Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
You almost have to feel sorry for DC. While they’re excelling on the small screen with shows such as The Flash, Supergirl, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, they just can’t seem to compete with Marvel when it comes to constructing a successful cinematic universe. Now I’m not saying that Suicide Squad and Batman V Superman were bad. I actually enjoyed both films despite their flaws, but I’m certainly not ignorant to the fact that they didn’t go down well with the vast majority of moviegoers and rumours are already running rampant that Wonder Woman is also unlikely to impress when it arrives in the summer.
Not to worry though, because The Lego Batman Movie is here and it’s the best thing that DC has dropped in theatres since Christian Bale hung up the cape and cowl in 2012. Directed by the man behind some of the best episodes of the criminally underrated Robot Chicken, this fantastically vivacious animated adventure documents the dark knight’s attempts to stop the Joker from raining chaos down upon Gotham while simultaneously examining the issues underlying the eponymous protagonist’s reluctance to embrace relationships with anyone other than his beloved butler, Alfred.
The story starts with a wonderfully wacky homage to the opening of The Dark Knight Rises before showcasing a spectacularly colourful showdown between Batman and his iconic arch-nemesis that culminates in an incredibly catchy musical number. This is just the first of many mesmerising set-pieces that manage to make most of DC’s latest movies look comparatively dull and dreary.
All of the action comes accompanied by a surprisingly awesome soundtrack courtesy of Scottish composer Lorne Balfe. His penchant for paying tribute to the work of Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmerman gives the already riveting set-pieces an even greater sense of excitement and actually results in one of the most effective superhero scores I’ve heard in quite some time. There’s also plenty more singing and dancing to go along with Balfe’s background themes and while it’s unlikely any of the songs will linger in your mind as long as The Lego Movie’s “Everything Is Awesome”, they’re all a lot of fun.
Unfortunately though, The Lego Batman Movie doesn’t meet with nearly as much success in the joke department. The script does a great job of satirising the source material, but the frequency with which it delivers the japes means that the humour ends up being very hit and miss.
Having said that, there are still a lot of laughs thanks to the tremendous vocal talent of Will Arnett. The Arrested Development star bestows Batman’s voice with a fun yet fitting timbre that perfectly parodies the inflections exhibited by both Christian Bale and Michael Keaton during their respective tenures as the caped crusader.
Michael Cera impresses as Batman’s faithful accomplice, Robin, as well. Grayson’s obsession with Batman and general neediness could well have made the character irksome, but the wide-eyed innocence with which Cera endows the boy wonder provides the protagonist with an extremely charming sidekick.
Zack Galifianakis, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as enthralling as the Joker, whose otherwise well-written character arc would have been considerably more compelling had someone been cast who could inject a little more menace into his voice.
There are also a lot of quirky cameos from some of DC’s other most distinguished heroes and villains and while none of them feel particularly shoe-horned into the narrative, it is disappointing that Warner Brothers brought in so many celebrities to provide vocals without giving them much to say. I was particularly excited to see Billy Dee Williams reprise the role of Harvey Dent, but I don’t think the veteran actor had more than two lines total.
Ultimately though, the underutilisation of the support cast doesn’t harm the movie in any major way. In fact, if the comedy wasn’t so inconsistent, I’d have no real complaints about this film. Its action is exhilarating, its protagonist is compelling and it contains more than enough affecting character moments to ensure that it packs an emotional punch despite its eccentricity. If you haven’t checked it out for yourself yet, then I recommend you do so ASAP.
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