The big question, whenever a new Batman movie hits the screens, is this: which Batman are we going to get?
Will it be the gothic film noir, increasingly sardonic, Michael Keaton Batman of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns, or the slightly lighter and softer Val Kilmer or George Clooney Batman of Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and Batman and Robin? Will it be the gritty, dark, and brooding Christian Bale Batman of Christopher Nolan’s reboot series: Batman Begins, Batman: Gotham Knight, The Dark Night, and The Dark Knight Rises, or will it be the disturbingly grim, brutal, and marginally deranged, Ben Affleck Batman of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice?
Or, for that matter, could he turn out to be the colorfully campy Adam West Batman of the 1960s TV series, or the square-jawed and minimalist Kevin Conroy voiced “dark deco” Batman of The Animated Series? Or even (a long shot, but marginally possible) the Will Friedle voiced, cyber punk Terry McGinnis Batman of Batman Beyond?
And the "which Batman" question is all the more intriguing when the latest movie Batman (not to mention Gotham City, and everything and everyone in it) is made entirely out of Lego bricks! In fact, this Batman is not so much a Caped Crusader, but actually more of a "Cubed Crusader".
Of course, it’s not the first time we’ve met the Lego Batman. We first saw him as a show-stealing character in the 2014 The Lego Movie. Voiced then, as now, by Will Arnett, he was absurdly arrogant and gloriously self-obsessed with his own dark and brooding personality.
Now, however, starring in his own full length CGI animated Lego brick feature film, we get to see what’s under the Batcowl of all that arrogance and self-obsession. And, at least so far as all the trailers, teasers, TV spots, and other pre-publicity suggest, it’s hilarious.
So which Batman is the Lego Batman? In many ways, pretty much all of them! That’s because the Lego Batman Movie doesn’t take sides or favor one interpretation of the Dark Knight over another. It embraces, celebrates, show cases, lampshades, and has a huge amount of fun with all of them.
Sure, the Lego Batman Movie is ostensibly aimed at kids, but, and although the movie hasn’t been released yet, we know enough from the 5 official trailers to have a pretty good idea what to expect: it’s a positive geek-fest of insider jokes, Easter eggs, and half-hidden referential gags that are sure to delight even the most knowledgeable, serious, and nerdiest Batman aficionado.
Consider the following scenes from the various trailers:
When Dick Grayson, an orphan that Bruce Wayne adopted by mistake at a charity gala, selects his new Robin costume (originally, and wonderfully, called the Reggaeman costume), he complains that the pants are too tight, and decides to rip them off and just go with his more liberating shorty short green underpants – a wink to the original comic book and TV series Robin's green Speedo look.
The Lego Alfred tells the Lego Batman that he has seen him go through “similar phases in 2016 [cut to split second clip of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice], 2012, 2008, 2005, 1997 [cut to split second clip of the infamous Batman and Robin “Bat Nipples” Batsuit], 1995, 1992, 1989, and that weird one in 1966 [cut to split second clip of Adam West dancing the “Bat-Usi” for King Tut from episode #28 of the classic TV series].”
A jubilant crowd is cheering Batman. Some members of the crowd are holding up signs, one of which is inscribed with the words, “Batman Forever” – clearly a wink to the 1995 movie. Another sign reads, “POW!” – a wink to the ‘60s TV show.
Among the Batcave’s numerous vehicles, the 1989 Michael Keaton Batmobile is clearly visible. Less immediately obvious, though, is the fact that the Batcave also houses a Tyrannosaurus Rex – a nod to both Issue #35 of the 1946 Dinosaur Island Batman Comic, and the Batman Issue #1 of the New 52 from 2011.
A passing view of the Batcave reveals that among the many different Batsuits there is one labeled “Batman Beyond.”
The plot clearly will also involve Arkham Asylum.
And there are even jokes buried in Gotham City billboards. One references “Ninjagotown” – an Easter egg for DC’s 2017 Ninjago movie. Another is a commercial for an airline called Ferris Air, that not only boasts “Daily Flights to Metropolis”, but includes the buzz line: “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Yup, it’s a plane.” Oh, and unless you’re a DC uber-nerd, it should be noted that Green Lantern in his most iconic incarnation as Hal Jordan used to work for a corporation called … yup, Ferris Airlines.
But the Lego Batman is much more than just the sum of the parts of the Batman back catalog. He’s also very much his own man. After all, in addition to being the Batman, he’s also a vigilante, a master builder, a heavy metal rapping machine, a huge fan of TV dinner lobster thermidor, and more than a little afraid of snake clowns.
At least at the start of the movie, he works and lives alone, in an empty and echoing Batcave located underneath Wayne Mansion. (As he later brusquely explains to an incredulous Dick Grayson, the Batman doesn’t live in Bruce Wayne’s basement: Bruce Wayne lives in Batman’s attic!). However, as the plot and his character develops, the Lego Batman realizes he will need to team up if he is to defeat the Joker-led hoard of super villains – a hoard that includes The Riddler, Catwoman, Penguin, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, Scarecrow, Bane, Killer Croc, the Kabuki Twins, Clayface, Zodiac Master, King Tut, Man-Bat, Zebra Man, Eraser, March Harriet, Kite-Man, Crazy Quilt, The Mime, Cat Man, Red Hood, Calculator, The Mutant Leader, Tarantula, Mad Hatter, Magpie, Killer Moth, Calendar Man, Gentleman Ghost, Polka-Dot Man, the Condiment King, and Orca (the Lego animated version of which bears a striking resemblance to Katy Perry’s Superbowl Left Shark!).
Oh, and watch out for additional villainy from The Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch (complete with her Flying Monkeys), Gremlins, and a bunch of Daleks from Doctor Who!
How will the Lego Batman triumph? Well, if the trailers are anything to go by, in addition to Robin, Batgirl, and Alfred Pennyworth, it looks like he’ll be getting a helping hand from Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg, Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter, Black Canary, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Apache Chief, Black Canary, Black Vulcan, El Dorado, and Samurai.
The Lego Batman Movie hits the screens starting February 10th, and it’s already looking to be a real *block* buster of a Batman movie.
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