Director: Chris McKay
Cast: Will Arnett, Rosario Dawson, Michael Cera, Zach Galifiniakis, Jenny Slate, Mariah Carey, Ralph Fiennes
Running Time: 104 minutes
Release Date: February 10th
After being exposed to scenarios of Bruce Wayne stuck down a well and beating a tire with a sledgehammer for the past few years, it’s refreshing to have an almost exclusive Batman movie. The standout in surprise hit The LEGO Movie, Will Arnett’s Caped Crusader returns for his own adventure that’s both skewers his self-serious corporeal predecessors and falls foul of their franchise fatigue.
Arnett’s Dark Knight doesn’t don cape and cowl out of a higher purpose but merely because he thinks it’s awesome. After a night of crimefighting, when the bathrobe goes on and the Lobster Thermidor goes in the microwave, the mask stays on. All the while he’s still a loner who constantly broods, mundanely fumbling through HDMI channels so he can cackle his way through Jerry Maguire or Serendipity. When he finally clears Gotham of his foes — ranging from the familiar, like an inspired Conan O’Brien voiced Riddler to ’60s TV show castoff Egghead — once and for all, he’s left idle and more alone than he can deal with, leading him look for new challengers in the Phantom Zone.
Most adaptations of the World’s Greatest Detective go to strained lengths to point out that were it not for Batman, Gotham wouldn’t be infested with such a colourful rogue, his very presence is a magnet for demented criminals. The dichotomy of him and arch-nemesis the Joker — vigilante driven by a fastidious set of rules versus agent of chaos — has been a mirror many have held up. Director Chris McKay and his stable of writers go for something else, something we’ve all thought for some time: Bats and Joker need to read the writing on the wall and get together. They portray the Jester of Genocide as a needy partner in who craves attention and most importantly to be hated, the perfect foil for Arnett’s non-committal recluse.
Zach Galifiniakis makes for a fantastic Joker, adding more character to the Clown Prince of Crime with a quiver in his voice than Jared Leto could with a skip filled with dead rats and used condoms. His interpretation, although relentlessly comic, leans heavily on Alan Moore’s imagining in The Killing Joke, pointing to Joker’s insanity being a by-product of extreme insecurity. Elsewhere, sadly, it feels there could have been a lot more done with Ralph Fiennes as loyal butler and sufferer of reflex roundhouse kicks, Alfred.
The third act is incredibly laggy as endings upon endings are piled up on and a message of inclusivity is drive home. The original structured itself on a message of free expression but considering the current political climate, a literal human-bridge feels a bit of a stretch for a movie about a masked vigilante, be they plastic or not. Its actions scenes fire along with vim and colour, and its Airplane! approach to laughs mean that while some crash and burn, another is coming in to land right behind it. Flaws aside, it’s a welcome panacea to the Snyder and Ayer’s dark twisted fantasy and while it’s not a high bar to clear, it makes for the best Batman movie in nearly a decade.