The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)
Dir: Chris McKay
As a huge fan of both ‘The Lego Movie‘ and superhero films, this was always going to appeal to me, though it draws on the wider range of LEGO movie tie-ins far more than I expected.
Batman (Will Arnett) lives his life avoiding forming attachments or meaningful relationships, which infuriates his self-proclaimed greatest enemy The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) and those who wish to be closer to him, including Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) and newly adopted son Dick Grayson (Michael Cera).
What impressed me most with this film is that while it’s predominantly a ‘family comedy’, clearly for the younger fans, it doesn’t do any disservice to the character of Batman. Amazingly, the writers seem to have a really good grasp of the character and his motivations, managing to convey some of the deeper themes of the original source material in a way that many live action adaptations have completely failed to. Most of those other adaptations are referred to, parodied, and gently mocked throughout with clips, clear references and easter eggs that will please those familiar with the canon.
The voice casting is brilliant. Will Arnett clearly enjoys doing this voice and perfectly captures the exaggerated sense of bravado and outward confidence this story relies on attributing to Bruce Wayne. Michael Cera is also ideal as Dick Grayson, who takes on the persona of Robin, with a youthful enthusiasm and wonderment he’s often subduing in his other roles.
My one big criticism is the use of so many non-DC characters. I don’t fully see why they were needed beyond the amusement factor. The DC universe has so many heroes and villains, many of whom do make an appearance and more of whom are mentioned, so why does the film feel to need to heavily feature so many characters from other intellectual properties as the threat when it would be easy and more fitting to make fuller use of those already in the DC universe? True, some of these appearances are amusing, it’s funny to see the Daleks for example, and even characters from other Warner films such as Voldemort (strangely enough voiced by Eddie Izzard rather than Ralph Fiennes despite him being part of the voice cast) but it takes the film a little further away from the DC roots and over-complicates the already full screen and narrative.
Director Chris McKay comes almost directly from making ‘Robot Chicken’, so it’s no real surprise then that he brings in all sources available to him for comedic effect, that’s what he’s used to doing. Interestingly, it must have pleased the DC division of Warner Brothers enough as he’s been announced as director of a live-action ‘Nightwing’ adaptation being put into production. I’d assume that will be a full DC movie (either in the DCEU or a standalone outside of it), something more like this had the potential to be.
From the launchpad of ‘The LEGO Movie’ and all the LEGO film tie-ins, this is no doubt a great success, though sadly when considered as a DC adaptation it’s not as much of a complete home-run. As the rest of the Justice League make an appearance anyway, I hope the inevitable sequel will be refocused more clearly on Batman’s relationship with them, making full use of those characters. There’s huge scope for brilliance there, something we see for a few minutes in this film, and even had more of a taste of in ‘The LEGO Movie’ with the brief cameos the Justice League characters memorably made.
A specifically DC-focused ‘LEGO Batman’ film with this genius sense of humor and light-hearted fun has the potential to be a runaway success and playfully tease the live-action DCEU in a way that nothing else can, with lots more to play with from the DCEU releases in the interim. I’m hoping a sequel on those lines is exactly what’s in development next.
‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ is widely available on home release from all the usual VOD sources and retailers, including a very nice steelbook version that gained a place on my shelf. The kids I’ve seen it with absolutely loved it, though it’s sadly not the pure DC adaptation that the title suggests, there’s still loads to enjoy and it more than proves the potential for these LEGO adaptations.