After being a highlight of the excellent Lego Movie in 2014, Will Arentt’s Caped Crusader returns in brick form with his own feature length adventure.
Once again, Gotham City is under attack from its resident supervillain population. The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) and every bad guy you can name from Gotham’s rogue’s gallery are launching a huge offensive to try to blow up the foundations of Gotham, which will cause it to fall into the abyss. Cue Batman (Will Arnett) to make a spectacular entrance to beat up the bad guys and save the day. As ever, he is forced to choose between diffusing the bomb or capturing the Joker, and chooses to let the Joker escape to save the city. After taking in the adoration of the city, (and after a brief stop off to cheer up some orphans with some Batman merchandise) he goes home alone to Wayne Manor, and watches Jerry Maguire alone after eating his lobster thermidore… alone. He mournfully looks over a family photo, before Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) tries to console him, bring up how he has had these feelings more than few time in the past.
At the same time, the Joker is feeling dejected, as Batman had told him that he wasn’t his biggest enemy. The Joker feels wonders what the point of continuing is, as Batman doesn’t consider him a worthy foe. When he sees Superman (Channing Tatum also reprising his role from The Lego Movie) talking about General and how great having a great enemy made him into a great superhero, and how he had to banish him to the Phantom Zone, the Joker comes up with an idea.
The next day, there is a huge event to reveal the new Police Commissioner. Jim Gordon is stepping down from the job and is going to be replaced by his daughter Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), a graduate from Harvard for Police who has reduced crime in neighbouring Blüdhaven through STATISTICS! and COMPASSION! Although she respects Batman, she points out that despite 70 years of trying, he has never actually captured any of the criminals that plague Gotham. She wants to have Batman work alongside the police, rather than alone, all of which causes Bruce Wayne to spit out his drink – after he has flagged down a waiter to get a glass first. It is now that Joker and his army launches its attack, and his mast plan is revealed. After reigning down destruction on the party the Joker… surrenders. He hands himself (and the rest of his gang) in to Barbara Gordon, effectively ending crime in Gotham.
As the city celebrates its crime free status by burning and destroying things, Batman – and Barbara Gordon – know that the Joker is up to something. Batman refuses to work with her though, and only after a week does he realise that he adopted a young orphan named Dick Grayson (Michael Cera giving us a small Bluth family reunion). Dick had been living in Wayne Manor, but Batman hadn’t noticed, being too entrenched in trying to figure out the Joker’s plan. Alfred “accidentally” opens the door to the Batcave, letting Dick into Batman’s life literally and figuratively.
Still annoyed at Dick, Batman realises that the only way to be sure the Joker is not a threat is to send him to The Phantom Zone, which will require him to steal the Phantom Zone Projector from Superman. Unfortunately all the hidden entrances to the Fortress of Solitude are far too small for someone as buff as Batman, but when he realises Dick would be the right size, he decides to take the young kid along with him. Batman has no trouble distracting Superman (who is hosting the 57th Annual Justice League party, Batman’s invite to which must have got lost on the way) and Dick manages to steal the Phantom Zone Projector. Batman feels a strange emotion – “pride” according to his computer – and allows Dick to call him “padre”.
Batman then breaks into Arkham, and sends the Joker to the Phantom Zone with all of the other bad guys. However, that was Joker’s plan all along, and once in the Phantom Zone, he escapes and brings all the bad guys with him. Can Batman save the day? Or will he need to work in a team and let someone – some family – back into his life?
In a strange way, like T2 Trainspotting not quite being as good as Trainspotting, this is a sequel that isn’t quite as good as the original film, but still a very good, enjoyable film. Although there isn’t the (how do I say this without spoiling The Lego Movie for those who haven’t seen it?) subtext that went along with The Lego Movie, this is still a very fun film. There are references to Batman being a master builder, but if you are looking for references to Emmet and Wyldstyle, you will be disappointed.
However, they are pretty much the only movie characters not referenced in The Lego Batman Movie. The opening scene throws almost every single villain that Batman has ever faced at him. When the Joker says that this is his best ever plan, he is asked about the thing with the two boats and that time with the floats and the Prince music. And the recreations of previous Batman movies is lovingly done, as you may have seen in the trailer. Because of my spoiler policy I won’t go any further with the references, but you literally will not believe just how far and wide they spread the net. Don’t even look at the Wikipedia or IMDB page for names or actors, just try to enjoy the cameos as much as you can. See that poster at the top of the article with loads and loads of characters on? That doesn’t even scratch the surface.
Like 2016’s Return Of The Caped Crusaders, this is a brilliantly judged addition to the Batman universe. Fans of the World’s Greatest Detective will love this film. I can also see it opening up a whole universe of Lego Movie spin offs, although I’m not sure anyone other than Batman would have the commercial potential to make it to a cinematic release. And I can honestly say that scritpwriter Seth Graeme-Smith and director Chris McKay did more to get me interested in a Justice League movie than Zack Snyder’s hamfisted efforts. Can Chris Miller and Phil Lord be put in charge of DC’s film output please?
My only issue with the film is that I’m not totally sure kids will buy into it. There are so many meta, inside, and downright adult jokes that I think kids might be bored in it. Batman looking at the microwave for 30 seconds was funny to me, but maybe children might get a bit restless. Hopefully the family storyline (and the awesomeness of The Lego Movie) will bring the family audience and make this a success.
Then everything will be awesome.
The Lego Batman Movie previews in the UK this weekend and is then released worldwide on Friday 10th February. Go and see it!
Until next time, stay gold Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
PS As a special treat for reading all the way to the end, here’s the latest episode of Gotham Cribs, with Bruce Wayne…..’s roomate Batman showing us around Wayne Manor.