The Lego Batman Movie provides further proof that — at least when it comes to the Caped Crusader — there really isn’t much separating the men from the boys.
A New Hope
There is hope for the DC movie universe and it comes in the form of Lego. Thanks to the same rapid-fire sense of humor that made The Lego Movie an awesome success, this one cuts against all of the heavy pretensions that weigh down pretty much everything Zack Snyder touches in the world of superheroes.
The Lego Batman Movie starts — as all important movies do — by quoting a profound source. In this case, it’s not Nietzsche or Sun Tzu, it’s Michael Jackson’s song Man in the Mirror.
It’s the same kind of media-savvy humor that went into The Lego Movie, with a large dose of appreciation for all of Batman’s incarnations through the decades. This time around, though, no actual human beings are put on camera (aside from some footage from Jerry Maguire, just for laughs). It’s all goofy mash-up storytelling like any imaginative 10-year-old would concoct, with crossovers from the Justice League and Super Friends universes, along with very special cameos by characters from other Warner Bros. (and Lego Dimensions) properties such as The Lord of the Rings, King Kong, Gremlins, Harry Potter, The Matrix and even Doctor Who.
It Takes a Village
At its core, The Lego Batman Movie is a relationship movie. Yeah. The guy who lives a solitary existence in Wayne Manor (here located on Wayne Island) and who cracks up at the “you complete me” line in Jerry Maguire (viewed solo in his posh private theatre) learns the value of friendship. That’s thanks to the mighty, mighty efforts of Dick Grayson (Michael Cera, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), Alfred Pennyworth (Ralph Fiennes, the Harry Potter series) and Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson, Daredevil on Netflix).
When it comes to Barbara, Batman seems to maybe — gasp — get a little flustered around her. She kinda does it for him — after all, she’s got guns, and they’re not the bullet-spittin’ kind.
Actually, thanks also go to the Joker (Zach Galifianakis, Birdman). He starts the snowball effect, bursting into tears when Batman (Will Arnett, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) fails to recognize how they need each other. Batman’s take is naturally cavalier. He fights around.
Family is important — it’s hammered home perhaps a bit much for adults, making the movie feel a little long — but it’s still a tolerable and positive theme, regardless of the generation. And Batman starts to learn it takes more than a Batman to save Gotham. It takes a village.
There’s plenty of self-effacing humor to go around. The effectiveness of Batman’s lifestyle and crusade for justice are called into question. After all, how good is he — really — when he keeps fighting the same villains decade after decade? Where’s the progress?
But perhaps the harshest reality check comes by way of the Justice League. Batman hatches a plot to send the Joker and a whole slew of baddies to the Forbidden Zone (where Superman sent General Zod back in the day). Doing so requires a gizmo housed at Supe’s Fortress of Solitude and, well, Batman’s timing is off. He crashes a Super Friends / Justice League party that he wasn’t invited to because, quite frankly, Bats isn’t that much fun to be around.
It’s hard to criticize a movie that has so much fun playing with its characters and the silliness of many of the super hero tropes, but there is one bone to pick. At one point, Batman knocks the stupidity of the Suicide Squad. Good for him. But then he turns around and enlists a D-list version of the squad instead of attempting to rebuild bridges with the Justice League and Super Friends.
Then again, how dorky is it to even think about that in the giddy, playful environment that is Lego? After all, any movie that embraces and celebrates the power of the imagination — whether in the minds of the screenplay’s crew of adult writers or the children (young and old) they seek to inspire — is pretty awesome.