Film Critic and Writer for ComiConverse.com, the Founder and co-host of the official Nerdcast Network Podcast
MORE NEWS FROM THE WEB
The LEGO Batman Movie is here. Jordan Samuel has the official ComiConverse review.
Bruce Wayne must not only deal with the criminals of Gotham City, but also the responsibility of raising a boy he adopted.
Without shadow of a doubt Batman is the most ubiquitous superhero in popular culture. He certainly has the most adaptations on film and TV . The last few filmed versions of the caped crusader, even the animated movies, have been dark and gritty takes on the character. The last Batman adaptations to embrace a lighter tone were the much-maligned Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. Since those cinematic disasters, Batman has not left darkness in a long time; something which severely affected the most recent critically panned effort to include him, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
2017 brings us something different in the form of The LEGO Batman Movie, a sugar flavored, satirical take on the caped crusader. I was excited to see a comedic interpretation of my favorite superhero, after countless darker adaptations.
I’m happy to confirm that fans are in for a treat with this new adventure. Batman faces his rogues gallery within the first ten minutes in a beautifully realized celebration of the character’s rich history. The action in this sequence rivals anything seen before.
Beginning the film this way provides excitement not only for younger kids, but also for comic book veterans. The story starts begins with a depressed Bruce Wayne trying to cook a meal in the microwave, embracing his loneliness. This sets the tone of the film. He sits at home catching up on the latest romantic comedies, struggling to choose the correct HDMI feed on his massive television. This is a refreshing way to build his character after the countless re-tellings of Bruce Wayne’s parents’ deaths in previous films and television adaptations. This shows us that this film is interested in entirely different parts of Wayne’s (and Batman’s) character.
The domestic tranquility is quickly interrupted when Phantom Zone inmates are broken free by The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) to cause mayhem in Gotham City. The Joker’s driving motivation, rather than chaos for chaos’ sake, is his struggle with the fact that Batman has a new arch-nemesis. Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) takes over from her father in the bid to work with Batman in reforming masked vigilante culture.
The plot is simple, but this allows director Chris McKay to go all out with a colorful take on the DC universe. The film is packed, but McKay elevates an overstuffed story as he controls each element with finesse. Nothing feels rushed or unnecessary with gags lasting just the right amount of time. There is even time for Batman to rap in his own music video. Visually LEGO Batman is a gorgeous film. Similar to the groundbreaking work present in The LEGO Movie (2014), LEGO Batman achieves new visual heights. The animation is top notch was especially impressive in my IMAX screening.
The best material in the film is when Batman is interacting with his adopted son Robin (Michael Cera), whose excited persona melds perfectly with the comically brooding superhero. The comedic potential of this incongruous relationship leads to much of the films humor. Michael Cera’s performance is hilariously kinetic and full of joy. Robin is a fantastic addition to the movie. His relationship with Batman is joyful but awkward. The Joker and Batman also have a great dynamic.
The relationship between hero and antagonist is played almost as a love story, something new for the long-established Batma/Joker relationship. There is a cheeky weirdness that I enjoyed to this take on the two iconic characters.
Ralph Fiennes provides another great performance as the dry Alfred whose wit perfectly blends with Bruce Wayne’s grim persona. Galifianakis gives a decent performance as the Joker. Without hogging the screen — as we saw with Jared Leto in Suicide Squad — he gives an inspired take on one of my favorite comic book characters. A break from the often dark world of Batman, the quality of the script and vibrant use of visual storytelling help this film rise above the DC films of the past. The LEGO Batman Movie is great and one of the best adaptations in the history of the character.
Jordan Samuel is a Film Critic for ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @JordanESamuel