I spent the screening of The Lego Batman Movie battling sleep. That surprised and disappointed me. Its Batman. I love Batman. Anything Batman should be able to grasp me for 90 plus minutes. But therein lies the question. Was this a Batman movie or Batman roast? This latest entry to the Lego movie franchise felt like the latter and that also upset me a little, in addition to being a bore fest. “Batman should be revered and not mocked”, I seemed to be screaming internally the few times I engaged with the film.
Whilst I felt 2014’s The Lego Movie was a bit overrated, it was undeniably original with engaging subtext and thoughtful satire. But The Lego Batman Movie was just an explosion of references and jokes I had heard before in one form or the other. That tends to happen when you listen to years’ worth of comedy nerd podcasts. This film, directed Chris McKay scrapes the bottom of the Batman mythos barrel for its gags meaning were getting a million jokes per second and list of easter eggs in this film stretches for days. This is probably a by-product of the film having five writers who probably have a vendetta against the caped crusader.
The mockery starts with Will Arnett who is doing the growly thing with his voice which became old after Batman Begins and proceeds to play lay out decades worth of references from the shark repellent to Robin’s latent homosexual tendencies and then Batman’s peculiar relationship with the Joker. The latter point manages to keep its head above the sea of jokes to anchor what little story we have. The opening action sequence is capped off with the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) suffering some heartbreak after Batman refuses to recognise him as his alpha villain. Given Batman vs Superman, the film deems it prudent to have Batman proclaim the Man of Steel as his main nemesis.
At best, the Joker is like the many other villains scampering around Gotham or brooding in the Arkham Asylum, according to the Dark Knight and we get basically the full contingent, again spanning back decades. The villainy also spills over from the Warner Bros. universe meaning Lord Voldemort, King Kong, the Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings, the Lost World Raptors, Medusa and even the green-faced Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz find themselves pitted against the caped crusader as the film unravels. So naturally, more jokes have to come in from all these franchises with very little restraint.
In the more toned down moments, it is easier to appreciate the play on Batman’s solitude and fear of commitment. His probably repetitious nights involve him slipping into his one of his numerous red robes (but still with his cowl on) then proceed to have for dinner some lobster which appears to have been cooked in bulk and refrigerated by his ever wise and dependable butler, Alfred (Ralph Fiennes). He caps of his nights with some romantic comedies in his home theatre. I guess that is supposed to be funny because there is no way in hell Keaton’s or Affleck’s Batman’s would have deemed romantic comedies worth entertainment. Clooney’s Batman maybe.
Batman’s insistence of isolation is tested when he unknowingly adopts the constantly awe-stricken and giddy Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) at a charity gala who would come to pastiche a more campy incarnation of Robin after he discovers the batcave. Dick is excited at the prospect of a family and a father, but Batman, not so much. The new commissioner of Police, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) also wants more collaboration between Batman and Police. She wink-wink notes that Batman has a knack for letting villains escape despite thwarting their ominous schemes. This is followed by Joker and his cronies surrendering to Gordon out of spite to Batman. This pushes the Dark Knight to the edge allowing the film its opportunity to turn up affairs to 11.
The Lego Batman movie is unbridled in its kinetic action sequences and overdosed with jokes and colour. I just didn’t care for it. Is that okay to say? The dysfunctional bromance between Batman and the Joker works to a point but isn’t handled as cleverly as in say 22 Jump Street. Could it be the main problem was I was expecting Deadpool, given the hype, but this is mostly a kids film? I think so. On reflection, I noticed the Children in my screening loved the colour, jumped around to the songs and were engaged by the frantic edge Mackay brought. Good for them, maybe they seek out the 90s animated series after this and begin a proper Batman education.
By: Delali Adogla-Bessafirstname.lastname@example.org/Ghana