The Lego Movie was such a surprisingly smart, funny and uplifting animation it seemed a shame that writers and directors Phil Miller and Chris Lord weren’t involved in the Batman spinoff. However, Chris McKay and his team of writers have done a marvellous job at delivering the same zippy energy of a child excitedly playing with their toys in a film that turns the tropes of a romantic comedy into a love story between hero and villain.
There’s also lot more going on with the obnoxious and arrogant Batman we came to know and adore in the original film (voiced by the brilliant Will Arnett), forced to overcome his greatest fear in order to save his beloved Gotham City.
It opens with a shimmering action sequence that sums up the plot of every superhero movie within about ten minutes, in which we meet the multitude of villains who Batman has faced along the years. Of course, that includes the ultimate one in The Joker (Zach Galifianakis), who is sick and tired of Batman not admitting his true feelings about how much he hates him.
It’s just really playing on his mind, so when The Joker confronts Batman about it, in keeping with his loner status he flatly refuses to take part in any kind of relationship. Utterly dejected, The Joker (with a glorious cartoon boohoo face) comes up with a cunning plan involving the Phantom Zone to force him to fess up.
Meanwhile the narrative focuses in on Batman in his down time, where he spends a lot of his day watching romantic comedies such as Jerry Maguire and Serendipity. The sequences where Batman is alone in his mansion possess all the charm of those playful Adam and Joe sketches where they reimagined highly acclaimed films with their action figures. Batman humming to himself while he microwaves his favourite meal of lobster thermidor is particularly hilarious.
Bruce Wayne also accidentally adopts an orphan in the form of Dick Grayson (aka Robin, played by Michael Cera, who nails sweet and emphatic) due to being so distracted by the sight of Barbara Gordon at her inauguration as new commissioner.
The designers are tasked with visually summoning the spirits of the many incarnations of Batman and do so with vivid flair. At Gordon’s ceremony they gracefully nod to the snowfall and carnivalesque ambience of Burton’s caped crusader and throughout the film they pay so much care and attention to the changing appearance and personas of Batman over the years.
Barbara Gordon’s incredible efficiency leaves Batman with too much time on his hands, leading to an existential crisis of sorts. Coerced by Alfred, he teams up with Robin to act as a father figure but instead acts like a jerk and uses him instead. Their partnership leads to an excellent run of meticulously written and giggle inducing jokes about loneliness and the strong silent superhero archetype.
The star studded voice cast of good guys are joined by a stellar troupe of bad guys with Warner Brothers allowing the screenwriters to gleefully raid their back catalogue of behemoth blockbusters, which we won’t spoil here.
This spin-off is jam-packed full of belly-laughs for both adults and kids and loads of amusing references to the DC Universe (along with some good-humoured digs at Marvel) for comic fans. Though it doesn’t feature a song to rival The Lego Movie’s ‘Everything is Awesome’ it does cannily play off the same knowing humour that so winningly won us over first time around.