Sunday, 5 February 2017

Review: The Lego Batman Movie

The Lego Batman Movie (2D)
Cert: U / 104 mins / Dir. Chris McKay / Trailer

It's an unusual feeling for me, being someone who sees more than their fair share of BBFC cards, to be watching the ident screen with the green-detailing of a U-certificate. It's not that I actively avoid the Us, more that most of the movies seem to be PG at the least. All the more interesting then that the summary notes read "mild comic violence, rude humour, very mild bad language". Rude humour? How much 'rude' can you put into a film which is suitable for everybody? Well providing you keep it resolutely silly, the answer is 'a fair bit'. The fact that one of the main characters is called Dick hasn't been lost on the writing team.

Yes, the eagerly anticipated Lego Batman Movie finally swings down into cinemas for weekend-previews ahead of general release. The short version: enormous amounts of fun, and I say that as someone who went for the animation, comedy and bricks without being a Batman geek per se. Chris McKay's film is consistently funny and has a script far too tightly packed to take in on the first viewing. And while it may not be anywhere near as meta as its forebear, it's very self-aware nonetheless and quick to poke fun at its own ancestry, albeit in a playful way.

Learning quickly from The Big Boys, the Warner Animation Group have opened their latest outing with an five-minute promo teaser for the upcoming Lego Ninjago movie. And while kids and Lego-geeks will be rightfully excited, I suspect that it'll be the first real test for the series, being slightly too niche for civilian audiences that previously fell within the catch-all net of Lego™ and Batman™.

Aside from being a perfectly robust family adventure movie, the main event however, is also like some wonderful case-study in brand-licensing. The film is positively stuffed with Batman characters and references of course, with Lego interpretations from pretty much all eras of the canon and expanding out into the wider DC continuities. There are also various appearances by more generic Lego faces (particularly their Monster Fighters line), but the net is cast wider still into other Warner properties with characters from the Gremlins, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Matrix movies showing up, among others. Which is all well and good, but Warner seem to have hammered out an appearance-deal for some of Universal's trademarks too, with King Kong, the Creature From The Black Lagoon and velociraptors from Jurassic Park rounding out the antagonistic team. While I genuinely love this level of crossover, it draws needless attention to the absence of Marvel superheroes. And sure, we didn't get any of those in the first Lego movie, but we at least got Disney's newly acquired Star Wars in the mix. This time round however, even that olive branch has been withdrawn. Nothing underlines the messed-up world of licensing agreements more than this movie featuring hordes Daleks, which are then referred to as "British Robots"*1.

This is undoubtedly the most fun we've had in the caped crusader's company for some considerable time, although I have to say I found it a little disposable. I preferred the film when it was being a Batman movie rather than a DC one, if only because the number of references and easter-eggs (both scripted and visual) makes for a very crowded screenplay. And the movie will work just fine for audiences who aren't picking all of those up, but it'll still feel a little cluttered. Truth be told, I think I just need to see the movie again, and soon.

Still; your move, Affleck…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
The DC movies.
The Batman movies.
The Lego movie.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Oh hell, yes. For the level of visual detail, if nothing else.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It certainly does.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
As much as I enjoyed it, probably not.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Didn't hear one, although there is a scripted 1138 reference.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: The movie features the voice of Lando Calrissian, assuming his rightful place in the Bat-verse.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 This could be an elaborate and self-referential in-joke, but when the only Marvel reference allowed in the script is the Batcave's password being "Iron Man sucks", that seems unlikely... [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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