The LEGO Batman Movie was one of the most highly anticipated films of 2017. And it more than delivered, which is something that Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad can't really say. Sure, those films made gobs of money, but The The LEGO Batman Movie was no slouch and has thus far has a made a quarter of a billion dollars. Not bad for a kid's movie made for a mere $80 million, right?
Now, before you start to dismiss The LEGO Batman Movie as a kid's movie and not really part of the Batman, Dark Knight storyline, know that you are somewhat right. However, somehow, using animated LEGOs, this film managed to imbue more heart and soul on the screen than the aforementioned DC Films. That is pretty darn impressive.
So if you can get past the idea that The LEGO Batman Movie isn't a kid's film, then you begin to see ways that DC Entertainment can actually use this film as a template to make better movies. Make no mistake, the movies they have made certainly aren't terrible. One just gets the feeling that they could've been better. And the fact that they made The LEGO Batman Movie only bares this point out.
The LEGO Batman Movie comes to us at a crucial time. There was a recent shake-up around the live action, stand alone Batman film. Ben Affleck, who plays the caped crusader, recently stepped back from directing that movie and will now only star. Apparently, this will also be his last time donning the suit for that role. (The director's chair will now be filled by Matt Reeves).
So, even though the script has been turned in, there still seems to be some wiggle room to add some changes. Those changes are none other than these seven things DC Entertainment can pull from LEGO Batman Movie. You might agree with them or you might not. However, if Matt Reeves liked The LEGO Batman Movie, you might very well see some or all of these in future DC Entertainment films.
The LEGO Batman Movie has a lot of fun with the mythos of Batman. It lampoons the very idea of the Dark Knight character. The film pokes fun at just about every iteration of Batman that has ever existed. However, that doesn't in any way detract from who the Batman character is. If DC Entertainment can bring this kind of levity to the standalone Batman movie, Justice League or Suicide Squad, it will do a lot to ingratiate itself to audiences that may have written off the current crop of films. At the same time, they will be allowed to see a side of certain characters that they heretofore have never seen. Look at how brilliantly Marvel did it with Captain America: Civil War. Those superheroes, these legends of cinema, spend a good deal of the film making fun of each other. Then, when comes time for war, these guys engage in it and at no time do we not take it seriously. There is a way to have fun in a film and tell a good story. The LEGO Batman Movie does a very good job showing how this can be achieved.
Fill it to the brim with good characters.
Character. Character. Character. Listen, in this day and age of big budget films, if you want to make money you've gotta give viewers more bang for their proverbial dollar. Give them a reason to keep returning to the theater and buying more toys. Especially in these genre films. Rumor has it that Ridley Scott wanted to tease the Alien for another film, but it seems that the powers behind Alien: Covenant told him that he needed to put the Alien in THIS movie stat. Well, if a luminary like Ridley Scott can be pushed around then it seems like everybody is fair game. Which brings us to the stroke of genius in The LEGO Batman Movie. This film showcases The Joker, Batgirl, Harley Quinn, Two-Face, Bane and just about everybody else you would want to see Batman go up against. Add to this that these characters (aside from The Joker), aren't on screen for that long, and yet somehow manage to be very memorable, further bolsters the idea that this can be done. Now, I know that putting a bunch of animated LEGOs in a movie is much easier than putting in live action human beings. Still, the point should not be lost. DC might very well have something with Justice League, but did we have to watch Man of Steele to get there?
You can still go deep.
In The LEGO Batman Movie, when Batman comes home from a hard day of crime fighting, we see the Bat Cave. Surrounded by technology, cars and everything else one could want, we see how truly empty this crime fighter's life is. Then, when Batman microwaves himself a lobster dinner, we get an up-close look into the soul of this character. As the food spins and we see Batman's sad stare into his meal, we realize with certain melancholy that this is all that he has. At that moment, this kid's film graduates to the level of art. Batman hates crime and at the same time he needs it. Without it what else does he have but a lot of money and nobody to share it with. He's just Bruce Wayne and that's kinda borning. That moment, where the light from the microwave shines on his LEGO face, we get more heart and soul than we got from The Green Lantern, Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman combined. Are you listening DC? All your films to have moments on introspection and contemplation. Don't merely edit around everything as a way to keep the story moving.
Tell a good story.
The LEGO Batman Movie is a master class in motion picture pacing. TIME magazine gave this movie a so-so review simply because it followed the formula of a superhero film. Well, isn't that what The LEGO Batman Movie is? What did they want this movie to do? Channel Ingmar Bergman? The LEGO Batman Movie was crafted like the superhero films we are used to seeing. However, it's biggest divergence was in not editing the films like Batman vs. Superman or Suicide Squad. Those movies moved well, but they were edited in such a way that we see scenes as the beginning, the end, and have almost no idea what is happening in the middle. For a superhero film that is a problem. For an action film it can be cataclysmic. Sure, we can fill in the blanks about what happened, but not seeing that important piece of action really unhinged the viewing experience. At first it seemed like that was Zack Snyder's intention with Batman vs. Superman. However, to see it carried over into Suicide Squad makes one wonder if DC Entertainment can reign Snyder in a bit with Justice League.
Have the motives make sense.
Okay, in Batman vs. Superman, Superman is about to kill Batman and he stops because their mothers share the same name. Or, something like that. In fact, why Batman hates Superman isn't even that clear in that film. So when the movie is called Batman vs. Superman, and the audience doesn't know why they are really "VS" each other (unless of course they are comic book readers and happen to know the back story), that is a BIG problem. Contrast this with The LEGO Batman Movie. We 100% understand why Batman is the closed off, narcissistic ape of a LEGO that he is. He lost his parents at a very young age. This has created attachment issues. In fact, that moment towards the end of the film where he stops Alfred, Robin and Batgirl from helping him works both ways. Batman is still closed off thinking that he can singlehandedly stop all the crime in Gotham. The bigger reason why he does it, the breakthrough, is because he cares about these people and doesn't want to see them get hurt. Why does the Joker not like Batman? Why does he reek havoc on Gotham? We understand that, too. The Joker wants Batman to need him. More to the point he wants Batman to see them as equals. The fact that a kids movie did this, and ultimately hits home with an important message about family, is a double-entendre that DC Entertainment could certainly utilize to great effect in their live action films.
Allow interpersonal relationships to drive the movie.
This point goes hand in hand with the motives point. The LEGO Batman Movie wears its heart on it's sleeve. It is first and foremost a story about loss, love and redemption. All of this is brought out in Batman's interactions with Robin, Alfred, Batgirl and yes, even The Joker. In fact, I would be willing to argue that the relationship between Batman and the Joker in The LEGO Batman Movie, is just as strong as it was in The Dark Knight. It certainly makes more sense than what we saw in Batman vs. Superman. And, it also tops what we were supposed to feel between The Joker and Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad. The interpersonal relationships pour out of The LEGO Batman Movie. Alfred talks to Batman like he is his son. We have seen it before but never between LEGOs! And it works. Batman's relationship with Batgirl, though complicated, also feels like it has many places to grow for a potential sequel. Lastly, Batman reluctantly takes Robin under his wing (pun intended), and through his words and deeds this seems like something Batman has always wanted. Even without all the action, The LEGO Batman Movie works as a solid character study. DC Entertainment should really study what this film got right and apply it to script notes on all of their live action properties going forward.
Believe in the story no matter how outlandish.
This might be the most important point of all. It is something DC Entertainment can really hit home with. The actors in Batman vs. Superman didn't seem to believe in the story they were telling. Sure, they acted in the film. They did their best to try and connect the dots as much as they were able. However, the biggest failing of Batman Vs. Superman, Man of Steel, Green Lantern, Superman Returns and even The Dark Knight Rises is that the stories weren't strong enough. It almost seems like some of the filmmakers think that if they follow the story beats of an action film, they will be able to push past all the missteps inherent in the story to begin with. Counter that with The LEGO Batman Movie. This film has all those same action points sprinkled throughout the movie. However, this movie meets the challenges of the superhero genre head on by deconstructing it (much the same way that Deadpool did the year before). Now, the reality is that DC Entertainment can't deconstruct all of their films. What they can do is find stories that really represent the brand better. How was Christopher Nolan able to do it so well? (And yes, I am including The Dark Knight Rises in this). It may not seem like it, but in superhero movies the story is king. Once DC Films understands that and some of these other points, they will stop playing catch-up with Marvel Studios and give fans a more satisfying move-going experience.