THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE Is What We Need, But Not What We Deserve
If only this was great

legobatman

It’s hard to realize this now, but when The Lego Movie came out it was something of a surprise. Why was it so… good? Phil Lord and Chris Miller take a movie based off children’s building blocks and turn it into a hilarious subversion of the hero’s journey and an ode to creativity.

The Lego Batman Movie tries to follow the same formula, but without Lord and Miller’s guiding hands. Instead of subverting the hero’s journey and explaining the joy of creativity, The Lego Batman Movie wants to subvert the harder takes on Batman and homage his entire history.

Batman is the hero we know and love. He fights crime in the eternally corrupt Gotham City, but when he goes home his obsession is the only thing he has. There is no family, there is no friendship. There is just the mission, and, well, his penchant for getting really dark and being self-serious. His obsession with rooting out the crime that decimated his own family has turned toxic. He’s so against that happening to anyone that he refuses to let anyone close to him. This goes for villains too, which is why The Joker embarks on a quest to make Batman realize that they’re yin and yang.¬†Soon, he accidentally adopts Robin and has to learn to be a part of a family.

The Lego Batman Movie is at its best when it’s poking fun at the seriousness of modern Batman. It pulls no punches about how lonely Batman is, and how his obsession with Gotham’s crime problem has impaired him in several ways. He’s always so grumpy and self-serious that he has time for nothing else. He has to heat up his dinner by himself and eat alone, in his Batcave.

More than anything, The Lego Batman Movie understands why Batman works. It understands why he does what he does, but he also understands that he needs to find a way to move past his loneliness and needs to set up some kind of support network. These are things you see in the comics, but we haven’t truly scene in any of the movies (yet). It also understands that Batman and Joker’s relationship is like a weirdo romantic relationship. These are two people who can’t truly take each other out, because they know that without each other their greatest challenge is evaporated.

Most importantly, however, Lego Batman understands that Batman doesn’t have to be dark. His dark childhood isn’t what defines his tone or his approach. Instead, what fuels him is an effort to make sure that no one has to go through what he did. It’s not about sulking in the corner and denying himself happiness and love, it’s about making sure that innocent people are forever protected, and doing what ever he can to ensure that.

The film does all of that really well, and along the way it makes sure to throw in a joke (practically) every minute to make it as full of joy as possible. Some of these jokes, like anything making fun of Batman and the Batman movies, work like gangbusters. There are other jokes, however, that feel like they’re trying a little too hard. They’re a little lowest common denominator, clear attempts to entertain kids. But, for the most part, everything hums along pretty well.

Lego Batman¬†soars when Batman is putting together his Batfamily. It’s an absolute joy to see and hear Will Arnett’s Batman deal with the pure glee and innocence of Michael Cera’s Robin. Yes, Lego Batman understands that their relationship is super weird, and that it only works if it’s a father-son thing rather than a co-worker thing. Batman is a father figure and mentor to Robin, and Batman’s unease at being that father figure is hilarious. It goes further than that though, it understands that Alfred is Batman’s surrogate father, and that Barbara Gordon is his best attempt at uncorrupting the police force. Commissioner Jim Gordon is there, but the movie calls out that he mostly just activates the bat signal for The Dark Knight.

Lego Batman slips up when it comes to Joker. There’s nothing wrong with the performance, but he feels like an afterthought. His threat on Lego Gotham just isn’t interesting, and you’re only left with the emotional stakes of Batman and his family. That stuff is good enough to make the movie good, but it doesn’t elevate it to the level of greatness that the first Lego Movie sits at.

The Lego Batman Movie is the Batman we need right now. It acknowledges the characters long history, it understands what makes the character and his world so interesting and it isn’t afraid of pointing out how Warner Bros and filmmakers have taken it too far recently. Unfortunately, a couple things keep it from being the great new Batman movie we deserve.

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