Staff Writer, David Anderson |
The Lego Batman Movie opens with Batman breaking the fourth wall. As the Warner Bros. Logo slowly emerges on the screen in shades of dark blues, greys, and blacks with dull pulsing music in the background, the caped crusader growls that this is how all good movies begin, with dark colors and edgy music. The fourth wall takes a beating throughout the film as Batman and his pals constantly make jabs about what makes a “good” superhero and more importantly, a “good” superhero movie.
After Batman finishes his commentary on the opening credits, the film focuses in on a grandiose scheme by the Joker to blow up Gotham City. Batman’s nemesis is in the midst of hijacking a plane carrying all sorts of old-time cartoony bombs and redirecting it to the Gotham chemical plant where just about every villain The Dark Knight has ever faced lays in waiting for him.
But, as the Joker reveals his nefarious scheme to the hapless pilot of the plane, he discovers that this pilot isn’t fazed by his threats, citing Batman’s victory in 2008’s The Dark Knight as ample evidence that no matter how hard the Joker tries, he will be defeated once again. The pilot is similarly unimpressed with the vast swath of villains that the Joker has arranged. Not only are the fan favorites Poison Ivy, Clayface, Two-Face etc. involved but also the (deservedly) more obscure, Moth-Man, Eraser, and the Condiment King make an appearance. The pilot expresses his disbelief that these villains are real but the Joker happily reassures them that they are.
Naturally, the Joker’s initial scheme fails, but Director Chris McKay adds an additional layer to his defeat; Batman refuses to acknowledge the Joker as his arch nemesis. This added blow to the Joker acts as both a fun jab at the premise of 2008’s The Dark Knight but also adds a layer of homoerotic tension between the Batman and the Joker. Ultimately, what drives the Joker’s subsequent schemes is a need to be validated by Batman, to get him to admit that they truly are nemeses and they do, in fact, have a relationship.
Besides this new take on the Batman-Joker relationship, the film tackles some heavy topics while still throwing continuous cracks at the Batman franchise. Generally, the film chronicles Batman discovering the importance of teamwork and working together, a wholesome and typically safe topic in children’s media. However, this rendering of it deals explicitly with Batman’s status as an orphan and his use of isolation as a defense mechanism to avoid the pain of family and fatherhood. This weighty rendering is broken up by quips about Suicide Squad and Adam West’s incarnation of the caped crusader.
The film features an incredible host of voice actors, from Will Arnett to Mariah Carey (as a random Gotham citizen), and includes cross-overs from the Dr. Who, Harry Potter, and Gremlins franchises. Kids who go to see the film will be delighted by the stunning animation and fast paced scenes while grown-ups will appreciate the sharp cultural jabs and refreshing rendering of old tropes.