The LEGO Batman Movie looks to be a dynamic do-over for the Dynamic Duo. And thank goodness for that. I loved Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, and I certainly don’t mind a dark interpretation of the World’s Greatest Detective. But I don’t think anyone is ever going to make a better solo Batman film than 2008’s The Dark Knight, so it’s time to start thinking outside the box. And if the trailers are any suggestion, it looks like that’s exactly what The LEGO Batman Movie is doing.
It’s giving us the Robin we’ve always wanted. He’s the exact opposite of Batman – colorful, naïve, and goofy. Let’s talk about how we got to this point and why I’m looking forward to a lighthearted Batman film done right.
Glimpses of Humor
Despite its faults, I enjoy 1995’s Batman Forever. It introduced more levity to the familiar Batman territory and it looked like it was going in the right direction by giving Batman a sidekick in the form of Robin. Granted, it’s not as meaningful to have Dick Grayson lose his parents as an adult instead of as an impressionable kid, but beggars can’t be choosers.
That film used Grayson as the means of turning Bruce Wayne into a mentor while also teaching him the value of teamwork. Wayne has a chance to take Grayson under his wing and help him use his anger for good instead of revenge. Robin quickly proves his value by saving Batman’s life, and Batman later returns the favor. Robin even got in a few funny lines along the way, like “I’m Batman… okay, so I forgot my suit, all right?” and who could forget “Holey rusted metal, Batman! The ground, it’s all metal. It’s full of holes. You know, holey.” That was fun!
Why So Whiny?
Unfortunately, 1997’s Batman & Robin ruined Robin. Rather than adding comic relief to an otherwise serious story, Robin is confrontational and angry most of the time. I understand what the filmmakers were trying to do by having Poison Ivy attempt to drive a wedge between Batman and Robin. But Batman sees through her scheme so quickly that it makes Robin look simple-minded and petty when he keeps falling for her pheromone dust.
Robin’s dialogue through most of the film is littered with complaints. His very first line in the film is “I want a car! Chicks dig the car.” This is supposed to be a clever callback to the previous film when Batman said something similar, but the tone in Robin’s voice when he says it is petulant and off-putting. It makes him sound like a toddler demanding a new toy at the store, and it sets the tone for his character for the rest of the film. In a movie filled to the brim with comic-relief characters, it’s ironic that Robin is one of the few who never add much levity to the proceedings. And no, his “It’s the hockey team from hell!” and “Cowabunga!” lines don’t exactly count as comedy, even if they are so bad that they’re unintentionally hilarious.
Why Batman Needs Robin
Batman needs Robin because otherwise he gets boring. One of the reasons The Dark Knight is so good is because it takes the limelight off of Batman and puts it on Harvey Dent. When you boil it all down, the film is really about Dent. Batman and the Joker are fighting each other over the soul of Gotham City in the form of Dent. He represents the good and evil sides of the city that are at war with each other. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises are mostly about Bruce Wayne and his personal struggles to overcome his inner and outer demons. When Batman works alone, he works best as a symbol – something to give good people hope and to strike fear in the hearts of criminals.
Robin opens a whole new can of worms for Batman to deal with. He gets to be the audience’s perspective on Batman. Batman takes his crusade against crime extremely seriously, and he’s been at it for so long that a lot of his gadgets and techniques have become routine. But Robin sees the Batmobile, Batcave, Batsuit, and other Bat-accessories from a child’s perspective. They are cool! It’s not just a duty to fight crime – it’s actually kind of fun.
Batman can easily take himself way too seriously if he’s left to his own devices. That’s why it’s so important to give him a sidekick who can point out the intrinsic silliness of situations he finds himself in. We need someone to help Batman lighten up and have a sense of humor about the solemn life he leads.
I hope The LEGO Batman Movie will finally deliver a great Batman and Robin movie. The LEGO Movie did a fantastic job of showing us a Batman who’s incapable of comprehending irony or seeing how funny he actually is. His “First try!” line sums up his character perfectly. Now he’s going to be joined by a Robin who’s going to question him about everything and force him to finally take a look in the mirror and realize that there might just be something amusing about a man wearing a bathrobe and a batman mask while lounging in an armchair.
Even if we won’t see them in a live-action film anytime soon, it looks like the Dynamic Duo is about to be done justice.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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