It hasn’t been the easiest year for Batman fans. It hasn’t even been the easiest week with news that Ben Affleck will not direct The Batman after all. What the superhero world needs right now is a really good Batman movie. Thankfully, The LEGO Batman Movie has come to the rescue.
The LEGO Batman Movie simultaneously serves as an effective expansion of The LEGO Movie franchise and an excellent homage to many of the obvious and obscure elements that make Batman’s mythos so great. It goes even further, though, with a much needed commentary on how Batman is so much more than the box he’s been spent most of his time in since the 1980s and even includes some very real, surprisingly timely life lessons.
It’s impossible to include every character from the Bat-world in a single film, but LEGO Batman tries and gets closer than fans have ever imagined. Even a ridiculous, but hilarious villain from a single episode of Batman: The Animated Series (and a few subsequent comics) makes the cut.
The humor in LEGO Batman surpasses the promises made in its many trailers and television spots. Will Arnett’s Batman draws laughs before the film even emerges from its first frame. The laughs stop only often enough to allow for breathing thanks to side-splitting vocal performances from Arnett, Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon, Micael Cera as Robin, and Zach Galifinakis as The Joker. Doug Benson’s Bane also steals a couple scenes.
All the jokes, favorite Bat-characters, and Easter eggs make for a fun experience that any fan or casual moviegoer can enjoy, but LEGO Batman does not settle for being a good yet disposable time. Catch your breath and pay enough attention between all the funny bits and you will find a clever play on what fans and audiences have been expecting from Batman and how he can be so much more.
Between Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Tim Burton’s Batman movies, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, and Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the predominant perception of Batman in pop culture for the last three decades has been the isolated loner. Bruce Wayne copes with the tragedy of losing his parents not only by beating up criminals, but also by pushing people away.
LEGO Batman does not try to argue that “solo Batman” is an incorrect way of depicting the character, but only showing Batman in that way is every bit as incomplete as Bruce’s life without a family. Comic book fans know this, but audiences who’ve only been exposed to the movies (less the Schumacher era) have been left relatively uneducated regarding this point.
This new film, as silly as it is, offers a completely valid interpretation of Batman that soundly demonstrates the value of the larger Bat-family. It’s not just that fans want to see those characters. Batman needs them in order to be the best hero he can be. Without them, his self-isolation makes him the intolerable jerk we met in The LEGO Movie and directly leads him to making costly mistakes.
LEGO Batman is the perfect palate cleanser to set up the more hopeful, team-oriented version of the character we expect to see in the DC Extended Universe, beginning with Justice League. Again, there’s no assertion by the film (or this review) that any previous cinematic interpretation of Batman has been wrong. It’s just that all of the films we still claim have mostly shown the same side of our dear Dark Knight, even if it’s been from slightly different angles.
There are entirely different sides to the character and his mythology to which most audiences have not been introduced. The LEGO Batman Movie peels back the curtain and shines a light on those sides to offer moviegoers a much more comprehensive view of the Bat-world. And it gives them lots of laughs along the way.
The LEGO Batman Movie is in theaters February 10.