There’s a lot of chatter this week about The LEGO Batman Movie, and with good reason: it’s the follow-up to Last Year’s very successful The LEGO Movie, and the first look at how a seemingly random idea for a film (LEGOs?) might turn into that elusive and lucrative beast: the Franchise. What is the great debate surrounding this animated flick? Whether or not it is a good Batman movie. But I am here to tell you– this is not a Batman movie. Not even close. This is a LEGO Batman movie. Let me explain.
One of the most standout, fan favorite characters from The LEGO Movie was far and away LEGO Batman. He was funny, arrogant, and had just enough reference to actual Batman (which for the purposes of this post is how we’ll refer to normal canon Batman). LEGO Batman (an important distinction in this case) was funny. He was absurd. He was a Master Builder and ultimately one of the team of heroes who saved the day. Or, at least, did in the imagination of a kid whose father was a little too by-the-instruction-book.
Naturally the filmmakers (and DC Entertainment, in bad need of a solid win with fans) jumped at the chance to take LEGO Batman and run. After all, Will Arnet is fantastic at delivering the lines and the whole premise of Batman existing in a LEGO world is funny and interesting. How does he fight crime when he is, y’know, made out of plastic? Turns out “adorably cute plastic bombs” (or whatever they were called in the opening sequence) explode in LEGO world. Of course.
And how about that opening sequence? It was tight, it was well-written, and I actually leaned back in my seat and looked over at my move-watching-companion with a this is going to be good grin.
And it was good! It was funny, it was full of Batman easter eggs, and it even had really deep moments when I forgot I was watching a LEGO movie and found myself actually concerned about the fate of these characters… who, I must repeat, are MADE OUT OF LEGO.
But this brings me to my point: this is not a Batman movie. This is a LEGO Batman movie. What do I mean by that? Simply that the character of LEGO Batman is not the same character as normal canon Batman. This is a different character entirely with a lot of similarity. Think of him like an alternate universe Batman.
LEGO Batman is arrogant and rude. He says hurtful things to everyone around him. He doesn’t engage in any kind of detective work (though this could be said of most of the film iterations of the Dark Knight, but that’s a whole other blog post that I probably don’t have the time to get into). He isn’t just hesitant to make connections because of a troubled past, he is downright mean. And of course there is redemption because this IS a kids’ move, but come on.
LEGO Batman isn’t the noble loner, setting out to right the wrongs for the sake of his parents and his own sanity; LEGO Batman is a selfish jerk who learns to be not a selfish jerk because Family. (Sorry. Spoilers I guess. But did you really think this one wouldn’t have a happy ending?) He’s also the product, if you will remember, of a kid about eight years old who imagines how Batman must be. Hence the jokes that are so kid-like, such as Barbara Gordon graduating from “Harvard for Police.”
And, in the context of this movie, it works. I found it thoroughly enjoyable and I particularly loved all of the other geeky references (though I wish they’d used the baddies a little more than they did– Catwoman, among others, got a raw shake), and (especially for a kids’ movie) it was entertaining without stooping to potty humor. I appreciate that kind of smarter writing in a cartoon (I’m looking at you, Minions).
Should you go see The LEGO Batman Movie? Heck yeah. As I said, the characters are so well done and the animation (even though it is all LEGO style) is very, very good. Is it a Batman movie? Not really. So go in with reasonable expectations and I think you’ll get as much of a kick out of it as I did.
PS: When the Joker says “It’s British robots, ask your nerd friends,” if you need just such a nerd friend, I’ve got you covered. Just tweet me @joannavolavka and I’ll be happy to point in the right direction.