Why The Lego Batman Movie is one of the greatest movies of our time
September 5, 2021
In 2014, Directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord released a film titled “The Lego Movie,” a film that stars Chris Pratt as Emmet Brickowski, a normal construction worker who stumbles his way into being the center of a prophecy. The movie was a wide success, an animated comedy that fully embraced the inherent ridiculousness of creating a film about sentient Lego figurines while also being an emotional exploration of growing up and what it means to be special.
Naturally, a film that was so widely received with such a novel concept would get a sequel, but that would not come until 2019.
However, in 2017, two more movies of the Lego theming were released, The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjago Movie, with the former, more definitively following in the footsteps of the original film, a ridiculous comedy with a strong and very real emotional core, this one about the nature of companionship.
The former is also the film I plan to focus on.
The film stars Will Arnett as the titular Batman, now known for his role of host on the show Lego Masters. It was directed by Chris McKay, editor for The Lego Movie and director of The Tomorrow War. Other roles feature stars such as Michael Cera—Robin—known for his roles as Scott Pilgrim (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and George-Michael Bluth (Arrested Development); Rosario Dawson—Batgirl—known for her role as Claire Temple in Marvel properties such as The Defenders, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage; and Ralph Fieness—Alfred—known for his role as Voldermort in the Harry Potter films. They all contribute greatly to the atmosphere this film creates, and they bring a sense of humanity to the characters that enhance the emotional impact of the film.
The opening scene of the film is a wonderful establishment of what the movie will look like, and it dives right into the superhero film-typical action combined with the absurd nature of the Lego universe. This scene also contains the seeds for the emotional core of the movie, Batman’s rejection of any sort of companionship and Joker’s goal to be Batman’s “bad guy” (which has all kinds of gay undertones but there’s a video that explains that much better than I can) and to prove that he is “bad” enough to be a proper villain.
At the beginning of the movie, Batman is alone. All of the scenes we see in the early parts of the movie that take place in Wayne Manor are painfully human and painfully lonely. It demonstrates the fact that his only companions are a computer program and his butler Alfred, who he attempts to remain distant from.
The plot itself is a nuanced representation of depression, as well as the fear of companionship that often accompanies loss. In the film, Batman ties his identity to being, well, Batman. When he is no longer able to be Batman, then he retreats into himself further and lashes out in desperation to continue the only purpose he’s had since he was a child: ending crime because of the deaths of his parents.
When he accidentally adopts Robin and forms an attraction to Barbara, his true wish for companionship starts to come to the surface, especially when he tries desperately to keep his identity as Batman secure in his own mind. He spends the entire movie attempting to prove that he is stronger on his own than with other people, and he fails. He has to learn that other people don’t hold you down and that it’s okay to care about people, and it’s okay to fear losing them.
The greatest point where this movie shines is the climax, for many reasons, but one of them is the moment that Batman is sent to the Phantom Zone, and he is forced to realize, by watching his own actions through an outside lens, that he’s become a hero only in name, and that he is a selfish loner who only pushes people away who care about him because he refuses to admit that he could ever need help from anyone else for any reason.
The first time I watched this scene, I broke. The way it slowly dawns on him that he isn’t a person that he can be proud of is executed in such a way that normally wouldn’t fit in a movie that is primarily a buddy comedy, but with the way this movie is structured, it works incredibly well.
Batman spends the rest of the climax attempting to make up for how cruel he was to the people who cared about him and he accepts that he needs help. He needs help from Alfred, from Robin, from Barbara, even from Joker and the other villains.
At the end of the film, after everything is resolved, we see flashes of scenes we saw at the beginning, but with a lighter feeling, because Batman is no longer suffering under the weight of his self-imposed loneliness, and his world has gotten brighter by letting other people in.
The lesson this movie attempts to get across is that it’s okay to put your trust in other people. It’s okay to let other people help you when you lose yourself. It’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to let other people pick you back up.