Thoughts on LEGO Batman

Despite my burnout from Suicide Squad, I was actually looking forward to seeing LEGO Batman, since I liked The LEGO Movie. I was hoping it would redeem WB’s previous attempts at comic book movies. Boy, was I naive. Unfortunately, LEGO Batman has become the final nail in the coffin between me and WB’s adaptations of the DC Universe.

If you don’t want a repeat of Suicide Squad, but are still curious about the movie you may want to rethink about paying to see it. While I did get a few laughs out of LEGO Batman, and maintained my hopeful optimism for maybe the first half of the movie, my belief that the movie would pull through waned and died by that stage. If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve pretty much seen the best of whatever LEGO Batman has to offer – and they re-work those scenes in the movie to lesser effect by splicing them up and sprinkling them into other scenes and as a result feel choppy and inferior.

The idea of it being a nice satirical homage to Batman’s history is saturated and over-bloated with cheap, generic gags and throwaway lines that don’t land, with characters that are diluted to one sad note. But if that’s not to your liking, you can always enjoy the sweet soothing sound of the dozens of songs intended to be played for laughs. Oh wait, did I say enjoy? I meant suck the life out of you. The music here is a predominant form of “comedy” in this movie, and boy is it sure something to… tune into. The score could be acceptable and forgettable at best. But largely it remains intrusive and irritating to the point where a scene that may have been passable is now tainted by the stain of such audible atrocities.

The movie plays up the quirks it gave Batman in The LEGO Movie to an absurd degree. It worked there, because it was used sparingly and fit fairly well, but here Batman takes center-fold all too heavily. They essentially make Batman a celebrated villain with an overdone character arc as the crux of the story with a lame, poorly executed final note the movie ends on as its “moral” to the audience – that Batman should learn to embrace having a family again? By comparison, the Joker and others come across as less villainy than Batman. And if that was supposed to be a meta commentary on the character, they didn’t do a good job with it either. Alfred is fortunately untainted for the most part, but there’s so many characters in this movie that it’s shouldn’t come as a surprise that it feels cumbersome and sloppy in a lot of areas.

With LEGO Batman, it feels like there was either not enough thought or too much thought put into making the movie to the point where they just decided “Fuck it!” and threw everything in.  And it’s that kind of treatment that makes me feel so sympathetic toward the animators. Overworked, underpaid (more often than naught), and underappreciated. Animators deserve better, even when they’re part of complaisant corporate cash-grabs.

References and inside-jokes feel like someone holding up signs telling the audience to laugh on command rather than come across naturally with comedic fashion and rhythm. Speaking of “rhythm”, be prepared for Batman beat-boxing, singing, and blasting music (as well as his ego) A LOT. After Batman shows up, not a scene goes by without him reminding everyone how awesome he is, while also undercutting all those around him. Any scene this movie gets “downtime” it likes to spend it either dragging out Batman’s incessant man-child behaviour or hangs onto a “joke/punchline” for far too long.

Batman chews up each scene he’s in by boasting about his enormous ego and disregarding everyone else. He verbally abuses practically everyone to some degree, otherwise it’s physical abuse. He acts like an egoistic asshole for basically the entire movie by being disrespectful and insulting to Alfred, who is essentially his adoptive parent, being a *dick* to Dick Grayson – there is a scene where he refers to him as “110% expendable”, and his reckless behaviour is the sole reason behind the conflict of the movie. Worse yet, characters forgive him for his assaholic behaviour all too easily. Because he’s learned his lesson and knows by the end to let others help him out? *Groan*. Oh, and let’s not forget his signature brand of wit; abs. I lost count at the amount of times Batman brags about his abs, both verbally and in-practice. And that wouldn’t be such a bad idea (not the abs) if Batman had been given redeeming features. Sadly, this obnoxious dominance pervades and is clumsily confronted, if that.

The “relationship” between Batman and Joker acting as an awkward lover’s spat – another idea that could’ve been humourous if they bothered to flesh it out and run with it, instead of cramming in a ludicrous amount of characters and “references” that drown out any substance this movie thought it had. Apart from Joker and Harley Quinn, most of Batman’s rogues gallery act more like set pieces and punching bags than anything else. Hardly any characters are treated with respect or appropriate tongue-in-cheek humour. There doesn’t seem to be much thought put into how to handle them, even in a parodical sense.

It has decent ideas that could’ve been both funny and had something to say about the characters, but it squanders such potential with forced line deliveries and nonsensical plot contrivances. I won’t say here how they bring about the plot resolution, except that it is not only absurd and unfunny, but insulting in some ways. The tone and actions of the movie don’t match up with its message and themes either. The writing is abysmal, the editing and direction while not an obscure mess like in Suicide Squad, isn’t that much better here, and the voice acting… Ugh. Not to rag on the actors, since it’s down to the director and others to decide when to stop and say they did a good job… But, some of the voices just don’t gel with the characters. There’s this disconnect between what I’m seeing and what I’m hearing, and it doesn’t fit.

Now, I’m not against satire or parodies. In fact, I generally quite like them. I was onboard with making fun of Batman, since he’s been played out so much in recent history. And while LEGO Batman likes to think it’s digging deeper into the mythos of the characters, and unafraid to tackle themes of intimacy and loneliness, it does so with more time spent on an inconsolable amount of flat character development and uninspired derivative rubbish. It’s a meager attempt at making light of a prominent superhero icon with no subtlety or tact. It feels more detached and pointing fingers at what it’s parodying, instead of expressing a genuine love for the character with comical jesting and a good story to act as an appropriate focal point. Satire and parodies don’t automatically succeed by inherently being mockeries of a work. They work best when there’s cleverness and heart put into them.

But despite all of what I just said, I can’t say I regret paying to see it, because while it was a painful experience to endure such “entertainment”, I want animated movies to continue to succeed and thrive. There are plenty coming out that I have no interest in seeing, but if you are one of those people who actually enjoy things like LEGO Batman, go see those animated movies as well. At least then, there will be something good to come out if it.

~ Ace



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