God, I’m late on this one. Should have been out yesterday. Sorry.
The Lego Batman Movie is the only DC theatrical film I’ve been looking forward to this year and there’s a good reason for that. There is pretty much no hope left for Justice League and it’s gonna take a miracle at this point for Wonder Woman to prove itself to be greater than anything DC’s made so far. If it turns out to be good, I’ll see it, but I make no promises. But Lego Batman is coming off the heels of the fantastic Lego Movie and is based off one of its best characters, plus it’s a Batman movie with Batgirl and Robin. We haven’t seen them since the 90s. So, how did it turn out?
Background: I love Batman. Favourite superhero easy, though Static was a close number two for a long time until Kamala showed up. I love the DCAU, the Tim Burton films, and the first two Christopher Nolan movies. Batman’s current comics are all really good. You should check them out. DC’s been doing great things with its comic line up these days.
I haven’t seen past halfway through season 2 of Gotham, but I liked what I saw though I contend that the reason all the DC TV shows (not just the Arrowverse) are so much better than the movies is that there is no Batman to make it dark and gritty and the reason Arrow isn’t as well liked as the others is that they pretty much made Green Arrow Batman. Batman doesn’t need to be in a larger DC Universe to make it good. He does just fine on his own since he’s the most popular and well known character outside of Superman. Make a DC universe that stands up on its own and does well and THEN you can add in the Dark Knight. Keep Batman in his own universe with his own characters (not just the villains). If you wanna mix Robin or Nightwing in with the Titans, fine. Do that. They’ve proven that works so long as you keep Batman out of it…and don’t make the characters all idiots.
UPDATE: Also, I have seen The Lego Movie. It’s good, has great characters, is funny, and should have been nominated for Best Animated Feature. You should watch it, but it’s not necessary to watch this one.
On to the film!
Set in the world of Legos, where time is weird and people can look like they’re in their thirties even after seventy plus years, Batman protects Gotham City from the likes of the Joker, Two Face, Riddler, yada yada, BATMAN! Though Alfred insists that he try to start a relationship with someone, he insists on being alone forever because he’s Batman. When the new Commissioner Gordon, Barbara having taken over for her retiring father, proposes the police and Batman work together to keep Gotham safe, the Joker unveils his latest plan by having all of the villains surrender, making Batman ineffectual. Not trusting the police to keep him locked up, Batman decides to lock Joker in the Negative Zone where he can’t hurt anyone. Along for the ride is his new (accidental) son Dick Grayson (who for some reason looks like Peter Parker) who takes on the name Robin to help his hero and new dad. Batman must learn to work with others and stop the Joker’s plans.
Can I just take a moment to say that, with the exception of the Lego Ninjago Movie, all of the trailers before this film were for movies that were all really eh looking? Like they would ALL be in my Eh category? Just thought I’d say that.
This is not just a Batman movie. This is the best Batman movie since The Dark Knight and I mean that sincerely. Seriously, I get the feeling that Warner Bros has a negative view of all Batman supporting characters outside of Commissioner Gordon and Alfred (and those only out of necessity for pushing the Bat Signal and being the Daddy/Mentor figure respectively) thanks to the disaster of Batman & Robin, which (though understandable as that’s a terrible movie) I think is largely undeserved. Batman & Robin wasn’t bad because Robin and Batgirl were in it, or Mr. Freeze or Bane (though, admit it, you forgot Bane was in that movie) or Poison Ivy. It was bad because it was a poorly written, poorly designed movie better suited for the 60s version of the characters than the same universe and characters as the ones Tim Burton created. I’ve heard people call that film a call back/homage to the 60s Batman and fair enough. The problem is that these are supposed to be the same characters and universe as Burton’s, hence why Alfred is played by the same actor in all four. That’s why it’s called The Burton/Schumacherverse. It’s two directors, one universe. You’d think they’d at least get that Robin wasn’t the problem from Batman Forever which, while not as good as the previous two, was still an okay movie. Hell, all the above mentioned characters have proven to be capable of being well written and interesting characters in other mediums, not just the comics. They just need to be given the chance and, in terms of live action, they’re not given one (except Bane, but, again, everyone forgot he was in Batman and Robin anyway).
This film gives them a mainstream chance. It doesn’t just give a lot of villains a chance (this movie WILL strain your comic book knowledge), it’s the only good theatrical movie to have Harley Quinn in it and it proves that Batman doesn’t need to be dark and brooding and alone to be interesting. He can have Batgirl and Robin around to lighten the mood and still make them interesting characters with their own motivations while adding to Batman’s character growth. We’ve had Batman be brooding and dark since the 80s and, while yeah it was fun at first after years of having him be a joke, we’re sick of it. Someone (Probably Linkara) once said that it seems like the only two Batman stories DC can remember making are ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ and ‘The Killing Joke’, the two stories from the 80s that brought Batman back into the mainstream and influenced not only the Burton movies, but also the Emmy award winning 90s animated series that spawned the long running DCAU. They also have a lot of problems, but that’s neither here nor there. Essentially, this film exemplifies what I’ve been saying about DC’s relationship with Warner Bros for the past couple of years. The Animation/TV departments understand the characters and care about how they portray/present them (Much like Marvel in that sense). The Live Action Film department does not. When this movie satirises something, it does it out of love. Which helps when most of its comedy is satirising DC and Batman in particular.
Yes, this is a Lego movie and they do the Master Builder thing they did in The Lego Movie, but this is also first and foremost a Batman movie. For the most part, it’s easy to forget the Lego stuff because it barely comes up and when it does it kinda takes you out of it for a moment, or at least it did for me. You might disagree, but I thought the jokes were strongest when they were satirising Batman. Goodness knows the franchise has needed some levity in its films.
Will Arnett returns from The Lego Movie and there’s a reason he’s the second best animated Batman (the first will always be Kevin Conroy in my humble opinion): his version is both badass and hilarious. It’s a glorious satire of dark and gritty Batman, but also capable of the campy comedy that made up the Adam West series (There are a LOT of reference to the Adam West series). It’s the perfect mixture. This movie has risen him to my third favourite Batman, sitting nicely between Keaton and Bale (Again, first is Conroy). I almost wish we had a sequel on the way just so we can have more of this character, but I’m happy with this and I don’t want them to ruin it. Now to sit back and watch it kick Batman V Superman’s ass.
Michael Cera, despite his character both looking and sounding like Peter Parker for some reason (sorry, I can not get over that), does make a good young Dick Grayson. Most versions of Dick Grayson’s Robin we see (certain recent portrays notwithstanding) are the badass cool but still fun teenager or (in the 90s series) college student. Any older and he’s Nightwing. This version of Dick is more the age of Tim Drake or Damian Wayne (Robins 3 and 4 (or 5 depending on the continuity) respectively), about 12 or so. This version is obviously a lot more happy and naive than Tim or Damian and that makes sense. Of the Robins, Dick was always the more happy go lucky Robin in the early days. He’s not a genius like Tim, his intelligence is more wisdom grown over years of being both a sidekick and a hero in his own right. He’s also not specially trained to be a warrior like Damian, he’s a natural acrobat who got some extra training by Batman, but not as much as later Robins. He’s a happy circus child who lost his parents but unlike Batman, it’s not his driving force. Early day comics still had him as a happy child. He’s not the Dark Squire or something like that. He’s the Boy Wonder. He’s still very much that happy circus boy and this version shows that. He’s still a kid, curious and malleable with a lot of room to grow. He has to grow into the cool badass leader of the Titans.
Rosario Dawson of Marvel Netflix fame plays Barbara Gordon as the new Commissioner of the Gotham PD. The only other version of Batman that’s had her do that was Batman Beyond. In any other version, an older than college aged Barbara will end up in a wheelchair as Oracle. Not that Oracle isn’t awesome, she is, but having Barabara become the new Commissioner Gordon, and one that doesn’t just exist to push the button for the Bat Signal, something relatively new. She isn’t just a love interest, though Batman does go ga ga over her, she has her own goal to clean up Gotham. Her view doesn’t match up with Batman’s, but unlike other films where female characters disagree, she’s actually right. Batman has to learn to see her point of view.
Alfred, played by Ralph Fiennes, is the only character portrayed exactly as he’s played in all other media. He’s Batman’s father figure and minder. What separates him from other portrayals is that he doesn’t take Batman’s crap. He actually stands up to him on occasion and puts being a good dad over being his butler. Also, finally a film that really remembers Alfred was in the British Army. It’s kinda weird to have Ralph Fiennes here considering they also have Voldemort in it at one point (Lego thing, remember?) and he’s not voiced by Ralph Fiennes.
Zach Galifianakis plays The Joker FAR better than Jared Leto did, though that’s not exactly hard. Let’s face it, even those who did like Suicide Squad didn’t like Leto’s Joker (partly because most of his scenes were cut and partly because they probably should have made him the bad guy). He’s scary, funny, smart, and is more than just crazy. Anarchy and chaos are great and all, villains with motives are also fun once in awhile. Don’t get me wrong, evil for evil and chaos’s sake is fine. Maleficent is one of my favourite villains of all time, Heath Ledger’s Joker is the best live action Joker ever, Oogie Boogie is fun to watch, but a motive adds some depth to an already well made villain. This Joker is playing a long game with heavy ramifications for Batman. That’s interesting and leads to an amazing third act. While Mark Hamill will always be my favourite Joker, this one’s high up on the list. Top 5 easy. Maybe between Nicholson and John DiMaggio from Under The Red Hood.
The rest of the cast does their roles well, they could have used some of the roles more, maybe more BD Williams finally playing Two Face after over Twenty Years, but it’s not a Two Face’s story. It’s Batman and Joker’s, like most good Batman films are. This one just adds more interesting supporting characters than just a love interest. I also had an issue with their Catwoman just making cat puns, but she wasn’t in it that much and it’s probably a reference to the Adam West show (I haven’t seen much). I don’t know.
The animation, like The Lego Movie’s, is top notch. My only regret is that, like Lego Movie, it won’t get nominated for an Oscar next year like it should. I’m not saying it should win, goodness knows the Academy doesn’t care about this category enough to give it to anyone who isn’t Disney or Pixar (Example: It SHOULD go to Kubo this year, but it’ll almost definitely go to Zootopia), but it should be nominated.
I normally don’t care about music, but the songs in this one are great. I especially love the song at the beginning that Batman sings “Who’s The (Bat)Man”. It combines the music of the two most well known Batman scores (Nananananananananana and Dada Dada Dada) while also exemplifying and satirising the whole “Because I’m Batman!” Thing.
Also, the password to the Batcave: Not what you think it is…It’s better.
There’s a reason this was the only DC film I was looking forward to. It’s the best theatrical film to come out of DC in almost a decade (should Wonder Woman suck, completely a decade). If you’re any kind of Batman fan, whether it be for the Nolan films, Burton films, animated series, the Adam West series, or even the Schumacher films, you should watch this movie. You will not be disappointed. You don’t have to have seen The Lego Movie to enjoy it. It helps to understand what the Master Builder stuff is, but it doesn’t come up very much. It’s like jumping into a comic book. It’s nice to know what certain bits and pieces are, but it’s not necessary.
Dad, I know you read this blog so trust me: WATCH THIS MOVIE!
Saturday, I’ll be giving my thoughts for the upcoming Spring season’s movies. There’s a lot I’m looking forward to.
Wednesday (hopefully), I’ll have some Moffat stuff for you. I really wanna get these out before Doctor Who comes back in April.
(Photo via Warner Bros.)