Film Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 17 February 2017
Category: Reviews Comments View Comments


In an amusing parody of superhero movies LEGO Batman has to learn to work with others if he wants to save Gotham City from (arguably) the largest collection of villains any fictional city has ever had to face.

Film Review: The LEGO Batman MovieThe most interesting and entertaining moments in The LEGO Movie belonged to LEGO Batman (voiced by Will Arnett), a support character who stole all the scenes he was in, so it's no surprise that a movie was developed to capitalise on his popularity.

The short, no spoiler version of the story is that police commissioner Jim Gordon (voiced by Hector Elizondo) has retired and his daughter, Barbara Gordon (voiced by Rosario Dawson), takes his place (nepotism anyone?). She has progressive ideas about combatting crime in Gotham City involving teamwork and partnerships between Batman and the police force, rather than via his lone-wolf vigilantism of which she does not approve. This, of course, does not go down well but Batman becomes conflicted because he his drawn to Barbara Gordon, who is well portrayed as a strong female character with agency. (Unfortunately she's the only female character who gets any significant screen time.)

Meanwhile Bruce Wayne accidentally adopts an orphan, Dick Grayson (voiced by Michael Cera), who turns out to be useful for Batman's purposes once the Joker (voiced by Zach Galifianakis), hurt that Batman doesn't consider him to be his arch nemesis, hatches a plan to destroy Gotham City.

Film Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

The LEGO Batman Movie was created by many of the same people who worked on the The LEGO Movie and it shows - for me in less than ideal ways. Once again I found the pacing to be terrible, comprising incomprehensible blasts of action, probably using LEGO in ingenious ways but it's impossible to see, coupled with a barrage of really good jokes one after another that can't be processed because your brain can't work fast enough. In between, slow moments are used as a humorous pacing counterpoint and to heighten emotional moments, which was a clever idea except the execution is, in most places, far too slow.

Fortunately returning production-team members also include experts at the Australian effects company Animal Logic and members of the LEGO design team based in Billund, Denmark. The quality of the animation remains of a consistent high standard and does its best to evoke the sense of the sets having been built by hand, as all the LEGO bricks were modelled individually and then assembled in 3D to form the characters, vehicles, and sets. As a result you can see, for example, intentional gaps and slight misalignments in the tiles and bricks. Other touches are harder to notice because of the speed of the camera movement and editing but you can get a sense of the detail in the sets and the thought that went into them by watching the Gotham Cribs vignette that's embedded below this review.

Film Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

Film Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

The film is more story driven in the traditional sense than The LEGO Movie was and is less reliant on LEGO being a story mechanic (rather it's more frequently an aesthetic mechanic used to humorous effect when contrasted with what we envision to be "normal" for Batman in the comics, live-action films, and traditionally animated films) although Batman does use his Master Builder abilities once or twice to get himself out of a tight spot and the climax of the movie relies on a very LEGO-oriented solution to a problem.

Film Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

Surprisingly the trailers manage to avoid spoiling everything that happens in the movie and one of the best parts (/clever subliminal product-placement moments, if you're more cynical), involving the villains, isn't even hinted at so, sadly, I can't discuss it because it really is a fun plot point to discover.

In contrast, Apple product placement features heavily in this movie and is jarringly blatant. The first time a character whips out an iPhone it's mildly amusing but it stops being funny when you realise that all the characters are carrying iPhones and the movie is looking for any excuse to show them. Additionally, Siri, Apple's intelligent-personal-assistant program, is the voice of the computer that manages the operations in the Batcave and Wayne Manor.

Film Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

The film does a good job of parodying Batman, notably in how his stoicism is reworked as egotism, but it really goes overboard in hammering home the message of family/relationships/teamwork - so much so that by the end of it you'll feel as if you've been bludgeoned to death in a similar fashion to how The LEGO Movie also rammed a moral at its audience until it was unbearable.

Nevertheless I enjoyed The LEGO Batman Movie a lot more than The LEGO Movie, although the pacing problems remain and parts of the story are really silly. The voice acting was much better, the score (by Lorne Balfe) was more memorable and enjoyable, and even with the family-friendly message constantly swirling around him LEGO Batman is a more interesting character to watch on screen.

Film Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

However, as with The LEGO Movie, let's not forget that this is a 100-minute-long toy commercial. It may be entertaining but it remains a marketing exercise designed to sell LEGO sets - and, apparently, Apple products.

The LEGO Batman Movie was written by Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, and John Whittington, is directed by Chris McKay, and stars Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, and Zach Galifianakis.

The review screening was courtesy of Times Media Films and Microsoft.

Tags: #batman, #comics, #lego, #screen, #speculative_fiction Rating


Film Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

Film Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

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