There’s little doubting the fact that DC’s fledgling movie-verse struggled out of the gate in 2016. Both Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad struggled to land with audiences and critics alike, and Warner Bros. has been scrambling to regain its footing ever since. Meanwhile, the studio’s Flash movie has lost two directors due to “creative differences,” and rumors from the set of James Wan’s Aquaman have been less than comforting.
Enter The Lego Batman Movie. Building on the massive breakout success of The Lego Movie, the spinoff effort managed to effortlessly accomplish everything the DC Extended Universe couldn’t in 2016.
1. It brings something new to an iconic hero
It’s tough to bring something new to the table of a hero who has been around for upwards of 75 years. Cinematically, it’s an even taller order, given the fact that Batman has been through a series of iterations from a variety of directors over the years. The one angle that hasn’t yet been approached though is meta-comedy, and it’s one that the DC movie-verse has sorely needed lately. The Lego Batman Movie has that in spades, and in the end, it’s a refreshingly different take on a franchise that’s started to take itself far too seriously.
2. A much-needed dose of self-awareness for DC
DC’s biggest struggle has correlated directly with a lack of self-awareness. If you can’t look yourself in the mirror and acknowledge your flaws, it severely limits your ability to improve and adapt. It’s part of what led to the downfall of Suicide Squad, after reshoots, multiple edits of the film, and internal squabbling ruined a perfectly good idea. The Lego Batman Movie takes the time to not only make fun of itself, but to acknowledge and address recent DC failures. Our titular hero even takes regular potshots at the more glaring flaws of past DC films, reassuring us that at least someone at the studio knows what went wrong last year.
3. Paying homage to Batman’s storied history
The problem with constantly rebooting a single hero is that each iteration is forced to pretend that its predecessor didn’t exist. Each individual version, from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy to Joel Schumacher’s questionable decisions in Batman Forever, exists in a vacuum. It’s an approach that sets aside a whole lot of fun and interesting history, a fact The Lego Batman Movie is fully aware of.
The film frequently references Batmen of the past, shoehorning in a series of small Easter eggs that pay tribute to the Dark Knight’s lengthy history. In this universe, Bruce Wayne has been fighting crime in Gotham City for 75 years, while the film is never shy about emphasizing the sheer absurdity of Batman’s multiple transformations.
4. Building on The Lego Movie
There’s an inherent risk in expanding The Lego Movie into a whole franchise of spinoffs. Sure, the original film worked wonderfully, but that doesn’t guarantee that follow-up efforts will achieve a similar level of success, especially with original creators Phil Lord and Chris Miller taking a backseat. The Lego Batman Movie manages to capture the spirit of its predecessor, featuring a biting sense of humor, a refreshing sense of self-awareness, and a cadre of characters we actively care about and root for from beginning to end.
5. A proving ground for the expansion of The Lego Movie franchise
There’s a whole lot riding on the success of The Lego Batman Movie. If it flops as nothing more than a poorly-constructed cash-grab, it carries serious implications for the three planned follow-ups coming in the next few years. Suffice it to say, Warner Brow. has huge plans for the Lego series. The Lego Batman Movie acts as a suitable proof of concept for both the studio and the audience. For Warner Bros., they get to see if The Lego Movie really was the franchise starter they thought it was back in 2014. For us, we get a chance to see if this is really something we want to invest our time and energy in for years to come. Thankfully, the answer is a resounding, “Hell yes.”
6. Standing apart as its own singular film
It would be tempting to copy-paste the, “Everyone is special and friendship conquers all!” theme from The Lego Movie onto The Lego Batman Movie. To the film’s credit though, it makes a concerted effort to stand on its own two legs thematically. The predominant theme of the film revolves around the idea of how you can choose your family if you don’t have one of your own, and it plays wonderfully for both adults and children. It’s not exactly subtle in its delivery, and it doesn’t land in quite the same tear-jerking way that The Lego Movie‘s own focus did, but it works well in the given superhero-centric format.
7. Borrowing from the cheesier aspects of Batman
The Adam West Batman didn’t exactly play well to audiences, as he was spoiled by modern production values. That doesn’t mean that his spirit can’t be utilized at all though. The Lego Batman Movie makes frequent nods toward the 1960s TV serial, featuring an underoos-sporting Robin, West’s cheesy costumes, and action-word clouds. We certainly don’t need a full-on revival of those days, but it’s fun to at least see it referenced.
8. At times, The Lego Batman Movie moves too quickly for its own good
If The Lego Batman Movie has one fatal flaw, it’s in its frenetic approach. From the opening credits, we’re treated to a near-constant onslaught of jokes and bits that at times can be exhausting. More than that, the best comedies are the ones whose jokes play well in any decade, and The Lego Batman Movie‘s own sense of humor is hyper-focused on current pop culture.
That can likely be attributed to director Chris McKay, who’s well-versed in pop culture-centric humor from his days writing for Robot Chicken. All that being said, most of the humor still lands reasonably well, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments for audiences of any age.
9. The DC movie Seth Grahame-Smith actually got to make
If The Lego Batman Movie writer, Seth Grahame-Smith sounds familiar to you, that’s because this isn’t his first go-around with DC. Grahame-Smith was originally tapped to direct Warner Bros.’ standalone Flash movie, before leaving last year due to “creative differences.” It’s a damn shame too, because his sense of humor shines in The Lego Batman Movie. It’s an interesting look at what could have been for the Scarlet Speedster, but alas, all we can do is fantasize.
10. To wrap up: Yes, you need to see this movie
If you’re a disappointed DC fan who’s been waiting for Warner Bros. to finally put out a decent superhero movie (Dark Knight trilogy excepted), then The Lego Batman Movie is absolutely worth your time. We’re still holding out hope that Wonder Woman can infuse some life into the DC Extended Universe, but in the meantime, this is by far the best film in the franchise.
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