THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is WB’s unlikely redeemer
I was listening to the “Fatman on Batman” podcast just the other day where Kevin Smith suggested WB executives should treat Batman as an every-year franchise. The hero, the villains, the setting; the entire Batman canon is capable of hoisting a tentpole every year. Smith’s theory is that regardless of end-quality (see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), audiences will flock.
It’s highly doubtful WB is testing Smith’s hypothesis, but The LEGO Batman Movie is the naive challenger to enter the arena. Are audiences so exhausted by the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and all it’s drama to not even mess with a separate genre? Luckily, The LEGO Movie happened. Luckily, Will Arnett’s scene-stealing interpretation of Batman happened, or else I think we would have soon noticed the light shutter on the Dark Knight.
Director Chris McKay and his band of writers take the Caped Crusader in an entirely new direction. While not linear to any previous Batman story, LEGO Batman still borrows against your Bat education. There is no alleyway murder. Bruce Wayne is Batman. You get the picture. What we don’t know is that Bruce is a lonely conceded child.
“Batman doesn’t do ships,” Batman proclaims to the Joker. “As in, re-la-tion-ships.” As humorous as it may sound (especially for fans familiar with the duo’s obsession with each other), the quip extends far beyond putting Joker in his place. Batman lives in isolation. Batman doesn’t want attachments. Batman works alone.
Despite the proclamation, Bruce unintentionally adopts a young orphan boy named Dick Grayson (voiced by Michael Cera at his absolute sweetest) at a Gala for the retirement of Commissioner Gordon. Bruce was too busy gawking at newly-minted Commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) to realize his “error.” Along with Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), Bruce has more family than he cares to admit, or respect, or trust.
Meanwhile Joker (Zach Galifianakis) is betting on Batman sending him to the Phantom Zone where he can hatch his ultimate evil plan: recruit the baddest villains to ever walk any dimension. That roster includes some of WB’s greatest pop-culture franchises. His plan involves double-crossing every Batman villain to grace the pages of DC comics. I encourage you to read our easter egg feature for a reveal of all the baddies.
Spoiler alert, his plan works and total mayhem is unleashed upon the poor minifigs of Gotham City. Normalcy hinges on Batman making a change to himself (backed-up by covers of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” for extra effect) and embracing teamwork…kinda like the last LEGO movie, but in shades of black and really really dark grays.
The LEGO Batman Movie roasts everything you know and love about Batman culture. It’s successful satire and slapstick. It’s a licensing juggernaut. It also delivers a message of humility and relational consequence. It is DC and Warner Bros. unlikely redeemer. If this is the potential, please give us a Batman movie every year.