Back in 2014, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller directed The Lego Movie. While the movie’s main character was an original creation named Emmet, Batman was featured heavily. Voiced by Will Arnet, this take on Batman was incredibly goofy, while still being incredibly serious.
It was this absurd seriousness that many, including myself, greatly enjoyed about the character. The grim seriousness you would find in a Frank Miller comic, only in a PG movie. He was the gosh darn Batman. But could that version of Batman carry his own movie? Could a new director and writers capture the same magic that was found in The Lego Movie? I say yes. Here we have a movie doing two distinct things, and doing them well.
First, in no particular order, we have a parody and celebration of the history of Batman. The movie opens with a gigantic action sequence, in which the Joker has gathered most of Batman’s villains. And by most, I really do mean most. Sure, there were all of the well known ones represented, but they dug deep into Batman’s Rogues Gallery to fill out the roster. Name a Batman villain, and they are likely in this movie.
The number of villains in this movie is so ridiculous that if this were a live action movie, we’d be complaining about how they had too many villains, and most of them were just wasted, without really doing anything. But this is not a live action movie. It is a silly, animated movie. So, you can get away with overloading on characters. Also, part of me wonders if this was some commentary on having too many villains in comic book movies. If you are going to mock something, or turn it into a joke, you go overboard with it. If you think having 4 villains in a movie is too many, well fine, we’re going to have 30 villains.
Nearly every movie and television appearance by Batman was referenced at some point. They went through each of the movies, from Batman v Superman to the Adam West Batman, and maybe even the old Batman serials, to talk about previous phases that Batman has gone through. Nods to the animated series were also scattered about. These references worked. They were implemented in a way that they did not slow down the pace of the movie. The movie did not slow down so that you could catch each clever reference. Instead, it sped forward, and if you missed some shout out, then too bad. The references were nice winks to the older audience members, while not taking up so much time that younger viewers do not become bored by things they understand.
I also believe with the parody aspect was an acknowledgment that many feel like there was too much death in prior DC movies. I may be reaching here, but there is a moment where a cat gets buried in lava. It pops out of the lava and says that it is fine. It is such a silly thing to include that I cannot believe they did it for no particular reason. But again, it is something that if it passes you by, it is no big deal. The movie continues.
Secondly, this is a pretty good Batman story. Beneath all of the silliness is a good story about what Batman is really afraid of. Batman is so focused on fighting crime, he does not have anything else in his life. It is a life devoid of any type of relationship. This is not because Batman wants to stay out of any relationships, but rather, he is afraid that if he does allow himself to form a bond with someone, they will be taken away from him. Just like his parents were. We know Batman is an orphan because they tell us he is. We are spared from seeing Batman’s parents be murdered, again.
All in all, I really enjoyed this movie. It was able to find a balance between funny and serious that really worked for the movie. Not saying that I want all of my superhero movies to be structured like this, but it worked here. Lego has established a tone across all of their properties, first in video games and now movies, that finds the fun aspect of everything, and a humor that all ages may enjoy. If you are a Batman fan or someone that liked The Lego Movie, I greatly encourage you to see this movie.