Building a better Batman
Since Christian Bale’s Caped Crusader rode off into the sunset in Christopher Nolan’s superb The Dark Knight Rises in the summer of 2012, it’s been a rough period for Batman.
Turned into a stroppy teen in tonally manic TV show Gotham and a murdering psycho in the messy, mediocre Batman vs Superman, my favourite comic book character hasn’t been treated with tender-loving care of late.
Throw in Ben Affleck vacating of the director’s chair for DC’s solo spin-off amid rumours of a complete overhaul for the troubled production and it seemed like even the entire might of the Justice League would struggle to save the day.
But, riding in on a Batwing and a prayer to restore faith in all things Batman, is the cranky tones of Will Arnett’s voice work in a kinetic, hyperactive animated adventure to appease fans and mass audiences alike.
Arnett’s grouchy Caped Crusader stole every scene he swooped in on during 2014’s Lego Movie and is back for his own full-length spinoff as the The World’s Greatest Detective has to balance fighting crime with raising adopted youngster Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), aka Robin.
Lego Batman lacks the pathos and insanely clever depth – and innovative use of its titular building blocks – of its predecessor, but still rates as an hour and 40 minutes of outrageously fun entertainment.
Chris McKay – best known for his work on the Robot Chicken television series – helms only his second ever film from a script supplied by no fewer than five writers.
Perhaps due to so many fingers being in the storyline pie, there’s a manic sense to proceedings as just about every Batman character imaginable – and many from DC’s entire stable – are wheeled out with reckless abandon.
Like the Lego Movie, there are numerous surprise appearances too in a colossal roll call of names that would make even a Marvel teamup flick pale in comparison.
Arnett is perfect for the shifts between light and dark in his Batman’s story and gets the balance right between self-parody and cowltipping respect for the iconic hero.
He also has a blast re-teaming with his old Arrested Development buddy Cera in the likeable Batman and Robin bond fans have been desperate to see for decades.
An eclectic voice ensemble includes Ralph Fiennes (Alfred), Rosario Dawson (Batgirl), Zach Galifianakis (Joker) and even Mariah Carey (Mayor McCaskill), while Billy Dee Williams finally gets to play Two-Face after missing out on the role back in the 90s.
There’s far too much going on – particularly visually – to take in on first viewing, and I’m sure repeat visits will unearth multiple Easter eggs.
Not quite the animated classic many anticipated, then, but Lego have still created one of Batman’s best cinematic romps.
I hope DC are taking notes for their problematic live-action production.
Top teamArnett’s Batman leads the Justice League