Last Tuesday, after weeks and weeks of waiting, I went to see The Lego Batman Movie. And I went by myself. I had tried and tried again to get together a group of friends to go and see it with me and it never worked out.
It’s interesting that I ended up taking myself to see this movie in particular, because one of the major themes it deals with is loneliness and the importance of family. It’s not like I don’t believe in that. It’s just that, like Bruce Wayne/Batman, sometimes I don’t have any choice about whether or not I have people with me when I go do things. But that’s okay. It’s not for a lack of trying.
The Lego Batman movie is, well, my first real Batman movie. I haven’t seen the Dark Knight trilogy (shame on me), and I’ve seen bits and pieces of the Tim Burton movies (I actually kind of liked Batman Forever). But I liked Lego Batman in The Lego Movie. So I can only critique Lego Batman’s solo film based on what I saw in The Lego Movie and what I know from Batman in pop culture and fandom. The Lego Batman Movie, of course, plays fast and loose with Batman’s comic book and movie history, and it even pushes the limits of the combined DC and Lego universes--at least the fairly large corner owned by Warner Bros. And Lego Batman is still the same loveable jerk--but with an extremely weighty internal conflict.
The opening of the film starts out with a classic high-stakes Batman versus Joker showdown, poking fun all the while with the predictability of the superhero genre. It ends with Batman and Joker both having to up their game. To a point, the Joker’s new strategy is kind of predictable, and Batman is so caught up in his own ego that he takes the bait without even thinking. It’s after the Joker’s plot has played out, and Batman fails to take out the Joker on his own the way he insisted, is when the movie goes from “meh” to “spectacular”.
The Lego Batman Movie is a lot more serious than The Lego Movie--in fact, it’s more of a Batman movie than a Lego movie. Between his accidental adoption of Dick Grayson/Robin and Barbara Gordon demanding that Batman work with her to try and stop the Joker, Batman is under pressure from people forcing their way into his life when he only wants to keep everybody out. Even refusing to acknowledge the Joker as his primary nemesis is a driving issue in the plot. There are still small homages to The Lego Movie, like Batman training Robin to be a MasterBuilder and a flashback to Emmet falling into the Void.
And of course it wouldn’t be a Lego movie without Warner Bros. integrating its other properties (except where did they get the permissions for Voldemort and Sauron?). The DC universe itself is well-represented, with a host of colorful and obsucre villains helping out the Joker in addition to the more well-known characters. The award for best supporting villain goes to Harley Quinn, who was apparently the only one that Joker had in on his plan the whole time. Lego Superman also plays a minor role as Lego Batman’s foil, and we catch him throwing a party for the Justice League at the Fortress of Solitude...that Batman was apparently not invited to (although, how did they not make a fuss about Batman stealing the Phantom Zone ray gun thingy? And why didn’t they come and help when Gotham was under attack? Bunch of snobs.)
I had high expectations for Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, but she ended up being more of a party pooper and didn’t really do much besides play Batman’s conscience. That’s not saying, however, I don’t want to cosplay her casual outfits. Dick Grayson/Robin was cute, of course. But the best supporting character was Alfred. He was both a rock of good sense and comic relief. I about lost it when he (spoiler alert) almost died.
So I’m glad that I’m into online fandom and watching Supergirl as much as I am, since that’s helped me to not go into this movie totally ignorant of the DC references. But even without having anything to do with DC, I found The Lego Batman Movie thought-provoking, heartwarming and entertaining. It’s a great movie if you like superheroes and a little bit of parody on the side. I feel like watching the trailers kind of spoiled most of the film’s best humor, but there are some moments that weren’t advertised that are definitely worth watching. The brick animation, of course, is spectacular, but the film is so heavy-handed at times that you forget which universe this is happening in. Overall, The Lego Batman Movie doesn’t quite fit in with its predecessor or live up to it. But it is a fun ride.
(Also, if Lego Batman has the one-up on anything from The Lego Movie, it's the music mix)