Review: The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

The Lego Batman Movie

Rating

Director

Chris McKay

Screenplay

Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, John Whittington

Length

1h 44m

Starring

Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Siri, Zach Galifianakis, Jenny Slate

MPAA Rating

PG for rude humor and some action

Original Preview

Click Here

Buy on DVD/Blu-ray

Soundtrack

Poster

Review

There have been countless versions of the iconic comic book superhero Batman over the years. It’s such a popular character that three different film franchises have portrayed him and many animated properties as well. The latest in the revolving door of Batman vehicles comes form the makers of The Lego Movie. Titled simply The Lego Batman Movie, another definitive portrait of the tragic hero has been offered up.

Although the character had appeared on the big screen three times prior, the definitive start to the filmic universe was in 1989. Under the direction of then-neophyte Tim Burton, the dark, brooding antihero was portrayed by Michael Keaton, an actor whom subsequent versions were frequently compared. He fit both the role of Bruce Wayne, the superhero’s public identity, and the Batman secret identity. The two subsequent actors to put on the cape, Val Kilmer and George Clooney, paled in comparison.

It was in 2005 when the second series of films based on the popular character made it to the big screen under director Christopher Nolan who brought in Christian Bale. This series of films was much darker than the prior four and thus required an incredibly pensive and aggressive incarnation. Bale did strong work as the character, but a softened edge may have been more appropriate. Keeping to the Dark Knight persona, the recently-minted DC Extended Universe films have cast Ben Affleck as Batman and his performance has showcased the haunted, hunted persona of the character while conveying his world-weary demeanor, better than even Bale could offer up.

While Affleck should play the Caped Crusader for the foreseeable future, the definitive vision of Batman appears to have been found in the most unlikely of places. Will Arnett gives voice to Batman in The Lego Batman Movie, a role that he infuses with vain self-importance and gravelly fearlessness. The characterization is supported by an able script from Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, and John Whittington. While larger screenwriting teams can create problems for effective narrative construction, this team understands the need to create a cohesive story first and flesh out the situational and verbal humor afterwards. The end result is a narrative that’s both well constructed and emotionally connective.

Arnett infuses Batman with the kind of selfishness and misanthropy that one has come to expect, but behind that performance is a more contemplative attempt to explore the loneliness and solitude Batman feels. Being a wealthy orphan carries different challenges for a young child. His childhood, while built on an all-consuming desire to avenge the death of his parents (the frequently-filmed murders getting an amusing roast job here), is one of emotional vacancy. While his faithful butler (voiced by Ralph Fiennes) has been there by his side, a lack of social interaction and an introspective isolationism have turned him into a callous egomaniac who must come to terms with his forced avoidance of familial and romantic emotional engagement.

Weighty as it might seem, The Lego Batman Movie has plenty of light and hilarious touches. While there are too many characters at times to keep track of thanks to an admittedly humorous attempt to reference every villain Batman has ever faced, the heavy tone is kept afloat by a mostly strong voice cast.

The Lego-branded films have always had a strong sense of design creativity and elegance and The Lego Batman Movie is no exception. With myriad stunning visual elements and compelling constructions, this is a movie that is so richly detailed that, at times, it almost feels photorealistic. The film is one that should please youngsters, who may not be as attuned to the film’s protagonist as their adult counterparts, and will more than satisfy the many fans of the character, both Dark Knight and tragic hero alike.

Oscar Prospects

Probables: Animated Feature
Potentials: Original Song, Sound Editing

Review Written

May 22, 2017

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