Well, it’s safe to say that this is the first Batman movie I’ve looked forward to seeing in years.
What’s most appealing about The Lego Batman Movie to me is the total lack of a grimdark tone. While Christopher Nolan defined Batman as a kind of sad, bitter, lonely dude, and Zack Snyder took that to a nonsense new level by making a movie that was bitter and sad at every level, there’s a distinct lack of angst in this trailer.
Lego Batman himself has angst, but this time, instead of being surrounded by people who feed into and magnify his angst, he’s surrounded by people who want to help him be happier. Batman’s role as a surrogate father to the Robins is a huge part of the comics that has been pretty much entirely ignored in the last decade of big-budget Batman films, but it’s a central part of this one. Bruce Wayne: Reluctant Dad is something I’m particularly looking forward to seeing, especially because this movie’s Bruce is such a comical stereotype of the grimdark live action Bats. I’m especially curious if he’ll be given a character arc and actually grow as a person over the course of the movie, since his Lego Movie appearance as well as the trailers and tie-in advertising have been leaning hard on the self-absorbed grumpy asshole persona.
I’m also excited that they opted to have Rosario Dawson’s Barbara Gordon be Black like her voice actress, adding a much needed level of diversity to the Bat-families that we’ve seen on the big screen. To the best of my knowledge the last time a Black woman had such a visible role in the Batman adaptations, it was 1966 and Eartha Kitt was playing Catwoman. Hopefully the merchandise—because you know damn well there will be merchandise—includes her and makes her available to little girls who also want to be Batgirl.
The only thing that I think is particularly strange about this trailer, or, more correctly, this movie, was the character design they gave to Dick, because yes, this Robin is the Dick Grayson version, who usually has much darker hair and doesn’t wear green-lensed glasses. You know which Robin does have red hair and tinted glasses? Carrie Kelley, from the semi-canonical comic The Dark Knight Returns, aka the one where Bats and Superman take each other on and which was the partial inspiration for Dawn of Justice. While I’m guessing their justification was that making Dick look like his voice actor Michael Cera would help them dodge some of the racist heat they might get for making Barbara Gordon Black (“we just made them all look like their voice actors!”), it seems weird to totally lift the look of one of the few female Robins, down to the hotpants, and copy/paste it onto a different one. When I first saw screencaps from the trailer without context I honestly thought they were using Carrie for the Robin in the movie. It would have been a… weird choice, because she’s from a standalone comic, but given that they reference Batman v Superman briefly in the trailer, I feel like I can’t be faulted for briefly imagining a Carrie!Robin world. Ultimately, although it would have been cool to have both Batgirl and a female Robin represented, Dick is the classic Robin and, importantly for the tone of the movie, a voice of optimism in the Batfamily. (Not typically as much so as in this trailer, but, well. You adjust to fit the tone of the movie.) Plus, I feel like any other Robins are, in some way, defined in relation to him, so I can see why they went with his character. It’s just the particular design that bugs me.
That nitpick aside, I am looking forward to seeing this when it hits theaters February 10th, as it looks to be fun, funny, and bright, three traits I can’t imagine using for any other Batman film in recent memory. Strange how such a simple tonal choice can get people excited about Batman again, huh?
Hear more from Lady Saika on Character Reveal, the podcast she cohosts with BrothaDom!