When a character such as Batman exists for a long time and endures as a pop culture symbol, it is only natural to eventually want to deconstruct the subject. After all, deconstruction can allow one to better understand a figure or trope by examining the real consequences that come with the actions tied to it. The result can offer a nuanced examination of a subject, but sometimes that examination can be taken too far. A cynical view could peel back layers, but pure cynicism and nothing more can leave a rotten aftermath. After all, what use is a clock taken apart for study if it is never put back together? For instance, works like The Dark Knight Returns helped to deconstruct Batman by exploring the dark psychology behind the superhero. They captured the tragedy behind his actions and offered a vision of a haunted vigilante, one who lurks in the shadows to strike back at the terrors of the night. Now, while this vision is one that works well and captures a lot of the core spirit of Batman, sometimes people can cling too hard to this interpretation. In fact, sometimes this interpretation can be taken too far and present Batman as an emotionless, bitter, paranoid vigilante. Deconstruction can only take you so far. That is why reconstruction is helpful to remember. Reconstruction can bring the pieces back together, with a new knowledge for how to improve the material. That is part of what makes The LEGO Batman Movie work well as a comedic take on Batman: it deconstructs that dark loner image of Batman, while reconstructing him in a way that maintains his core.
After another day of taking down the Joker and the numerous villains that make up his rogue’s gallery, Batman is hailed as a hero to Gotham City once more. He relishes the celebration and praise of his work, but his time back at Wayne Manor is far more dull. Except for the company of Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne spends his time alone and brooding over old pictures of his parents. However, major changes are on the horizon for Bruce. Jim Gordon is retiring, with his daughter Barbara becoming the new Police Commissioner and seeking to properly end crime through methods that do not require Batman’s constant assistance. Not only that, but Bruce finds himself with new company after having accidentally adopted Dick Grayson, a cheerful boy who stands in contrast to the darkness of Batman. Most of all, the Joker shocks everyone with his latest action: turning himself and all of Gotham’s villains over to the cops. With no crime seeming to occur, Batman grows paranoid and certain that the Joker must be up to some new evil scheme. Indeed, as the wheels start turning in Joker’s grand plan, Batman will have to save the day once more. However, it will not be enough to do it alone. If he is going to save Gotham City, then he will have to put aside his brooding nature and learn to work with others.
Though the movie might not be at quite the same level as The LEGO Movie, this film still makes for a fun tribute and roast to Batman. Within the confines of the LEGO universe, the film allows itself access to the lengthy history of Batman, from the earliest comics to the most recent films. The result is a movie that gleefully pulls from Batman’s history like they are the contents of a freshly-opened toy box. For instance, the villains that serve under the Joker range from the well-known to the very obscure. Familiar faces like the Riddler and Catwoman turns up to bring the chaos, right alongside villains as little-known as Egghead, Crazy Quilt, and March Harriet. The references to things from throughout the history of Batman come fast and loose, arriving from all sides. Sometimes the references are clear and obvious, such as Alfred noting each time that Batman had a brooding period syncing up with each year a Batman movie had hit theaters. Sometimes it is more subtle, applying the reference into the background like the numerous versions of the Batsuit visible in the Bat Cave. Either way, the film offers a wonderful spotlight on the many exploits and versions of Batman from throughout the years. Most of all, however, is the fact that the movie displays a strong understanding of the character.
As mentioned before, the version of Batman here is that of the dark loner. However, it is one that is deconstructed and taken to a comedic extreme. He is emotionally immature, insisting that he feels nothing except the cold rage that fuels his quest for justice. He keeps himself distant from others, insisting that the only thing that matters to him is fighting crime. He is the egocentric, bitter vigilante that the deconstructed take can become. However, there is more lurking here beneath the surface. It is clear that he does feel lonely, but hides it because he believes that is what he needs to do. He pushes people away, but it stems from a fear of losing anyone close to him like when he had lost his parents. There is real emotion beneath the self-righteous and grim seriousness, and it is that emotion that becomes key to this reconstruction. As he works with Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon to foil Joker’s newest scheme, Batman begins to see that he does not have to be so lonely. He begins to witness the possibility that maybe, just maybe, he can open himself up to others and have more in his life to care about than just his vigilante quest. The result is a major step of character development for Batman, where most media takes on the famous hero flirt with the idea but ultimately keep him rooted in the role of solitary figure.
It may not have quite the same comedic punch as The LEGO Movie, but The LEGO Batman Movie still makes for a fun celebration of Batman and his lengthy history. In fact, it offers a nice counterpoint to the generally dark portrayals of the character by deconstructing that darkness and reconstructing it with the core emotion beneath it.