Release: 19th June 2017
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
In the irreverent spirit of fun that made “The LEGO Movie” a worldwide phenomenon, the self-described leading man of that ensemble – LEGO Batman – stars in his own big-screen adventure. But there are big changes brewing in Gotham, and if he wants to save the city from The Joker’s hostile takeover, Batman may have to drop the lone vigilante thing, try to work with others and maybe, just maybe, learn to lighten up.
“You wanna get nuts? Come on! Let’s get nuts!” It is a phrase made famous by Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne, and is lovingly echoed early on in The LEGO Batman Movie. The difference, however, is that in the LEGO world of Gotham City, “nuts” is a way of life, not just a threat. Make no mistake; The LEGO Batman Movie is utterly bonkers.
Positioned as a sequel / spin-off to 2014’s surprise hit The LEGO Movie, LBM takes an established franchise in Batman and throws it headlong in to the mayhem of the cinematic brickverse. This isn’t the Dark Knight’s first rodeo in such an incarnation though, with a series of toys, games and a prolonged cameo in the original LEGO movie to go by. So visually, you’d expect the film to have a been there done that quality to it. But where the other Batman LEGO adventures were cute and ironic, LBM is delirious and sarcastic. This is a film that takes everything we love about the Caped Crusader – every nuance, cliché and burning discrepancy about him – and turns it up to 11. Take the opening fight scene for example. Not only does Batman wipe out an entire menagerie of classic villains, he does so to a self-composed and self-celebratory rock anthem. He is a man so rich and so lonely, he eats re-heated lobster thermidor while floating solitary in a giant pool surrounded by million dollar vehicles. There is even a running gag that Batman is so ‘damaged’ he doesn’t even have it in him to truly hate (love) his arch nemesis, The Joker.
This is not a film for everyone. It is not even necessarily a film for fans of Batman / LEGO. It is ludicrous and feckless, and often runs faster than is probably should. There is, surprisingly, a fairly cohesive plot to follow and for all its intent to be unashamedly zany, there is a definite sense of pacing and character arc. AND, even though its central conceit about unleashing history’s worst villains from The Phantom Zone, is essentially a marketing tool to sell the idea of the LEGO Dimensions game; it is still an oddly rewarding experience to see Robin taking on Gremlins and Batman going toe-to-eye with Sauron. But this is ultimately the issue; LBM is not necessarily a film in its own right. There are enough winks at the character’s history, but this does not feel like a genuine piece of storytelling, it feels like a 100 minute advertising campaign. If The LEGO Movie was preaching the gospel of discovering how to ‘truly’ play with LEGO, then LBM is about the fun of mashing up characters from the company’s ever-growing catalogue of licensed film titles.
Your response to the above sentiment will ultimately colour you experience of the film…that and ones ability to withstand its onslaught of noise and psychedelic aesthetic. For those willing to swallow such a pill, the film is a riot. If Christopher Nolan’s Batman universe is the character’s guilt ridden blood lust, and Adam West’s Batman universe is the character’s drugged up flamboyancy, then LBM is a universe where both worlds collide, and Batman thinks dark but farts loud. This is a franchise whole-heartedly aimed at kids, and it makes no apology for the chaos it represents. Its voice cast is on form, and everyone involved clearly had a lot of fun making this picture. You’ll be hard pushed this year to find a family film more violently brimming with humour.
But in terms of longevity, LBM probably represents a one and done mentality. There really is nowhere else for the character to go from here. The people at Warner Bros. will inevitably want another outing, and the barrel will be scraped to find an opportunity to do so. But in a way, there is something special about the idea of LBM being a one-off standalone film, so it would be refreshing to see it stay that way. But then again, there will always be more toys to sell.
Film Grade: B-
The special features are in abundance, but it is hard to gauge just who the target audience is. There are short documentaries and a commentary on the filmmaking process, then there is a painfully boring nod to home-made LEGO animations. This is followed up by some very unfunny shorts and a torrent of promotional items. A bit of pre-release Ninjango footage makes an appearance, as does some product placement for the LEGO mini figures. This is all rounded off by some deleted scenes and a ten-year-too-late nod to MTV Cribs. Warner’s fall short in what is normally a heady mix of quality and quantity.
Special Features Grade: C-
A strong follow-up to The LEGO Movie, and easily a more appealing offering than the current live action alternative, this is a Batman movie worth giving a go. Just buckle up, cut loose and enjoy the ride.
Overall Grade: C+