If you are anything like me, “skepticism” best described your thoughts when learning of The Lego Batman Movie. Yes, I love Lego’s. And yes, I love Batman. But “The Caped Crusader” in an animated film depicted by the world’s favorite plastic block construction toys? Sounded like too much of a good thing to me, perversely so in fact. I just did not think that Lego Batman could do the character justice. I did not think it could tell a Batman tale that anyone over 11 years old could get behind. I am glad to say: I was wrong.
The premise for the film is a rather simple one—what if Batman believed himself to be the bad ass that we believe he is? That’s Lego Batman, a narcissistic, frat-boy superhero who always saves the day, and always knows the he will. Lego Batman sacrifices friendship and relations out of his commitment to the superhero craft and out of his fear of losing others in the same way he lost his parents. Lego Batman’s narcissism is so profound, that even the Joker is disillusioned by it. In fact, we find that the Jokers criminal behavior is largely attention seeking. He just wants validation from Lego Batman, and to be accepted as the plastic hero’s arch nemesis.
The Joker and his gang of villains decide to surrender themselves to the Gotham City Police, knowing that nothing will hurt Lego Batman more than feeling irrelevant. Lego Batman, though disheartened but somehow finding himself with a new son-but-not-a-son, Dick Grayson, decides that the Joker is planning something sinister, and convinces himself that the Joker must be locked away someplace stronger than Arkham Asylum.
Lego Batman breaks into Superman’s Fortress of Solitude and steals the Phantom Zone Projector, so that he can trap his mortal enemy (though he still refuses to acknowledge this) in the prison dimension. This is where the film begins to truly break convention.
Inside the Phantom Zone, Joker meets the worst-of-the-worst villains that pop-culture has to offer: Lord Voldemort, Sauron, King Kong, Velociraptors, Agent Smith, Gremlins, The Wicked Witch, and of course… sharks (the only one missing from the mix is “the Biebs”). Together, these forces of evil vow to wipe Gotham from the map. To defeat this hoard of evil, Lego Batman must surrender his loner nature and confront his greatest fear: letting other people into his life.
His crack team—comprised of Batgirl, Robin, and Alfred—must recapture this Axis of Evil’s headquarters, in the seized mansion of Batman’s “roommate” Bruce Wayne to disarm the bomb poised to destroy Lego Gotham City. Batman learns how going rogue cannot solve all of his problems, and he needs to depend on others. So much so, in fact, that Batman enlists the help of Gotham’s many other villain’s.
In the end, Batman and his crew save Gotham City in the way that only Lego Batman can, by linking together Lego figures head to toe—hero and villain alike—a pulling the plastic continents which form the foundation of the City together at the fault lines. In the very end, the day is saved and Lego Batman’s heart grows three sizes. The perennial loner realizes that he can only save Gotham and round-up the remaining villains with the aid of his friends.
The plot of the film is juvenile, but the character of Lego Batman is as consistent as Trump’s war with the media. The story knows exactly what it is, it does not stray. The film manages a consistent tone and voice despite the five writers credited to the screenplay.
The first mistake I made was assuming that the film was made for kids. It is not. Though a family film, the humor was directed at parents (code for: lifelong Batman fans burdened with children). Jokes are fired at a pace which rival the best sitcoms, so even the most casual Batman fans will enjoy the film. The best humor however, is directed at true fans of the superhero. The film finds the comedy in the franchise’s history—from Adam West’s quirkiness, obscure villains like the infamous Condiment King, to the famed use of pop-up sound effects.
While not a typical Batman film by any means, this is one of the better Batman films. Especially when we throw out the animated greats like: “Mask of the Phantasm,” “The Dark Knight Returns,” “The Killing Joke,” and “Batman: Under the Red Hood,” it easily steals the number three spot. With the near perfect “The Dark Knight” and its prequel “Batman Begins” stealing the top positions. A bold statement it may be, but in my opinion the short coming of any Batman films, is a failure by the filmmakers to truly understand the source material and the character of Batman. After all, the failure of Nolan’s “Dark Knight Rises” is his gross underestimation of Batman’s commitment to the trade. Though a comedy, it is evident that the screenwriters of Lego Batman know the source material, something that is always refreshing.
The film is incredibly successful when we consider that the last Batman feature film—”Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”—was such a wreck. What makes “The Lego Batman Movie” a success, is the very thing which makes “Dawn of Justice” such a failure. The biggest sin of the budding DC Extended Universe, is that the filmmakers forgot that superhero movies are supposed to be fun. It’s as simple as that. I do not understand why the executives at Warner Bros. have failed to recognize a simple truth which every cartoon-watching, comic-book-reading kid in America understands innately. The producers of “The Lego Batman Movie” pull a page from the folks working in DC Animation and keep fun at the forefront of their minds, and it works really well.
The next time you are debating what to watch in the theater, give “The Lego Batman Movie” a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed. I know I wasn’t.
What did you think of The Lego Batman Movie?