Warning: Mild Spoilers for The Lego Batman Movie
I think everyone knew this movie would be good.
Or at least I did.
I really enjoyed The Lego Movie when it came out in 2014, and I have had “Everything is Awesome” stuck in my head on an infinite loop since that point. Needless to say, I was thrilled when The Lego Batman Movie was announced, and I followed its production closely. This movie met and even exceeded many of my expectations. The film captures all of the charm and sincere fun of The Lego Movie while retaining the essence of Batman in all of his different forms.
The cast and the writing does an excellent job satirizing the classic Batman characters while still giving the characters complexity and likeable traits. This is often hard to do with a franchise like Batman, where the characters are subject to different incarnations and interpretations. However, the movie pulls this off with finesse.
Two characters in particular go through major creative changes: Robin and Joker. While Batman, Batgirl, and co. still retain much of their personalities from popular incarnations like the comics and recent films, Robin is clearly inspired nearly exclusively by the original Batman and Robin comics and the 1960’s television show. Moreover, Joker takes on an entirely original portrayal. Rather than being the embodiment of chaos, he becomes a jealous and anxious best friend.
These were definitely risky changes, but they paid off. Joker’s methodical obsessiveness contrasts harshly with the dark and destructive interpretations of the Joker. However, this movie isn’t about brooding or darkness. It’s a child’s fantasy played out through toys. In play, children don’t focus on psychological nuance; they simply act out what they know. Everyone knows that the Batman refuses to fully defeat the Joker and that the Joker is obsessed with torturing Batman, so why not make them best friends? It’s what the movie is about anyway: the connections people have with others, chosen or not.
The brilliance of this is that this set-up is perfect for making one conglomeration of franchises and personalities of singular characters while still making it a comedy and having everything make sense. Only in a Lego movie can you have characters from Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Batman, and Lord of the Rings in one film and have them all fight each other. It fits so perfectly though. Play does not see barriers of franchises, it merely focuses on what’s both available and cool, and this movie perfectly encapsulates this concept.
Another thing I really loved about the movie was that it referenced and satirized the other Batman films without ever seeming mean. I dislike when the punchline of a reference to another work is that it’s bad because I think it’s lazy and I don’t always agree with the assessment. However, Lego Batman was able to make fun of Batman vs. Superman, Suicide Squad, the Nolan trilogy, and the rest of the films and television series without ever coming across as cruel. It came across as fans making fun of a work they loved. Not only does it fit better with the “everything is awesome” tone of the film, but it also doesn’t exclude fans from enjoying the film they’re watching.
Already, it’s clear that The Lego Batman Movie will be one of the strongest animated films of 2017. If you haven’t already, be sure to go see it.