There’s this cool theory I stumbled across in college when was writing a research paper about the transformation of the vampire figure in media over time. The theory was this: each society creates the monsters it needs; and in creating those monsters, society also creates the heroes it needs. Our concepts of good and evil are completely malleable, constantly in flux, and they are always in service to us, because we need balance.
I know, this is a heavy-handed introduction to the LEGO Batman movie, but stay with me.
I’ve been worried about Batman. Let me rephrase that. I’ve been worried about his recent representation in mainstream media. On the big screen, The Caped Crusader has been retreating into the shadows a bit too much, in my opinion.
I know, I know. Batman is moody and tortured. Bruce Wayne can be a dick. And he spends plenty of time in the darkness, because it’s part of who he is. But at the end of the day, he’s still a hero. He fights to preserve Gotham. He fights for what’s right. He has a very specific code of ethics. And that gives us something to believe in. It makes him a hero, someone we need. He’s broken and imperfect, but he’s still good at his core, and we can relate to that.
It’s also why I had no desire to see Batman v. Superman.
I’m aware the movie is based on a specific run in the comics, but I couldn’t wrap my head around two superheroes shedding their moral codes to duke it out, perhaps to the death? I understand they had their motives; I also understand that there were fans who were really excited to see these men shed their do-gooder reputations and tap into their more primal instincts.
But for me, the storyline seemed incongruent with heroism. I felt like these men were on the brink of becoming villains instead of heroes, because they lost their code. They lost their personal restraint.
And with everything going on in the world at the time the film premiered—turbulent wars, political upheaval, general unrest—did we really need more villains?
Enter The LEGO Batman Movie, a complete 180 from Batman v. Superman, a light-hearted, humorous take on the Dark Knight. LEGO Batman is, in a word, ridiculous—and therein lies his awesomeness. He’s an ego maniacal dude bro with a Bat-gadget for everything and a penchant for lobster dinners. He consciously makes fun of other superheroes in the most juvenile (and hilarious) of ways. He’s still Batman, because he’s a loner vigilante, only interacting one-on-one with Alfred, and saving Gotham is his life. And yet, he’s also the antidote for Batman v. Superman’s rendering of The Caped Crusader.
There’s a classic Batman storyline: when The Joker hatches a new plan to take over Gotham City, Batman needs to enlist the help of others to take down his greatest enemy. Despite the general plot, The LEGO Batman Movie is a fun, colorful romp in a once dark and dreary superhero world. There are cheesy jokes and piles of Easter eggs celebrating Batman’s legacy. There are songs and tights and 80s ballads.
But best of all, there’s LEGO Batman. In all his joke-making, lobster-eating, ego-exalting glory, he’s just the Batman we need.