The LEGO Batman Movie
The LEGO Batman Movie 2017
It’s finally time for my first theatrical movie of the year and it really starts out with a bang. I’m already reminded of last year’s Return of the Caped Crusaders that brought a lot of Batman nostalgia mixed with a hearty dose of comedy and satire. The only difference is that this one is just a bit more family friendly and has a fewer references to the 60’s series. There are still plenty of 60’s references, but they are fewer. It also tries to tell a heartfelt story deep down within all the jokes, dozens of obscure Batman villains, and several other non-Batman villains. This really felt like a film that was aimed almost directly at me, someone who has a sizable knowledge of the history of Batman but also thinks that Batman does not need to take himself quite so seriously. And in that regard, I absolutely loved this movie and everything it stood for. It might not quite live up to last year’s LEGO Movie, but it’s a hell of a fun ride anyway.
As a character, what LEGO Batman does more than the typical Batman is that he becomes a caricature of a caricature, but somehow just the right aspects of his personality are ballooned to such great extremes that it flows perfectly. LEGO Batman is the epitome of arrogance, confidence, and alone-ness. And even though he doesn’t show up until about a third of the way through the movie, this version of Robin is the perfect complement to this Batman. Robin is very much the Emmet type character in this LEGO movie, he’s eternally optimistic, trusting, and not entirely bright. Though he is much smarter than Emmet by comparison. Barbara Gordon is also a bright spot in this film that balances out the two extremes by being a pillar of practicality and teamwork. She is the most capable without needing to take any of the credit. Going back to the original LEGO movie, she also fits the Wyldstyle role. She even catches the eye of LEGO Batman. To a lesser extent, Alfred also fills the wise mentor role similar to Vetruvius but that’s starting to stretch the metaphors, similar to how the Joker is almost entirely the opposite of Lord Business where the Joker is about chaos while Lord Business was about order.
But getting back to this actual movie, it actually also shares a few minor beats with last year’s animated Bad Blood. Both movies are partly about Batman actually accepting teammates, and more specifically a family. Not only that, but in a more comical way the Joker also wants acceptance as Batman’s greatest enemy rather than just one of his many enemies. And while it is played up for laughs, the Joker’s plan is actually on par with a Joker plan in any other Batman story. He’s able to get Batman to play right into his hands and even gets him tossed into prison at one point. It falls right in line with any other Joker plan except for the fact that you’re supposed to be laughing all the way through this one along with all the references laced throughout.
What is amazing about this film are the wall to wall references and callbacks. From the Dark Knight to Keaton, even all the way back to the goofy looking costume used in the original black and white serial version of Batman there are tons of Batman nods. We get to see at least a dozen different costumes, and it wouldn’t be surprising at all if every one of them were legitimate costumes used at one point or another in the comics. And once we get into the phantom zone there’s dozens of other movie references, though it was disappointing that the movie even specifically mentioned that Zod was just recently imprisoned in the Phantom Zone and yet there was not a single Superman villain used in this movie during the climax. Unless they were far off in the background, even Zod didn’t get a chance to wreak some havoc, and he wouldn’t have been any more powerful than Voldemort in this situation. Not only that, but we get a great scene with the Justice League including several members of the Superfriends, and yet they don’t come and help with the rescue in Gotham City. And getting back to the original LEGO movie, there are also hints that this is a similar situation as the LEGO movie where it takes place within the imagination of a child via the theoretical and mysterious vortex underneath the plates that make up the base of Gotham City, but it’s merely kept to just hints.
All in all, what makes this work the most is how much air it takes out of Batman and his entire mythos. Some of the best moments are early on when the film takes the time to focus on the mundane elements of Bruce Wayne’s life like finding the right HDMI input so he can watch Jerry McGuire, or accidentally pressing 20:00 instead of 2:00 when heating up his lobster thermidor and there’s literally a ten second shot where we just see Batman staring at the microwave lit only by the light and the rotating shadow from the microwave’s carousel. It’s absolutely the right time for this kind of movie, just like it was for last year’s Return of the Caped Crusaders. There is a place for both the dark and dour DCEU and this lighthearted LEGO Batman, but for now I much prefer this version of Batman. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.