Superman), Jonah Hill (Green Lantern), Adam DeVine (The Flash), with cameos by Eddie Izzard, Seth Green, and Jemaine Clement. It is rated PG.

Batman (Will Arnett) and Robin (Michael Cera) in The Lego Batman Movie. (Warner Bros Pictures)

“The Lego Batman Movie” is one of the most entertaining films to have been released in recent years, balancing myriad elements in a cohesive whole that will take you through the entire spectrum of emotions (except anger). Even the haughtiest film snob won’t be able to deny that “The Lego Batman Movie”, while ostensibly children’s fare, actually appeals to adults as much as it does children. The real question here is whether we’ll see it as a nominee in next year’s Oscar awards.

Batman (Will Arnett) in lounge wear in The Lego Batman Movie. (Warner Bros Pictures)

Highlights

Fantastic use of the Lego medium

What makes “The Lego Batman Movie” different from a regular Batman movie is that no other film or television version of Batman could have saved the day — only Lego Batman could have triumphed. Being set in the family friendly (but rather fragile) world of Lego, the film constantly makes use of its unique setting to enhance the comedy and action. And of course, you can expect to see Batman building many different Lego sets in a flash (which you can coincidentally buy the toys of).

Batman (Will Arnett) attacks in The Lego Batman Movie. (Warner Bros Pictures)

Fast and evocative action scenes

Despite being almost two hours long, the film zips by at a chipper pace. Even the slower, more pensive moments are made interesting because you’re examining how the movie sets are built in the Lego universe. The action scenes are fun and fluid, and almost resemble how children or adult fans of Lego would play with their sets (I speak from experience). It proceeds at just the right speed for you to see what’s happening, without the excessive violence that can sometimes be inappropriate for younger audiences.

Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) in The Lego Batman Movie. (Warner Bros Pictures)

Self-aware, tongue-in-cheek comedy

“The Lego Batman Movie” is so self-aware as to be almost sentient in its references. It’s enormously conscious of its status as the umpteenth Batman movie to be released in cinemas, and pays homage to all the other screen versions of Batman that have come before it. In fact, the writers are so thoroughly aware of the Batman mythos that they even challenge you to search online for all the obscure characters that they toss into the movie. The script is a labour of love, and it shows in the tremendous amount of detail that has gone into it.

Batman (Will Arnett) zips through the air in The Lego Batman Movie. (Warner Bros Pictures)

Surprising emotional resonance

Despite being Lego minifigures, the characters are still able to connect with audiences. Close-up shots of the various characters faces, which are essentially cylindrical shapes with painted-on expressions, are able to win our sympathy. And Batman’s own character arc is similarly well done, even though he’s wearing a mask for virtually the whole movie. “The Lego Batman Movie” has got the feels, even if there’s not a single human character in it.

Joker (Zach Galifianakis) in The Lego Batman Movie. (Warner Bros Pictures)

Letdowns

Minor plot inconsistencies

A very powerful group of protagonists is introduced early in the film as part of a story beat. Oddly, they’re nowhere to be found in the climatic finale, when their assistance would have been invaluable to Batman and his companions. Of course, their appearance would have complicated matters given that Batman wasn’t entirely upfront with them earlier, but it was a curious omission to be seen in a film that was otherwise pretty airtight with its plot.

Batman (Will Arnett) zips through the air in The Lego Batman Movie. (Warner Bros Pictures)

“The Lego Batman Movie” is probably the best superhero movie to hit cinemas this year.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this more than once? If you like Lego and Batman, why not?

Score: 4.8/5

“The Lego Batman Movie” opens in cinemas:
– 9 February, 2017 (Singapore)
– 9 February, 2017 (Philippines)

Lego explosions in The Lego Batman Movie. (Warner Bros Pictures)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. He Tweets/Instagrams at Optimarcus and writes at marcusgohmarcusgoh.com. The views expressed are his own.