The LEGO Batman Movie

  • Year:  2017
  • Director:  Chris McKay
  • Series Rank:  #5
  • Batman Villains:  Joker (Zach Galifianakis), Harley Quinn (Jenny Slate)
  • Love Interest:  Batgirl (Rosario Dawson)
  • Batman Allies:  Robin (Michael Cera), Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), Commissioner Gordon (Hector Elizondo)

The ongoing debate between myself and my Australian reader, F.T. is over the value and worth of camp.  I have never been a fan of camp while F.T. enjoys it.  I prefer my films to be good.  So, the question is, can something be silly, cheesy and yes, even campy, and yet still be good?  Well, I give you The LEGO Batman Movie, a film that willingly embraces every ridiculous thing that has ever been added to the Batman legend and does it with such humor, wit and quality that it is one of the funniest films of this past year.

In yesterday’s post I strenuously objected to the relationship between Batman and Batgirl.  I also said that there was a way to do it that would do it right.  In that film, even though Batman didn’t consider her an equal, he still had sex with her.  Here, he simply falls for her when he meets her as Barbara (because, and I can not stress this enough to the idiots who kept casting blondes, YOU CANNOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF RED HAIR!).  In the end, they don’t even have a physical relationship (“My platonic co-worker buddy who’s a girl but just a friend”).  It’s all about, like I said yesterday, how awesome she is.  She’s the new police commissioner who kicks butt and tamed Bludhaven (one of the numerous, numerous references to the comics and previous movies that is in there for fans) using “statistics and compassion”.  And yes, the red hair.

I had stayed away from the first LEGO Movie when it originally played in theaters because, even though I have been a massive LEGO fan all my life (I have 128 sets that encompass over 52,000 pieces) it just seemed like too much of a commercial without a real story and I was stunned when I saw it to realize how good and funny and even heart-warming it was.  But the best thing about it was the casting of Will Arnett as Batman.  If you want to do a satirical view on Batman then why not cast an actor who had already played two rich narcissistic guys who are terrible at interacting with other people and obliviously constantly say the wrong thing in two of the best sitcoms of this century (Arrested Development and 30 Rock).  So, to give Will Arnett his own film was brilliant and to add such voice talents as Michael Cera (playing off the relationship from Arrested Development and allowing for a brilliant George Michael joke), Rosario Dawson and Ralph Fiennes just made it all the more brilliant.

This movie deals with the very duality that has been at the heart of the Batman mythos since April of 1940 when the character of Robin was first introduced.  Batman is a loner, the dark knight, the caped crusader.  He works in the shadows, fighting crime, stopping evil.  But he has a larger family.  Indeed, Batman Family was a comic that was published for a short time in the 70’s until the DC Implosion.  There are Robin and Batgirl, there is Alfred, there is Jim Gordon and those are just the ones shown here.  There are also his teammates in the Justice League (shown in this film to absolutely hilarious effect, though not as hilarious as the idea that Superman’s doorbell is the John Williams score from his films).  For a loner, Batman is rarely alone.

That brings us to the great moment in this film when Batman shuts the others away in the scuttler and sends them off.  He’s determined to do it alone and hasn’t yet realized that he needs his teammates, his family to win.  It provides an actual real emotional moment for the film to build off of and provides some real drama in a film that already has more than enough comedy to sustain it.

This film continually refers to and even makes fun of the other films in the series, from the run-through of all the films when Alfred describes Master Bruce’s moods, to the suggestion that he use criminals to fight criminals (“That’s stupid”), to finally giving us something else besides Batgirl that the 1966 film needed: “Robin, together we’re going to punch these guys so hard that words describing the impact are gonna spontaneously materialize out of thin air.”  That Bam and Pow is cheesy and silly and yet good, so much like everything else about this film.

One last endnote:  I didn’t have to use this movie to prove that camp can also be good; it just was convenient and worked for the ongoing conversation.  There are other good examples as well.  Just look at Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness.