One of the great strengths of the Batman franchise is its versatility. You’d be hard-pressed to find another superhero that throughout the years has gone through as many changes as Batman.
The character’s tragic backstory, coupled with the moody setting of Gotham City, make him the perfect candidate for the tortured anti-hero depicted in Christopher Nolan’s brilliant Dark Knight films.
However, it can’t be denied that there is something inherently corny about Batman. When you really think about it, the “billionaire by day, superhero by night” trope is quite funny.
So is the sheer ridiculousness of some of the franchise’s best-known villains (i.e. Mr. Freeze, Riddler, and, yes, even Joker).
This comedic side of the franchise was first explored in the now-iconic Batman TV series of the 1960.
It arguably reached its peak in 1997 with the release of Batman & Robin, considered one of the worst films of all time by those with no sense of humor.
2017’s Lego Batman Movie definitely conforms more to the latter Batman tradition. It is a hilariously self-aware reimagining of a franchise that had lost its element of fun.
Still, even amidst the film’s constant stream of gags, Lego Batman manages to explore the complexities of its characters in a way that few superhero films do.
Below are several reasons why we believe Lego Batman is the best Batman movie of all time.
The Humanization of Its Characters
While Nolan’s films didn’t shy away from pointing out Bruce Wayne’s flaws, Lego Batman depicts the character as what he would most likely be in real life: a self-obsessed jerk who can buy anything except the genuine human connection he so desperately seeks.
While it is humorous to see him watch movies and eat dinner alone in his mansion, the viewer can’t help but empathize with his plight.
The last people he loved were his parents, whose lives were tragically cut short. And he is afraid to love again.
Nolan’s films also showed Wayne to be a loner; however, in that universe, his self-isolation was romanticized, a contribution to his “Dark Knight” image.
Ironically, Lego Batman’s approach to the character’s loneliness is more grounded in reality: he is, to put it bluntly, miserable.
This also allows for greater character development. By the end of the film, Wayne/Batman has shed his hostility towards others and accepted Robin and Batgirl as his friends.
If character development is the hallmark of a good story, Lego Batman tells the best story of any Batman film.
Yes, it’s essentially a comedy. But the viewer can’t help but be moved by Wayne’s transformation.
Lego Batman Has the Best Batman/Joker Dynamic
It’s undeniable that Heath Ledger’s Joker, as portrayed in 2008’s The Dark Knight, was an impeccable character.
However, a criticism the film faced was the fact that he and Batman rarely appeared together on screen. In many ways, the character of the Joker took on a life of his own within the film; he arguably even stole the show from the Dark Knight himself. In Lego Batman, however, the relationship between Batman and Joker is akin to that of a toxic marriage.
Despite their mutual disdain for one another, they need each other. And perhaps more than any other Batman film, Lego Batman highlights the similarities between the two characters.
It must also be pointed out that Lego Batman’s Joker is cinema’s most accurate portrayal of the original comic book character.
The original Joker couldn’t care less about crime: he simply hates Batman’s more-than-man attitude and seeks to reduce him to a human level, something that Lego Batman’s villain actually succeeds in doing.
It’s Got a Refreshing Sense of Self-Awareness
As we noted previously, no matter how dark the Batman franchise gets, the mere fact that its protagonist is a billionaire parading the streets in a bat costume is simply funny.
Lego Batman not only acknowledges this, but embraces it. The film is rife with satirization of Batman’s overt seriousness.
Will Arnett’s excellent performance—in which he channels Christian Bale’s signature gruff voice—only augments the parody.
However, even amidst the satire, Lego Batman shows respect for its source material, providing fan service we didn’t even know we needed.
It is safe to say that the film will probably feature the only cinematic appearances of lesser-known villains such as Calendar Man, Zebra-Man, and the too-often overlooked Condiment King.
More than any other superhero, Batman is a true chameleon, undergoing constant changes. The franchise has produced a plethora of truly superb films.
So it’s hard to argue for one being the best without causing some controversy amongst fans.
However, we believe that Lego Batman is the best Batman movie, as it gives us the purest iteration of the character. It managed to humanize its characters in a way that is rarely done, whilst still restoring fun to a franchise that had perhaps been taking itself too seriously.