I’m hoping you’ve seen the Lego movie by now, if not you really need to see it. The 2014 movie was an absolute smash and it was such a smash because it didn’t take itself too seriously and played to both children and adults alike. The Lego Batman Movie is the follow up with a focus, obviously, on the DC universe in particular, the bat.
The Lego Batman Movie, unsurprisingly, tells the story of Batman, voiced by Will Arnett (The Lego Movie, Arrested Development), who is, as we know, a billionaire crime-fighting hero of Gotham City by night, but by day, he’s a lonely man wondering the halls of his super-mansion.
A new Commissioner is appointed to Gotham, voiced by Rosario Dawson (Daredevil, Death Proof), which coincides with the Joker, voiced by Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover, Birdman), getting upset at Batman, because Batman won’t admit he’s his biggest adversary, and surrendering along with all other bad-guys. This means Gotham doesn’t need Batman anymore and he’s left with nothing to do. This is when his butler Alfred, voiced by Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Kubo and the Two Strings), forces him to face his greatest fear…no not clown snakes.
Long-time readers will know that one thing that always sets alarm bells ringing for me is many screenwriters on a film. Any more than two is a worry in my opinion. The Lego Batman Movie has five! And that’s five plus a story by credit too. This is too many for any film and the old adage ‘too many cooks’ just keeps playing in my mind.
Seth Grahame-Smith (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) seems to be the main writer, and the one with the story credit, alongside: Chris McKenna (American Dad, Community), Erik Sommers (American Dad, Atom TV), Jared Stern (The Watch, The Internship) and John Whittington (his first movie). It appears as though the producers just couldn’t decide who to give this movie too and so it’s been passed from pillar to post and, let’s be honest here, it’s not exactly the most quality five you’d ever choose.
I bring this up for the obvious reason that it’s the story that lets The Lego Batman Movie down. We’re in for a nearly two-hour run-time here and we expect gags galore but there isn’t. Absolutely there are moments of genuine laughter (out loud) but it’s nowhere near as much as we had from The Lego Movie. We also expect a message to be within the movie, it’s a children’s film after all, what I don’t expect is for that message to be continuously rammed down my throat at every opportunity. I also wasn’t quite expecting the nature of the message either.
I’m struggling to imagine the meeting that took place with Warner Brothers and Lego about the message for this film:
Writer 1: “So, we’ve an idea for a new Lego movie”
Exec: “Yeah? That’s awesome, everything’s awesome”
Writer 2: “Er yeah, anyway, we’re thinking of superheroes”
Writer 3: “Batman”
Exec: “Batman? Not Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America?”
Writer 3: “No, we’re thinking Batman”
Writer 4: “It’s the message that’s really important here, there’s a big message for the film”
Exec: “Awesome, what is it?”
Writer 5: “It’s about death. Death and losing someone you love, family and solidarity and why it’s important to let others back into your life once that’s happened”
Exec: “Lego movie? Batman, Lego Movie, about death and loss and losing someone you love?”
Or something like that anyway. That is the theme of the message, you can’t miss it as anyone who’s not a small child will witness it being rammed down your throat continuously. It’s a pretty bleak message if I’m honest and one that I think will pass most children by (thankfully) so I’m then unsure who it’s supposed to be for?
It’s not all bad, I don’t want to give that impression, the start and end (the voice over by Arnett) are a brilliant p*ss-take on the start of 99% of movies these days, particularly superhero movies. Arnett is nothing but quality throughout even if the jokes do wear a little thin by the end. The film also has a stellar cast of: Michael Cera as Robin, Siri as ‘Puter (yes they’ve even cast a computer…), Conan O’Brien, Billy Dee Williams, Zoe Kravitz, Kate Micucci, Eddie Izzard, Jermaine Clement, Seth Green, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Hector Elizondo and Mariah Carey as the Mayor and then weirdly Lauren White also as the Mayor. Maybe there were some things Miss Carey refused to say?
That The Lego Batman Movie starts on such a high, sets those expectations so early and so high, and then comes crashing so far and so hard into a monotonous, drawn out, dull movie is a tragedy. They had a real opportunity to poke some fun at the superhero genre here with Arnett leading the way with his arrogant, loner Batman and instead, they have missed the mark by a mile and we are left with this…well, this pointless take on “21st century problems” (as the Joker says ‘worth a Google’ if you’re unsure).