When two massive, globally-successful franchises fuse together to produce a family film, it really shouldn’t work. By all expectations, the result should be mediocre, weakly-plotted, trite and painfully unfunny. The Lego Batman Movie proves otherwise. I’m not sure whether to be glad or horrified. Here are five reasons why you should take a break from grim reality to visit the most crime-ridden city in fiction.
It’s Just Good Fun
This might sound rather basically obvious, but there are some really fantastic films and TV shows out at the moment (which you should absolutely watch)…but most of them are HEAVY. Sometimes a little bit of colourful, silly, childlike escapism is exactly what you need as an antidote to the constant stream of troubling news and important issues that fill your brain every waking minute. Where else can you encounter daleks, the Eye of Sauron, Voldemort, the Wicked Witch of the West and Godzilla in one place?! This film basically springs straight from the playtime of your childhood. When I went to see this at the cinema it was an evening showing with a few children, but a majority adult audience, and I’m not exaggerating when I say everyone laughed aloud throughout. From the moment Batman starts narrating the opening titles and referencing Michael Jackson, you know The Lego Batman Movie isn’t here to win worthy Oscars, and honestly at this time of year, that’s a relief in itself.
It’s Super Self Aware
This is becoming more and more common in visual media, and in some ways, it’s starting to get tiresome. Every script this side of Community and Deadpool wants to wink at the audience and deadpan ‘Meta eh, fourth wall’ like a teen that’s just discovered post-modernism and thinks they’re a hardcore alternative intellectual. Whilst usually used as a cheap trick to show how ‘clever’ the writer is, this self-referentiality is refreshingly well-suited to Lego Batman, as the character does have a long, ridiculous, potted history. Batman has been, in recent years, a character treated with such po-faced, gritty seriousness that he’s lost a lot of credibility. It’s a lot braver, and far more interesting, that the movie pokes fun at this. I particularly like the call out to Bruce Wayne’s various ‘breakdowns’ (coinciding with the years that his various real world movies were released).
It’s Exceptionally Well-Made
Much like The Lego Movie that came before it, this film is visually stunning. Compared to much mainstream cinema animated fare these days, it has a charmingly distinct style, and I love how much detail there is in every scene. As a lover of stop motion, this 3D computer animated approach that mimics that style is highly effective. It’s also WONDERFUL to see a DC property that realises there’s more colours in the spectrum than black, navy and very very dark grey; the film bursts from the screen with a lush array of reds, yellows, greens, purples and other colours very much missed from the superhero film palate. The characters’ designs are gorgeous, with my only wish being that we saw more of Barbara in her Batgirl costume, and more of Poison Ivy full stop. The cast are also terrific, with everyone both recognisably suiting their established characters, but bringing their own interpretation to the table. I sincerely hope there’s a sequel just so we can see more of the side characters and villains.
It Has A Charming And Resonant Story Arc
Most Batman stories are about him defeating a villain, brooding in the Bat Cave, the villain temporarily succeeding, intense training montage, Batman defeating the villain (with punches and money) and heading back home in time for more scheduled brooding, probably with a side plot involving an obscure villain no one really cares about who Batman also defeats accidentally whilst flexing. It’s a formula that gets old pretty quick (hence why Batman Returns is the best Batman film, as Batman is only in it incidentally. It should really be titled Dominatrix Catwoman Defeats The Patriarchy, Also Danny Devito Is In This. Watch it.), and it makes Bruce Wayne a stagnant character who never benefits from any character development. Not so in The Lego Batman Movie. Here Batman (Will Arnett) is still a spoilt, self-absorbed man-child with great abs, but we see straight away the hollowness of his life and his dissatisfaction and loneliness. This is a man who even pushes away his greatest enemy the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) for fear of commitment and emotional closeness. His journey is about accepting and recognising when he needs help from no-nonsense police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), from his surrogate father Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) to bridging the emotional trauma left by the murder of his parents, enabling him to become part of a family again. It’s an unexpectedly complex and well-crafted character arc, equipping Batman with the emotional openness to be a father to adopted orphan Robin (Michael Cera). Speaking of which…
This May Be The Best Depiction Of Robin Ever
Robin is a difficult character, okay. Is he an orphan blossoming under Batman’s wing, a younger stand-in for Bruce Wayne? Is he a jokey camp character to make Batman more appealing to kids? Maybe he’s just there to tag team in fights with multiple villains. Is there a homoerotic subtext? Which Robin are we talking about anyway? HOW OLD IS HE SUPPOSED TO BE DAMMIT?! With a character that’s generally considered rather expendable to the Batman franchise, The Lego Batman Movie made an interesting choice by making Dick Grayson’s beginnings as Robin central to the narrative. And boy (wonder), does it pay off. Michael Cera is basically the ideal casting as Robin, and the (literal) wide-eyed innocence of the design and direction of the character strikes the perfect balance between endearing and irritating. This iteration of Robin is younger and more naive than many depictions, and the positioning of Batman as an emotionally-distant adoptive father makes their relationship touchingly vulnerable, with Robin seeking to impress and Bruce learning to express. Also the Lego figure of Robin is legit adorable with his massive glasses.
Words by Heidi Teague