There are many kinds of ranking lists that The Lego Batman Movie can probably be found on.
As an animated Batman movie, I’d probably rank it last. I mean, it’s fun but not exactly a movie that treats its subject matter seriously—nor should it. As a Batman parody, however, it lacks the straight-faced edge of Batman & Robin, but never falling into the trap of seeming to take itself too seriously like The Dark Knight Rises or Batman V Superman did.
As a Lego movie, though, it would fall second, after the original… which isn’t really a good thing ‘cause there are only 2 big Lego movies at this point and falling so far from the original is a pretty bad sign for the franchise as a whole.
I expect, at this point, in the high of having just watched this movie, everyone’s probably awarding it aces with reviews title along the lines of “The Batman Movie We Needed” (or “Deserved”), or “The Best Big Screen Batman”, or even “Finally, a 21st Century Batman Movie Where Batman Isn’t As Stupid As His Writers.” And while the last of those titles is most certainly true, don’t be fooled—The Lego Batman Movie is actually pretty mediocre.
This kinda makes it like Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, where pumping up the audience fools them into confusing the movie for being a lot better than it really is. Though in the case of GotG it was truly a good movie that’s just overrated—kinda like Frozen or The Dark Knight.
The beauty of the first The Lego Movie was that it was essentially Simpsons on the outside but a Disney family movie at heart—quirky but with a legitimate story. And while The Lego Batman Movie tries to pull that same trick here, its excessively parody-ish tone makes even emotional scenes come off comical.
(And what’s with the whole Barbara and Bruce thing that’s been happening again lately? First with The Killing Joke animated movie and now, again, in this. It’s really icky to see Bruce dating a character who’s effectively painted as a daughter figure given that she’s usually portrayed as Dick’s love interest. Can we stop this now? Thank you.)
(Also, why the fuck does Dick Grayson look like Carrie Kelly?! I was actually surprised to find out that the character was male, let alone Dick Grayson himself! Though, it did set the stage for an awesome joke.)
However, the greatest sign of weakness of the movie was its entirely unnecessary use of characters from other properties. What might have been an attempt to incorporate their brand of inter-property humour (as was done with the first movie) simply comes off as a lack of discipline in writing and storytelling with a slight sense that maybe the writers were lacking confidence in tackling a single concept without resorting to the flair of showing off.
What’s most worrying is that this is reminiscent of yet another parody series that started off as being rather fun and then became intolerably stupid (no, not the DCEU–that was never fun): The Scary Movie series/The “Insert Any Word Here” Movie series.
While the first Scary Movie never claimed to be intelligent, it was, at the very least, actually funny—quickly dwindling by the third instalment into the land of no-IQ. And if The Lego Movie franchise doesn’t buck up, this may be the same fate awaiting it.
Of course, the true sadness here is that The Lego Batman Movie has now officially rendered the series to just being parodies. While satire was always going to be a strong element of The Lego film franchise (outside of Bionicle), it’s sad that the fate that awaits the subsequent sequels just seems to be “let’s make fun of this other franchise!”
Most shockingly is how messy the effects have become. Maybe it was the IMAX 3D, but the look of the movie as well as the motion of the many Lego bits no longer looks as neat and clean as it was. There’s just waaay too much happening on screen at one time. Though, that could be an intentional reference to the general way Batman movies have been of late.
Based on the first The Lego Movie, I believe the franchise can do a lot more than what The Lego Batman Movie put out. But more than any other external franchise-driven sequel, I’ll hold out hope for the return of Emmet and friends in The Lego Movie 2.
The Lego Batman Movie is out on the 9th of February in all theatres… bring your kids and buy them some toys after, I guess.
Or just go watch Lego Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite. It’s actually better.