Spider-man: Homecoming – Film Review

After six movies and two reboots in the last 15 years – not to mention a further 16 outings for Marvel’s other heavy hitters since 2008 – fans could be forgiven for growing weary at the thought of yet another Spider-man movie. Thankfully, Spider-man: Homecoming repays audience persistence in spades.

Having already wowed fans with his zingy and zestful cameo in Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland’s first full outing as the web slinging crime fighter deftly walks a tricky tightrope between paying heed to the larger Marvel machine and offering a fresh and revitalising spin on the typical comic book movie template.

spider-man-movie-still.jpg

By far the film’s best move is skipping Spidey’s tired-and-tested origin story, with which we’re already far too familiar. Unburdened by the shackles of dead parents, murdered uncles, cute neighbours and radioactive spider bites, we’re free to jump straight into the action.

Picking up right after that almighty skirmish over the Skovia Accords, 15-year-old Peter Parker is dropped back in Queens by his new mentor Tony Stark and told to wait by the phone for another call to join up with the Avengers. Cut to two months later: Peter’s heard nothing from Stark and his reluctant minder Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) isn’t returning any of his texts, leaving Peter to act like ‘a friendly neighbourhood Spider-man’, catching petty thieves and helping old ladies with directions in return for deep-fried Mexican treats.

spider_man_homecoming_DF_24018.jpg

Scaling back the influence of the larger Marvel universe proves to be a masterstroke. Though Downey Jr’s Stark featured heavily in the promos, his appearances here are minimal and fit seamlessly into the story. And with the wider MCU taking a backseat, there’s plenty of room for us to get to know our new hero in greater depth than ever before. The result is something more akin to a high school comedy than a superhero movie as Peter tries to contend with jealous school bullies, getting invited to the cool girl’s party and finding a date for homecoming dance; all the while squeezing a spot of crime fighting between the end of school and his 10pm curfew.

With so much of the focus on the young hero, it’s handy that he happens to be the best on-screen Spider-man thus far. Introduced geeking out in a homemade video after meeting the Avengers, there’s something instantly endearing about Holland’s version of the web slinger. Though he’s gifted with spider-like abilities, he feels entirely relatable. Like any teenager, Peter is reckless, impulsive, dangerously ambitious and refreshingly earnest in his attempts to figure out what kind of person he wants to be.

spider-man-homecoming-michael-keaton.jpg

He also happens to be appealingly lame as a superhero, struggling to control his powers (understandable, considering he now has more than 500 web settings in his new Stark-modified suit) and frequently falling flat on his face during his hapless attempts to help others. That he remains likeable even when his mistakes have potentially fatal consequences is in no small part due to Holland’s cheeky and heartfelt performance.

Drawing sparky performances out of talented youngsters is quickly becoming a calling card of director Jon Watts. Having caught the eye with revenge thriller Cop Car, which deftly balanced gripping thrills with dark humour, Watts brings a similar lightness of touch to proceedings here. The freshman humour is uproariously on point – there’s a great Ferris Buller gag – and even the action sequences are peppered with quick-witted one liners.

2712.jpg

Yet Watts appears to struggle when dealing with the larger scale demands of helming a Marvel movie. Many of the big set-pieces, while effective and well-executed, feel far too mundane to make much of an impact. And except for a vertiginous rescue atop the Washington Monument, there’s not a single action sequence that sticks in the memory, which falls far below the level of inventiveness we’ve come to expect of a summer blockbuster.

This lack of whizz-bang visuals is more than compensated for by the presence of a surprisingly compelling villain. Like Peter Parker, Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes is an ordinary guy trying to cope with extraordinary circumstances. A former salvager who turns to illegal arms trafficking to support his family, Toomes’ motivation is entirely believable, if not forgivable. Even more so when you consider the political context of his actions – Toomes makes angry speech about rising up against the greedy 1% who keep all the money for themselves – which feels incredibly relevant in the wake of President Trump and Brexit.

1499445471-zendaya-spiderman.jpg

It’s not quite perfect. The final showdown between Toomes and Spider-man inevitably descends into the usual blurry CGI slugfest and many of the female characters are completely without their own purpose or agency. Yet these issues feel like minor quibbles in a movie as fresh and invigorating as this. Ditching the overwhelming superhero angst and sludgy pacing which dogged previous incarnations of the character, and replacing it with a fun and breezy coming-of-age comedy, the youthful Spider-man: Homecoming is the most original comic book movie to swing into cinemas in a very long time.

Runtime: 133 mins

Director: Jon Watts

Screenwriters: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley

Stars: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr, Jacob Batalon

Advertisements

Wonder Woman – Film Review

We’re all agreed Gail Gadot’s Wonder Woman was the best thing about DC’s dour and dispiriting man-spat Dawn of Justice. Amid all the grim soul searching, moody visuals and bludgeoning SFX work, Gadot’s Amazonian goddess strode into view like an ass-kicking, lasso-whipping electric cello riff in human form to brighten up the darkest of hours for DC’s faltering superhero universe. It’s little wonder there’s been so much excitement and goodwill surrounding Diana Prince’s first solo outing. And we haven’t even mentioned the fact that it’s the first female-led (and, with Monster’s Patty Jenkins behind the camera, female-directed) superhero movie.

Feminist triumphs aside, though, Wonder Woman feels like a missed opportunity. While it’s undoubtedly the best movie of the DCEU thus far, brightening the tone and demonstrating a stronger handle on its core characters, it’s still plagued by many of the issues that have held previous DC movies back: over earnestness, mind-numbing action, and a slogging origin story that’s framed around a messy, wildly preposterous plot.

4928.jpg

Having already been introduced as an experienced, battle hardened warrior in the present day, Wonder winds the clock back to Diana’s picturesque childhood on Themyscira, the hidden island of the Amazons. This tribe of athletic, gold-plated female warriors live in a bubble, protected from the corruption of man, as they prepare for the prophesised return of Ares, the Greek god who plans to wage an endless war to destroy humanity. And then Chris Pine’s charismatic American spy washes up on shore, bringing with him a flotilla of German soldiers, and tells of a horrifying war raging in the outside world. After one of the most bizarre action sequences of modern times – a slow-mo beachfront battle between pirouetting women and gun-totting men – Diana decides to defy her mother’s wishes, stealing her trademark sword, shield and lasso before setting sail for the world of men to stop the war once and for all.

As Diana, Gadot is extraordinary. Dawn of Justice proved she has the youthful athleticism to stand toe-to-toe with Henry Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s pumped-up Caped Crusader, but Wonder gives her a chance to explore the nuances of an impulsive, idealistic young warrior who has a disarming belief in doing the right thing. Gadot infuses Diana’s sweet innocence with a ferocious defiance that helps to keep the more hokey moments in the script from sounding too goofy. She’s funny, too, especially during the fish-out-of-water scenes in a civilised London where she attempts to tackle a revolving door armed with a shield and sword.

FJorKbM6bxMsHeNjYt9FJ9-650-80

Using World War I as the backdrop for a highly-stylised action movie might make some people uncomfortable. Yet it allows Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg to explore themes of feminism, oppression and the evil that men inflict upon each other. It also neatly sidesteps the issue of needing to find a villain capable of facing-off against a near-indestructible warrior created by Zeus, by making Diana’s unshakable belief in the power of good the thing that’s tested rather than her physical prowess. Jenkins sensitively captures the devastation of the conflict, bringing a grim tangibility to scenes of wounded soldiers and bloodied refugees trudging though the mud and charred remains of their former lives.

With so many positives here, it’s a shame the movie is hobbled by a clunking, sloppy script. Like Thor, this is supposed to be a story about a naive demigod coming to terms with the harsh realities of the world. Instead, much of the focus is on a clumsy love story between Diana and Pine’s Steve Trevor. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of romance, but its use here only serves to sideline Diana for much of her own movie. With no experience of the modern world, she’s largely useless once we’ve left Themyscira, which means Steve steps into the valiant hero role, leading the mission to stop the war and making the noble sacrifice that saves the world. Diana is essentially his MPDG, using her optimistic innocence to undercut his early cynicism so that he can find his inner hero. It’s hardly a fair dynamic, especially when you consider she has the power to break him like a twig.

7952.jpg

It’s also poorly structured, spending far too much time milling around Themyscira and period-era London despite events there having very little to do with the actual plot – which involves stopping Elena Anaya’s intriguing but underused German scientist and Danny Houston’s military chief using a deadly gas to prevent the armistice agreement. That leaves no time to explore Diana’s world view, which goes unchallenged for much of the movie, as we rush towards yet another weightless, overblown finale where two CGI beings levitate at each other. Wonder Woman might be a Diana Prince-sized leap in the right direction for the DCEU, but it still has a lot to ground to make up if it wants to match the sparkling triumphs of its Marvel peers.

Runtime: 141 mins

Director: Patty Jenkins

Scriptwriter: Allan Heinberg

Stars: Gail Gadot, Chris Pine, David Thewlis, Elena Anaya, Danny Houston

Iron Fist – TV Review

Be honest: you’d forgotten all about Iron Fist, right? The final recruit to Netflix’s ambitious Defenders team-up had already been bumped to the back of the line after Luke Cage was the breakout star of Jessica Jones and there was truly very little excitement surrounding this belated small screen outing for the little known comic book hero. That feeling is reflected in the series itself which is entirely forgettable from the bland opening credits – think Daredevil but with less blood-soaked Hell’s Kitchen and more inky oriental hand waving. Iron Fist shares all of the flaws of its predecessors but crucially lacks the authentic vision and compelling characters that made Netflix’s previous superhero efforts so watchable.

For the many who are unfamiliar with the comic books, here’s the rub: Danny Rand is the heir to a billionaire family whose parents die when their private jet crashes into the Himalayas. Danny is the only survivor of the crash, pulled from the wreckage by warrior monks who transport him to K’un-Lun, a mythical city which exists in an alternate dimension, where he is trained to become a fierce fighter. Fifteen years later, Danny returns to New York to reclaim his family’s company and fulfil his destiny as the Iron Fist, a legendary figure who can punch really hard… sometimes.

netflix-2017-iron-fist

If that sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve seen this smug-rich-guy-returns-from-Asia-with-superpowers storyline play out countless times before, most recently in Marvel’s Doctor Strange. But Iron Fist can’t boast the same mind-bending visuals that made that Benedict Cumberbatch-starring vehicle such an entertaining ride.

In fact, the show has nothing to offer that we haven’t seen before. The action is slow, clumsy and lacks the brutal tension of Daredevil’s bloody punch-ups. Not one of the dull, by-the-numbers characters manage to make a lasting impression. The plot lacks depth, originality and momentum, staggering along without incident as we wait for something… anything to happen. It can’t even muster a convincing villain for Rand to come up against, instead lumbering us with a tedious power struggle between the newly-returned billionaire and Ward Meachum (Tom Pelphrey), the Patrick Bateman-lookalike who has taken control of Rand’s company in his absence.

iron-fist

Perhaps such boardroom battles could be compelling if Rand was anything more likeable than a spoiled frat boy. Quite why Finn Jones chose to play Rand as an arrogant, self-aggrandising, tastelessly immature know-it-all is a mystery only he can answer. Perhaps he was just trying to draw attention away from claims his casting was another example of the media whitewashing Asian culture, which, one incident where Rand whitesplains kung-fu to Jessica Henwick’s Japanese-American dojo master aside, prove to be unfounded. At one point Rand, after being shown kindness by a homeless man who brings him food and offers him clothing, laughs to himself and smirks: “I guess people think we’re quite alike.” He really is a “living weapon”.

It’s disappointing because there are shades to Rand that are intriguing. He’s clearly suffered a very traumatising childhood, not just from the plane crash but also from the ritual bullying at the hands of a young Meachum, and the culture shock of returning to New York after 15 years must surely be overwhelming. Yet showrunner Scott Buck never explores these feelings, preferring to pad his scripts with countless flashbacks to the plane crash and forcing Finn to repeatedly yell “I’m Danny Rand” in the hope someone will actually believe him this time.

In short, it’s a wasted opportunity. Free from the pressures of audience anticipation, Iron Fist could’ve cast an Asian lead, or at the very least tapped into the pulpy 70s Kung Fu movies that the original comics tried to rip-off, to create something more uplifting and magical compared to the gritty, urban tone of its predecessors. But Buck never stamps an original personality on this plodding piece, succeeding only in creating a superhero show that will test the patience of even the most committed Marvel fan. So much for saving the best until last.

Logan – Film Review

Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine opens in familiar fashion: a ripped and raging Logan, adamantium claws protruding from clenched fists with an iconic ‘snikt’, ready to reluctantly dispense some stabby justice to a bunch of human hoodlums. Cut to: the former X-Man getting stomped into the dirt by his aggressors after a few wild swings prove worryingly ineffective.

If that sounds like an unexpected take on the hirsute hero we all know and love, well that’s entirely the point. Logan is a gnarled and bloody middle finger to what director James Mangold notoriously described as the “gravity-defying, city-destroying, CGI fuckathons” that have dominated the superhero genre for the past decade. Swapping meaningless spectacle for visceral action and a surprisingly human story, this is a superhero movie that gleefully defies convention.

hkjhk

Tonally it’s pitched somewhere between The Wrestler and Shane, with an important character even poignantly aping the latter’s “there’s no livin’ in the killin’” speech at one point. There’s certainly not much livin’ where Logan is concerned. We find him in a ravaged near future, a battered and bloodied shadow of his former self, scraping a living as a limo driver before returning to the remote makeshift home he shares with Caliban (Stephen Merchant in non-funny mode), who cares for a frail and infirm Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart).

It’s a shock to see Wolverine in such a weakened condition. Bloodshot eyes, greying hair and a body tattooed with the scars of previous battles point to the declining effectiveness of his healing powers and the poisonous effects of the adamantium that is slowly killing him. Jackman, as ever, is on imperious form in his final and most challenging performance, subtly playing the hopeless bitterness of a man who’s forced to confront his violent past and the grim reality of his legacy without losing any of the ferocious intensity that still flickers behind Logan’s bespectacled eyes.

logan-large_trans_nvbqzqnjv4bqlfvfcbccsspopezoczqzesfhfgm2zrzkjwiablfwnnk

As watchable as Jackman is in this state, though, it’s not too long before he’s dragged back into the fray by the arrival of a mysterious woman who seeks his help with Laura (Dafne Keen), a gifted child as feral as she is tiny who might just be the first mutant born in more than quarter of a century. Circumstances, namely Boyd Holbrook’s Reavers, a team of cybernetically enhanced former soldiers, force Logan to make like a Trump-fearing Clinton voter by fleeing towards the Canadian border with Laura and Xavier in tow.

Transforming Logan into a gritty road movie proves to be a masterstroke, forcing Logan, Xavier and Laura to confront each other and allowing for their dysfunctional family dynamic to play out with an intimacy that’s entirely unexpected in a blockbuster of this scale. Xavier, played with a mix of weary confusion and profound profanity by Stewart, acts as Logan’s conscience, still trying to steer him onto the right path after all these years; meanwhile, Laura, the scowling force of nature that is newcomer Keen, gives him a glimpse of the life he has so often deprived himself as he suddenly becomes responsible for preparing an innocent child for a dangerous world. It’s no surprise the film’s meatiest scenes come when these three fine performers are sharing the screen together.

The action is just as stripped-back and brutal as the drama. If reports of Jackman taking a pay-cut to guarantee the film’s R-Rating are true, this is his reward. Gory fight scenes see characters chopped up with ruthless abandon as Wolverine finally has the opportunity to go full berserker. Baddies are beheaded, shredded to bloody pieces by a tornado of splinters, and, in one memorable scene, stabbed through the chin until the tip of Logan’s claw pops out the top of the victims head, all the while racking up a body count that would make Deadpool blanche.

If this really is to be Jackman’s final outing in the claws and mutton chops, Logan is a high note for the mutant fighter to finish on. Delivering all the hardcore Wolverine action fans could desire without skimping on the nuanced character drama, Logan elevates the superhero genre to new heights and guarantees Jackman’s status as one of the great cinema superheroes.

Runtime: 137 mins; Genre: Superhero; Released: 3 March 2017;

Director: James Mangold; Writers: James Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green;

Stars: Hugh Jackman, Dafne Keen, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook

iBoy – Film Review

There were plenty of reasons to be excited by the prospect of iBoy. Netflix’s first original Brit flick, it stars two of our most promising young actors, Bill Milner and Game of Thrones’ Masie Williams, and offers an enticing blend of superhero shenanigans and gritty urban thrills. And while the end result might fall short of the subversive bite of Deadpool or Kick-Ass, iBoy is a pulsating and absorbing thriller about a very different type of superhero.

Not that you would expect such a thing on hearing the film’s rather ordinary sounding premise. Tom (Milner) is a typical teenager who lives on a grim council estate in the heart of London. A social outcast at school, he spends most of his time alone, cramming for exams and quietly pining for the girl he has fancied for as long as he can remember. Of course, that all looks set to change when he is attacked after witnessing the sexual assault of Williams’ Lucy and wakes up in hospital with fragments of his smart phone lodged in his brain.

This being a superhero movie, it’s not long before having bits of computer chip floating around his head starts to have a peculiar affect on Tom. What starts out as a crackle of white noise and an ability to see phone data floating in the air Sherlock-style, swiftly develops into the power to hack into any piece of tech using only his mind. His data roaming charges must be astronomical.

5760

This might not sounds particularly ground-breaking – indeed, iBoy riffs rather heavily in the visual motifs of well-know sci-fi movies like The Matrix and The Dark Knight trilogy – but it’s the way in which these cliched components work together that is really invigorating.

Tom’s story doesn’t unfold as a typical hero’s journey, but rather an exploration of the lengths to which people will go to avenge the ones they love. Tom has next to no interest in saving the world or battling outlandish villains – although Rory Kinnear is excellent as a sneering, over confident gang leader. Instead the young hero is fuelled by an intense need to seek revenge against Lucy’s attackers, channelling his powers into hunting them down and causing them pain. The premise might be ridiculous, but Tom’s motives are a whole lot more believable than dressing up as a bat because your parents were murdered.

IBoy_maisie_williams-585x350.jpg

Director Adam Randall also deserves praise for tackling the aftermath of Lucy’s rape with honesty and sensitivity rather than sweeping it away as a cheap plot device, which has become sadly habitual for many genre offerings. Williams is nothing less than convincing and compelling throughout as Lucy, who comes to accept that she has been the victim of a terrible crime but resolves to fight through the trauma and not let the incident define her.

This is not to brand iBoy as faultless, far from it. The script is often lacking in levity, which is required with such a silly premise, and at times the scope of Tom’s powers strain credulity a step too far – at one point he manages to fend of a gang of heavily armed thugs simply by downloading martial arts videos from YouTube. Nevertheless, iBoy is a slick, suspenseful and inventive take on the genre that provides a glimpse of a very different type of superhero. He might not be one we all like, but he’s certainly one we can believe.

Runtime: 90 mins; Genre: Superhero/Thriller; Released: 27 January 2017;

Director: Adam Randall; Screenwriters: Joe Barton, Kevin Brooks (novel);

Cast: Bill Milner, Masie Williams, Rory Kinnear, Miranda Richardson

Legion – TV Review

At a time when it feels like we’ve reached peak-superhero on screens big and small, it takes something truly special to rise above the critical mass of costumes and crossovers and truly make an impact. Legion, erupting from the mind of Fargo’s Noah Hawley, does exactly that. Taking a lesser known character from the X-Men back catalogue, Hawley has somehow crafted a mind-bending trip that eschews the typical superhero formula in favour of something a little more weird.

Though he’s a minor mutant in Marvel’s vast mythology, Dan Stevens’ David Haller, the potentially super-powered hero at the heart of this story, immediately grabs attention. After a happy childhood dissolves into a fractured morass of mental illness, David is diagnosed with apparent paranoid schizophrenia and locked up in Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital. It’s a frightening facility, populated by pale, twitchy patients who have gone dead behind the eyes thanks to a destabilising cocktail of drugs and lack of sunlight. Fortunately for David, his One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-routine is broken by the arrival of Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller), a new patient with a phobia of touching.

The designs are an off-kilter blend of Wes Anderson’s weirdly retro style and Stanley Kubrick’s perception-altering visuals. Aspect ratios shift, timelines crash and bleed into one another and kitchen utensils erupt out of cupboards with volatile telekinetic force. Even the musical cues are intended to knock your senses off-balance, mixing on point records with Jeff Russo’s brittle and edgy score.

legion-1

And that’s entirely in keeping with a show which aims to disorientate and challenging expectations. Legion doesn’t adhere to the villain-of-the-week structure of Arrow or Supergirl, nor does it hit the all-too familiar story beats of Marvel’s Agents of Shield. Instead, Hawley makes his plot deliberately elliptical and misleading, skipping ahead in time at crucial moments before requiring us to piece together what happened as David’s fractured memories leak into the present.

It’s this doubt which forms the basis of the entire series: is David’s ability to manipulate reality with his mind real or just an extension of his paranoid delusions, as the shady, possibly governmental Division is so keen to convince him. Far from being too confusing or exhausting to follow, the first, feature-length episode is a bracing ride from start to finish. After watching so many predictable sci-fi schlock shows of late, it’s exciting to finally see a series that’s determined to challenge what we think we know and keep us guessing to the very end (and possibly beyond).

legion-2

It might have been a different story were it not for Dan Stevens’ excellent lead performance. It’s a difficult role for the former Downton Abbey star, whose character’s mood shifts along with his grip on reality. Not only does Stevens pull of this tricky mix of anger, confusion and vulnerability, he also injects an added dose of sardonic charm that makes David a likeable hero even when he is at his most dangerous.

Time will tell if Hawley can sustain such mind-bending storytelling and visual trickery for an entire series and the real test will come when he needs to provide a pay-off to the many mysteries he has posed. But this is as strong a start as it’s possible to make. A surreal, stylish and distinctive origin story that’s teeming with confidence and imagination, Legion is unlike any superhero story we’ve seen. At least that’s one thing we know for sure.

The Lego Batman Movie – movie review

Throwing the notion of a quick-witted, self-aware superhero into the mainstream long before a Deadpool movie was even thought possible, Will Arnett’s supremely snarky Batman cameo was one of The Lego Movie’s many unexpected pleasures. That the becowled anti-hero is to be unleashed in his very own spin-off movie is not quite as surprising but no less challenging.

But while The Lego Batman Movie is clearly no match for its predecessor in novelty and emotional bite, it’s still a relentlessly witty, fitfully imaginative adventure that puts Zack Snyder’s recent attempts to revive the Caped Crusader’s more fleshy incarnation to shame.

Batman might be approaching his 78th birthday this year, but that hasn’t prevented director Chris McKay and his team of writers from finding a fresh take on the vigilante’s bruised backstory.

We kick things off with Arnett’s gravely-voiced crime fighter milking all the adulation for once again saving Gotham City from one of The Joker’s (Zach Galifianakis) needlessly convoluted crime sprees. But when he returns to his ‘puterised’ Batcave beneath Wayne Island there are no baying crowds or adoring fans to welcome him – just a microwave lobster for one and a romcom movie marathon to distract him from thoughts of the family he so cruelly lost as a child.

Naturally, Batman’s solitude is challenged by the appointment of Gotham’s new police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) – who makes a politically timely speech about the importance of working together to keep the world safe – and the arrival of his adorably dorky adoptive son Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) who stumbles upon his new padre’s secret lair and sets his heart on becoming his favourite superhero’s new sidekick. Oh yeah, and The Joker is getting ready to launch his most bombastic scheme yet in a desperately needy bid to prove to Batman that he is his one true enemy.

Visually, this movie is as delightfully absurd as its predecessor. The stop-motion-esque style of animation remains uncommonly charming and yet proves to be no barrier to executing spectacular set pieces. An opening gambit is particularly impressive, swiftly introducing a raft of new characters – including a rare moment in the spotlight for some of Batman’s lesser known nemeses – while still delivering cinema worthy tension and entertainment.

It’s also frantically funny, boasting a script packed tighter than Robin’s spandex y-fronts with one-liners, silly sight gags and sharp pop culture references – a knack McKay honed through three seasons working on Robot Chicken. The filmmakers are even bold enough to poke fun at Batman’s own chequered history, with a lot of tongue-in-cheek affection aimed towards Adam West’s unashamedly camp ’60s era.

All these positives are not quite enough to mask the movie’s inability to find another gear, though. The Lego Movie worked, at least in part, because it bounced between genres with the boundless enthusiasm of a toddler at Disney Land. Lego Batman, by contrast, works only as a superhero spoof. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but here it makes the tone of the jokes feel unbearably monotonous. This is especially true for Arnett’s grumpy frat boy shtick: an uproarious take down of a comic book icon when delivered in small doses, the rebellious teen antics feel exhaustive when required for every scene.

Still, to dub The Lego Batman Movie a failure for its flaws would be churlish. It might not reach the extraordinary heights of The Lego Movie, but its ingenious craft work, exuberant performances and the sheer joy its story provides remain as exciting and infectious as ever.