You should not see The LEGO Batman Movie.
Let me clarify. If you enjoyed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, or if you think Frank Miller is the best Batman writer of all time, or if you’ve ever said, without irony, “Batman is about vengeance, not justice,” then you should not see The LEGO Batman Movie. You will not have a good time.
On the other hand, if none of those apply, and, furthermore, if you are a living, breathing human being with functioning eyes and a command of the English language, you should see The LEGO Batman Movie. Because it’s the best Batman movie since The Dark Knight. Want to hear about it?
[tw-divider]The LEGO Batman Movie: Everything Is Awesome[/tw-divider]
We can get a lot of the basic stuff out of the way:
- Yes, this is the same character that appeared in The Lego Movie.
- Yes, he’s still voiced by Will Arnett.
- Yes, since this is an officially-licensed DC Comics film, Will Arnett is now and forever one of the people who have played Batman.
- Yes, he’s better than Val Kilmer (no, he’s not as good as Kevin Conroy). Similarly, Galifinakis is a better Joker than Leto, but not better than Hamill.
- Yes, this movie has a wickedly sharp sense of humor and a fabulous comedic timing.
- Yes, it takes advantage not only of Batman’s deep rogue’s gallery, but Warner Bros’.
- Yes, there is a Bed, Bath & Beyond joke (and many other fantastic gags besides).
But really, none of those are important in the face of the two key questions:
- Is this a good Batman movie?
- Is this a good movie?
Fortunately, the answer to both of those is also yes. Here’s why.
[tw-divider]This Is A Great Batman Movie[/tw-divider]
Contrary to what the majority of the nerd-dominated internet might imply, it isn’t hard to make a good Batman movie. It really isn’t that hard to make a great one either. I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds about Batman as a character, or as a narrative force, or anything like that—I’m not Glen Weldon, after all—but there are things I want to see in a Batman story that are as fundamental as anything Campbell wrote.
First, I’ve gotta have a scheme. Some brilliant villain simply has got to have a plot (bonus points if it’s dastardly). I usually prefer a deathtrap or two to be involved, but I’m more flexible about that. Obviously, Batman (who is the World’s Greatest Detective™) is going to get to the bottom of it, but the longer that takes, the better.
Second, I need to see Batman punch somebody. Anybody, really. This has nothing to do with any kind of cultural commentary—I just get a kick out of a rich man dressed like a bat punching people.
Third, and more seriously, I want to see Batman wrestle with who he is. Note that I’m not talking about any kind of morose, emotional naval-gazing, but every now and then, I want to see this character address his own complex motivations. So how does Lego Batman do?
[tw-divider]The Officially-Licensed NoE Batman Movie Scoring Rubric[/tw-divider]
Yes, there’s a scheme.
Yes, there’s punching (Hoo boy, yes, there’s punching).
And yes, Batman actually has to address one of the fundamental driving forces of his crusade. I don’t want to say anything that could even be interpreted as a spoiler, but I will say this: Batman is a person who is driven by loss. There is an emptiness that propels him. And it is a legitimate question for the character to wonder whether or not that emptiness can be filled. This movie handles this with charm and good humor–and it takes pains to literalize the common idea of the “Bat Family.”
[tw-divider]It’s A Great
If that was all Lego Batman was, it would be great, and worth seeing. But it goes beyond the superficial aspects of the character. Lego Batman isn’t telling a story about a comic book hero, it’s telling a story about a lonely, sad man who has been lying to himself for years. It’s telling a story about a person trying to develop beyond their own selfishness. It’s telling a story with a fundamental message that challenges the audience to grow.
I’m not saying it’s pretentious—all I’m saying is, if this was a live-action movie with a French title, it would win a dozen Oscars next year.
It’s also got a bunch of really great jokes about romantic comedies and music.