The Long View: Lego Batman

Batman is at the top of his game. He’s been protecting Gotham City for decades, grimly defending the city against the onslaughts of such villains as the Joker, the Riddler, and the Penguin. Every day, he returns to Wayne Manor to chat with his de-personalized computer and munch lobster thermidor on his private jet ski in his private lake in his private batcave under his private island.

While none of his primary villains present a real threat, he can never get far enough ahead to capture any of them for good. His life is a comfortable routine built to assuage his massive ego.

The Joker, on the other hand, finds life too predictable. His attempts to intimidate a redshirt pilot falls comically flat because, the pilot deadpans, “Batman will stop you.” Even Batman considers Superman more of a challenge than the killer clown. The Joker considers this the final straw. He gives himself up. If Batman doesn’t consider him worth the time to properly hate, then what’s the point, anyway?

Commissioner Gordon is packing it in too. His job will be taken over by his (unsurprisingly foxy) daughter, Barbara Gordon, who, rather than rely on Gotham’s caped crusader for help, chooses to fight crime with “statistics” and “compassion.” Her new approach, coupled with the Joker’s sudden surrender, make Batman redundant.

All, however, is not as it seems. Both Batman and Barbara are convinced the Joker is up to something, but whether Batman can overcome his ego and team up with others (including Alfred and his newly adopted son, Dick).

Like “The Lego Movie”, “The Lego Batman Movie” mixes wit, meta humor, and a myriad of characters from different universes. It’s funny and flamboyant, creating vividly colorful locations with the franchise’s trademark mixture of CGI and plastic realism. The film boasts a solid cast, with Will Arnett as Batman, Zach Galifianakis as the Joker, Michael Cera as Robin, and Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon. Ralph Fiennes is Alfred, but…bizarrely, not Voldemort.

However, what’s lacking here is the dynamic creativity and originality of the first film. While “The Lego Movie” was a genuinely surprising commentary on consumerism and individuality, capping it off with a redemptive twist for a stereotypical villain arc, “The Lego Batman Movie” treads a more predictable path, parceling out platitudes about friendship and teamwork that aren’t bad, per se, but not half so interesting. As for the climax to Batman’s struggles? Hand-holding. Batman and the Joker pull the city together with…love.
As Batman might say, “HA!”

– Hannah Long

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