The Lego Batman Movie Review: Holy Repetition Batman
I enjoyed the Lego Movie a lot. I found the film to be incredibly unique while also being highly entertaining. After The Lego Movie had hit big with audiences and at the Box Office, I knew that Warner Brothers would not only greenlight the sequel but develop several spin-off films as well. The Lego Batman Movie is the first of what is certain to be many more Lego films to come. The film focuses on Batman (Will Arnett) and his struggle to accept that his biggest fear is loneliness. To stop the Joker, Batman is forced to work with the newly appointed Commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), his newly adopted son Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), and Alfred to help save Gotham.
The Lego Batman Movie opens with a hilarious voiceover of Batman explaining how great movies open while reading and describing the company logos shown before the opening credits begin to roll. It is a great opening and will more than likely become one of the most referenced moments from the film. As the film begins, we see Batman is doing his Bat thang. He is stopping villains and saving the people of Gotham as usual. The Lego Batman Movie spends a good portion of its time referencing previous Batman adventures including the original Adam West series from 1966. These references or homages serve as some of the film’s best moments. I love how self-aware the film is with knowing that it is part of a well-established franchise. There are a plethora of jokes that reference everything from Batman fighting Superman in Batman V. Superman to the Justice League having a party without Batman. These moments are brilliantly placed throughout the film.
While there is a broad range of well-known Batman jokes, there are also several inside jokes that will only resonate with die-hard fans of the Caped Crusader. Being a big fan of Batman since I was a child, I appreciated the joke that introduced various Batman villains while adding in some random characters that have nothing to do with Batman whatsoever. It’s nice to finally watch a Batman film that doesn’t pander to its audience. There is no detailed explanation of Batman or Robin, and yet the film still works as a standalone film. The hardcore Batman fans will have a deeper appreciation for some of the jokes and references in the Lego Batman Movie which in my mind is a win-win for everyone who sees the film.
The relationship between Batman and Robin is one that was handled with a lot of humor and heart. I felt like the writers were well aware of Batman fans love/hate relationship with Robin as a character. There have been several jokes over the years that Batman and Robin are gay. I was impressed how the film touched the subject in a subtle manner without going overboard. It is also pretty well known that a lot of Batman fans don’t like Robin as a character. However, Robin is part of Batman/Bruce Wayne’s life so eventually he had to make his way back into the films so why not start with the Lego Batman Movie.
Robin who is voiced by Michael Cera brings a real innocence to the character. Robin is like a little kid that is hyper and wants nothing more than to be part of a family. Again, the film doesn’t spend time on how Robin became an orphan but instead just shows him seeking a family and looking to Bruce Wayne for advice on being adopted. Robin does come across as annoying at times, but this is all part of the story and the character as a whole. Robin matures as the father and son relationship between Batman and Robin slowly builds. I think with the exception of the comics and the original 1966 series, this is the best rendition of Robin as a character.
The film also isn’t afraid to touch upon Batman/Bruce Wayne being a narcissist. This was addressed in the Lego Movie whenever Batman came on-screen and kept saying “I’m Batman.” I will say that while I appreciated showing this side of Batman, I feel it became a bit overwhelming repetitive after a while. I didn’t need repeated scenes of Batman telling Barbara or Robin that he doesn’t need them. I also don’t understand why there were so many of the same jokes used over and over again. There is one about Batman talking about his abs which just became almost unbearable toward the end.
Speaking of repetition, there is a good portion of the film that feels incredibly repetitive as if the writers were just trying to fill time before getting to the ending battle. There are way too many moments where I felt like the film was beating the audience over the head with the themes of loneliness or taking the same joke and changing it a tiny bit to see if it hit again. I believe this is all because the film goes on a bit too long. Since there is very little backstory, which is great, there was no need for the film to be over 90 minutes in length.
Just like the Lego Movie, The Lego Batman Movie has great visuals and is stunning to look at. With the world of Batman, there is a lot of action going on, so I loved the moments of the lego pieces coming together to form one of Batman’s many vehicles. It was also great to see the film poke fun of Batman’s lavish lifestyle using Lego pieces. The scenes where Batman eats lobster while watching Jerry Maguire was a great combination of animation and non-animation. The film is also very colorful which usually isn’t the case with Batman films. The previous entries have been extremely dark and dreary.
The Lego Batman Movie features a ton of villains, and some of them have absolutely nothing to do with the DCU. There are several characters from the Lego Dimensions video game that show up in the film as well as characters owned by Warner Brothers including King Kong and Gremlins. While I appreciated bringing multiple Lego franchises together into one film, I felt like this was done very similar to the way that it was done in the Lego Movie. The difference this time around was that it seemed like Warner Brothers weren’t able to obtain the rights to use the names of some of the characters. We see dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, but that is never mentioned because I guess that the franchise is owned by Universal and they couldn’t obtain the rights. The same could be said about the Daleks from Doctor Who that make an appearance but are never referenced by their names.
In regards to the ending, this is where I must dive briefly into spoiler territory to discuss my biggest issue with how the film plays out. The story spends lots of time building the relationship between Batman and Robin as well as the relationship between Batman and Alfred. This all works in the film’s favor because it gives the story a surprising amount of heart and proves that Batman is capable of feeling emotion and understands that family is important to him after all. What bugged me about the ending is that Batman comes full circle and realizes that he needs Robin, Alfred, and Barbara to save Gotham. This aspect of the ending works well, but it goes further as Batman must ask some of the villains to help save Gotham. Again, this works because the Joker screwed over a lot of the villains because he labels them as useless.
What doesn’t make sense is that Batman and the Joker decide to work together to save Gotham when he was the one who wanted to destroy Gotham in the first place. I get that the writers wanted to convey the idea that everyone needs each another and that teamwork is essential but why did they need to go this far with it? It makes no sense at all and in fact, makes the film feel completely pointless as there is no risk involved when the villain helps save the day. It is even more frustrating knowing that The Joker will turn around and try to destroy Gotham again, the very next day. The story spends all this time building strong relationships between Batman, Robin, Alfred and Barbara which would have made for a much more satisfying ending than the one in the film.
My frustration lies with the fact that the story spends all this time building strong relationships between Batman, Robin, Alfred, and Barbara. The whole plot is based around Batman accepting that he is lonely and needs a family. The film builds this family bond leading up to them working together to save Gotham. I believe this would have made for a much more satisfying ending. There was no need for the film to go in the direction that it goes. It also doesn’t help that there is a plot point revolving around the Phantom Zone where Batman promises to return all the villains to the Phantom Zone once he saves Gotham. Needless to say, this doesn’t happen either therefore making the ending even more frustrating.
I know it seems like I am being overly critical of an animated Batman film but that is only because the film made a point of being so knowledgeable of Batman as a franchise. This film spends so much time making jokes about how certain things make no sense, and yet this film ends in a way that makes little to no sense. This left me feeling rather frustrated and questioning my overall enjoyment of the film since when you think about the ending, it makes the entire film feel like a complete marketing ploy to sell two brands rather than tell a story that makes sense.
All in all, The Lego Batman Movie is a visually stunning and entertaining Batman adventure that will delight children and adults alike. The film works for the most part, but it’s repetitive nature, and half-assed ending holds the film back from being something truly special. I loved all the nods to the history of Batman as a character. The film builds great relationships between the central characters, and there is a lot of jokes that manage to produce decent laughs throughout.
Scott “Movie Man” Menzel’s rating for The Lego Batman Movie is a 7 out of 10.