The Batman lore is expansive beyond comprehension. Comics, films, television shows and official merchandising are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Caped Crusader’s multifarious appearances.
The YouTube channel, “How it Should Have Ended,” created the Batman the internet needed. The Make-a-Wish Foundation’s activities in the documentary Batkid Begins utilized classic iconography to make a young boy a hero for a day.
In 2014, The LEGO Movie took the crossover possibilities of a world limited only by the ability of things to look like plastic bricks and made Batman a delightfully dark comic relief in an already hilarious movie.
The LEGO Movie successfully provided laughs at nearly every moment, then pulled a surprise move of having depth, cementing the film as more than just something to take the kids to watch. As a spin-off, The LEGO Batman Movie had a number of difficult hurdles to pass.
Losing the unexpected nature of its predecessor’s humor and heart, The LEGO Batman Movie had to fly on its own merits. Will Arnett’s rapping and commitment-phobic Batman would have to have the depth of a protagonist. Chief of all concerns would be the ability to balance the LEGO and the Batman in the title, making a film which would appreciate and be keenly aware of both elements. This works out and the spin-off clears all of these challenges.
The LEGO Batman Movie is steeped in lore. It is very conscious of its existence within the extensive world of Batman stories. There are references to the 1960s series ofBatman which stars Adam West.The villain, Bane, looks like he does in the comics, but sounds like Tom Hardy’s much imitated performance from The Dark Knight Rises.
Locations, characters and song lyrics all come out of a long tradition about a man avenging the death of his parents. His parents are never shown dying, the scene having been worn-out long before Zach Snyder had his chance to make a stylized slow-motion version of the infamous murder.
When Batman’s butler Alfred catches him staring wistfully at a picture from the night of the fateful act of violence, the latter reminds him of his “phases in 2016 and 2012 and 2008 and 2005 and 1997 and 1995 and 1992 and 1989 and that weird one in 1966.” All of these years reference major Batman movies and are accompanied by imagery of such.
The laughs start coming from the very first moment of the film. Will Arnett’s gravelly voice comes in over a dark screen, narrating everything down to the studio logos and the “[e]dgy, scary music that would make a parent or studio executive nervous.” Batman fights an enormous crowd of villains, all the while singing music which derives mainly from the Batman theme song.
After beating up the bad guys and being carried out with a hero’s procession by a hefty crowd of admirers, he flies back to the Batcave, where the rush of excitement and noise suddenly disappears.
Batman is lonely. He lives in an isolated mansion with only his butler Alfred for company. He microwaves a plate of lobster and stands in his dark kitchen waiting, while the light slides over him from behind the glass door. This is one of the first examples of LEGO Batman’s ability to use scale in comedy.
There are huge moments where the screen is bursting with characters and movement, the jokes coming in loud. Then there are the times of quiet, where even the small touches like accidentally punching in an extra zero on the microwave is a source of a groan from the protagonist and a laugh from the audience.
At a charity event, Batman, now posing as Bruce Wayne, accidentally adopts an orphan. The young boy is voiced by Michael Cera with boyish charm. While the boy tries to make his way into Wayne’s, and later Batman’s life, Alfred tries to encourage the dark vigilante to start taking care of his adopted son.
This, coupled with a humorous exchange between Batman and the Joker all come down to one idea—Batman does not commit himself to any one. He has no sidekick or arch-villain.
Upon finding out that he is not Batman’s main villain, the Joker decides to recruit villains from all across the LEGO multiverse. The expansive LEGO repertoire is brought out through the appearances of foes as varied as Godzilla, Daleks, Sauron and Voldemort. The narrative is well-focused, revolving around the main flaw Batman’s character exhibited in The LEGO Movie and really building on it. The Dark Knight is a lone crusader.
At one point in the movie, Batman visits Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, only to discover a Justice League party going on without him. He is asked to take the group picture. As Wayne, he is expected to be living the high life, happy and rich, yet he is constantly alone even in a large crowd.
Though the theme is not quite as unexpected as the one which came out of The LEGO Movie’s “Man Upstairs” twist, it is powerful and repeatedly argued through the film, bringing a necessary depth.
In The LEGO Batman Movie, the LEGO does not take away from the Batman and vice versa. Humor abounds and it is peppered with a strong character-centered storyline. The voice acting is superb and the action excites like any other Batman movie.
Within the expansive Batman universe, The LEGO Batman Movie stands out impressively.