Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) is a vigilante who works alone, and nothing will change that - he's so capable of handling every crime he encounters, what would he need with anyone else? All he has to do is be summoned by the Bat-signal over Gotham City and he is ready for the call to arms, or call to gadgets as he has a huge array of vehicles and non-lethal weaponry to combat any evildoer who may come his way. Take tonight, when The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) and his wicked buddies takes it upon himself to set a bomb in the city that could cause it to collapse into an abyss: Batman is able to take on every single one of the rogues' gallery and still have time to defuse it. Not before he hurts The Joker's feelings, as the clown prince of crime thought he really mattered to the man in the cowl...
If there was a breakout star in The Lego Movie, it was perhaps an unexpected one, as Batman proved enormously popular with his vain, self-centred shtick, blessed with a wealth hilarious lines that made him stay in the memories of all ages of audience. Unlike the Marvel or other DC Universe films that had been planned years in advance, production was able to go ahead with what had previously been the provenance of straight to DVD or streaming shorts where the character got up to his crimefighting with a decidedly less starry cast of voices than the one we were served up here. The results were one of the most popular movies of 2017, almost equalling the first big screen Lego instalment in the appreciation it received.
That initial picture had been a wonderful surprise, so it was doubtful Batman in his toy form was going to have that advantage, and indeed there were those who were not quite as enamoured of this as they had been of the opening gambit in this franchise. One complaint was that they laid the message making on with a trowel, and it was true to say the Dark Knight's relationship issues were all over every scene, but it was not as if a cartoon of this brash, brightly-hued nature needed to be subtle, and besides if they had soft-pedalled the themes the jokes would not have landed quite so effectively. Even so, the fact that Batman had lost his family and that made him terrified of losing another one was pretty potent for a family movie.
Arnett was once again a joy in the title role, though his gravelly growl can't have done his throat any good, but the rest of the voices were extremely well-chosen, everyone getting into the spirit of things down to the characters who barely got a couple of lines to themselves. Galafianakis was a better Joker than Jared Leto had recently been, and as an indication of the care this was crafted with brought an unexpected dimension as we twig he and Bats had a curiously close connection for two men who had been dedicated to pitting themselves against one another for all these years, taken to absurd levels of the romcoms that Bruce Wayne watches on his own after a hard night's vigilantism. This helped to generate a bizarre love triangle as our hero is secretly smitten with the daughter of Commissioner Gordon (Hector Elizondo), Barbara (Rosario Dawson), not a librarian in this incarnation but taking over from her father as Gotham's chief of police.
Robin was a character who ever since the sixties television series (and you would have hoped Adam West saw this, since it paid so many tributes to his version, an excellent comedy too, let's not forget) had been treated with a little embarrassment by the movies, as if it was the superhero's Achilles Heel in that he prevented Batman from being as cool as they would want, which rendered this a pinch of the cheek on those fans who liked their Caped Crusader as dark and gritty as possible, as Robin was purposefully uncool, voiced by Michael Cera with great humour. But this brought out the family element once again, that being a loner means being lonely too much of the time when company could broaden your perspectives and improve your quality of life, not to mention giving you people worth living for. A tad heavy? Fortunately the jokes lightened the mood, and they were frequently hilarious, appealing to traditional gag fans and the more reference-based quips for the pop culture enthusiasts. Topped off with an excellent score by Lorne Balfe that took Batman as seriously as he took himself, and this was a triumph that knocked Batman v Superman into a cocked hat.