‘The LEGO Movie’ was a very pleasant surprise. What could have been a by the numbers feature length commercial for a toy turned out to be a hilarious ride that turned its satirical eye to our own society (“Honey, where are my pants?!?!?”). Of course, like every other movie in our age, it was the beginning of a movie franchise. The second movie of the franchise was revealed to be ‘The LEGO Batman Movie.’ LEGO Batman was one of the great characters in ‘The LEGO Movie,’ but would giving him his own spin off work? Yes, it does, but it doesn’t work as well as it’s predecessor. An undeveloped story hinders what could have been ‘The LEGO Movie’s’ equal…but it’s still a very, very funny film.
The story is pretty simple. The Joker wants to prove to Batman that he is the Dark Knight’s greatest enemy, and thus cooks up an overly complicated and silly plot . Batman, on the other hand, has to deal with the fact that he’s a loner. Barbara Gordon becomes the new Gotham City Police Commissioner and wants to get rid of Batman’s vigilante approach to crime. Should Batman work with Barbara, or continue his old, lonesome ways? Add a young orphan, Dick Grayson (otherwise known as Robin), and Batman’s fears of gaining and losing a family for a second time come to the fore.
“Batman will stop you!”
Right from the beginning, LEGO Batman’s commentary on the opening logos (“Warner Bros? Warner Brothers?) will have you snickering to yourself. It opens with an overly-complicated Joker plot to destroy Gotham. The plane hijacking references ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ but the overall joke is on the typical complicated plot of a supervillain. Think of The Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’; how utterly complicated was his plot?!?!? The McGuffin Airline gag only adds to the bigger joke. If comedy’s what you’re after, LEGO Batman delivers it in spades. From Batman’s victory rap after defeating The Joker in the beginning, to Robin’s song during the closing credits, there’s rapid laugh after rapid laugh. Sure, some jokes fall flat, but the ratio of good joke to bad joke is 10:1 (maybe). One of the major problems is that there are too many jokes, some on the screen at the same time. It means that you haven’t stopped laughing from the previous joke when the next joke lights up the screen, so you’ll miss out on some corkers (a quick eye is also needed to monitor the background for Easter Eggs and jokes).
‘Deadpool’ sent up the superhero genre whilst sticking to familiar genre tropes. ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ is DC’s child-friendly version of ‘Deadpool.’ There are obviously no scenes of bloody violence or copious use of swear words. But at its heart, the movie turns the brooding Batman into a self-parody (as well as satirizing superhero movies in general). Ever since Burton’s Batman in 1989 (and disregarding ‘Batman Forever’ and ‘Batman and Robin,’ Batman had been a beacon of seriousness and darkness (and no parents). Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy took Burton’s vision a step further, where Batman’s (and Gotham’s) brooding was turned up to 11. LEGO Batman is the necessary antidote to this hyper-realism. “Oh, I’m humble,” LEGO Batman brags at one point. From his continued statements about his ripped abs, to his insistence that his only emotion is “unending rage,” LEGO Batman is the ultimate parody of Batman.
“The first lesson is: LIFE DOESN’T GIVE YOU SEATBELTS!”
If you’re a Batman fan, you’ll find it hard not to fall in love with this film. It satires almost every Batman trope. His retinue of villains may be little more than cameos (sorry to Billy Dee Williams, who finally gets to voice Two-Face!), but when The Condiment King is one of them, it’s hard to grumble about that. Bane also has the ridiculous, high-faluting voice Tom Hardy gave him in ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’ The relationship between The Joker and Batman is taken to its logical extreme. Alfred even gives us a brief history of Batman films, for goodness sake! For the Batman lover, nerdgasms will be frequent and explosive.
As for the non-Batman fan? ‘The LEGO Movie,’ whilst promoting LEGO’s ethos about building and playing together, has a tight story about a dictatorial President who owned everything. It turned the ‘special one’ trope on its head, and had a great third act twist. ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ has a story that is almost paper-thin. Like ‘The LEGO Movie,’ it is about a loner who realises that coming together as a group/family can change/save the world. There are distinct parallels to between Emmet and LEGO Batman, such as when they first see their respective ‘love at first sight’ (Wyldstyle for Emmet, Barbara for LEGO Batman). There’s even similar scenes when someone’s words echo in each hero’s head. It’s telling that when the film focuses on the story, it slows down…a lot. There’s nothing remotely original about the story. Not even its satire of superhero tropes.
“You can’t be a hero if you only care about yourself”
LEGO Batman’s central theme of coming to realise that he needs a family, even though he fears a repeat of his parents’ fate, connects with the audience. But at the same time, it feels like the movie is having its cake and eating it. Isn’t that a trope that should be mocked? Or do the LEGO overlords deem coming together and building things are more important than satire? Shouldn’t that be the theme of ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’? That Batman is better alone? Isn’t that a satire worth looking at?
However, the comedy is often enough for the non-Batman fan. There are enough cameos of other LEGO properties to appease most members of the audience. There’s laugh after laugh after laugh. As a deconstruction of the Batman mythos, I think ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ will never be surpassed. Almost every Batman trope is satirized here. For the Batman lover, it’s hard to think of something that will feed their nerd hearts with more laughter and love. Unfortunately, the number of screenwriters (5!) credited does not mean there’s a great story behind the comedy. Too many cooks have spoiled the broth, and the story is hardly worth mentioning. It has none of its predecessors spark or vitality in plot terms. But then again, if you laugh so much you snort water out of your nose, does story matter? A tough question…
VERDICT: 7/10. ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’s’ plot is neither here nor there, but when the laughs come thick and fast, and hit home more often than not, does story really matter? Not only that, but it’s refreshing to see Batman deconstructing in a delightfully satirical way.
What did you think of ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’? Leave your thoughts/comments below!