Netflix UK film review: The LEGO Batman Movie
Ivan Radford | On 20, Jun 2017Reading time: 4 mins
Director: Chris McKay
Cast: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Zach Galifianakis, Rosario Dawson
Watch The LEGO Batman Movie online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
“I’m a night-stalking, crime-fighting vigilante, and a heavy metal rapping machine. I don’t feel anything emotionally, except for rage. 24/7, 365, at 1 million per cent. And if you think that there’s something behind that, then you’re crazy.”
Will Arnett is the best Batman. That much was clear from he moment his gravelly vocals jumped into a tiny plaswtic body and started declaring his own awesomeness in The LEGO Movie. So good was he that while Baffleck Batman is still waiting for a solo movie in between Justice League team-ups, Arnett’s animated caped crusader is already back behind the wheel of the Batmobile for his own spin-off.
The movie couldn’t have come at a better time. DC’s live-action Batman flicks have become bogged down in their dour tone, and, whether you’re a fan of the DC-verse’s direction or not, it only makes Chris McKay’s brightly-coloured comedy shine all the sillier. It’s not often that you can say that the LEGO imitation of a movie is more intelligent, more exciting and – yes – more visually impressive, but The LEGO Batman Movie somehow pulls it off.
That’s partly because of the film’s relentless commitment to making you laugh. The screen is stuffed full of jokes of every type and size, from visual slapstick to verbal one-liners. Will Arnett’s voice is inherently funny on its own, but partnered with the endless onslaught of quips and childish nonsense, it’s a joy for your eardrums. If anything, there are too many jokes, leaving you struggling to keep up – something that may prove oddly frustrating on a first watch, but is guaranteed to reward repeat viewings, and means that even when a gag falls flat, it’s not long until the next gem.
It’s partly because the film has such clear affection for their source material, with writers Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern and John Whittington embracing any opportunity to nod to Batmans of the past or recreate iconic scenes, while undermining them repeatedly like a U-rated Deadpool. One sequence in the Batcave when young orphan Dick Grayson (a joyously high-pitched Michael Cera) stumbles upon the Batwardrobe, unleashing outdated costumes from decades ago – “That one is culturally insensitive” – is worth watching for alone.
Their take on The Joker (an enjoyably hammy Zach Galifianakis), meanwhile, as a sad, whiny loner who just wants to be valued by Batman, is deceptively nuanced and perceptive. The introduction of Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) as the town’s new face of justice, highlighting how unnecessary Batman’s irresponsible vigilantism is, makes an unexpectedly pertinent point. And the immature manchild that is Bruce Wayne (“What’s the password?” “Iron Man sucks.”) learning to care about other people, especially his wannabe sidekick, is the stuff that timeless buddy movies are made of. “Does Batman live in Bruce Wayne’s basement?” asks almost-Robin, with wide-eyed amazement. “No,” comes the gruff response. “Bruce Wayne lives in Batman’s attic.” All the while, Ralph Fiennes’ deadpan Alfred is the ideal foil for the stupidity parading past, tying together the hyperactive chaos with the sombre Batman persona we’re used to seeing.
But despite the superb cast, the satirically OTT narrative (which sees The Joker unite all bad guys – comic book fans will have fun playing spot-the-cameo – to prove to Batman he’s special), the success of The LEGO Batman Movie lies in one surprising fact: DC and LEGO are the perfect match for each other. How else can a vehicle disassemble and reassemble into a different shape mid-flight? Or characters from different stories be thrown together with childlike imagination? From the elaborate stunts and impossible gadgets to punches that go “POW!” and the way that each gun says “pew” every time it fires, The LEGO Batman Movie is so satisfying because the truth is Batman simply makes more sense in LEGO. No wonder they made a movie to advertise it.
The LEGO Batman Movie is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.