The Batman Lego Movie might be DC's chance at redemption after Batman vs Superman
The Martha debacle in Batman Vs Superman changed Batman's image from cerebral to comical. DC looks to bank on the same in The Batman Lego Movie.
Remember the time when Batman and Superman used to be the invincible saviours of the universe? Or the time when they exchanged blows amidst the ruins of their respective cities? Or the time when they left the DC buffs drooling with their impeccable one-liners? Well, it was just one word which put all the umpteen one-liners and superhero swag to shame - Martha.
Ever since the Martha debacle in Batman Vs Superman, the image of the cerebral and brooding Batman has gone for a toss. He was last seen in the four trailers of The Batman Lego Movie, beat-boxing, relishing lobsters and shooting batarangs on the title of his film. Facepalm!
However, it can turn out to be a smart move on part of the Warner Animation Group. The animated film can attract fans of both the universes - Marvel and DC. Marvel because they can make fun of Batman. And DC because well, Batman. Duh.
It is interesting to note that the Warner Animation Group is capitalising on not only the perennial popularity of Batman but also all the memes, spoofs and funny videos that Batman has been the victim of, most notably after the release of Batman Vs Superman.
What the Martha scene did for Batman, and even Superman, was to make them a laughing stock among the Twitterati. Martha memes flooded the social media platforms only to be followed by hoards of creative digs at the caped crusader of DC Comics.
The popular perception of Batman has undergone a drastic transformation over the years. Tracing its origin, Batman was created as a dark no-nonsense character. However, the conception of the character and his universe was rather ironical at its core. The only colour associated with Batman was black, apart from a few streaks of yellow. While the colour black symbolizes the evil, Batman was touted as a superhero. The creators justified the colour by his dark past which further lent the character an air of mystery.
On the other hand, the Joker, who sported every possible colour on the palette, was not exactly the bright vivacious personality he symbolically should have been. Though dark at his heart, the Joker was always decked up in colours probably as a measure of a self defense mechanism.
These ironical attributes added intrigue to all the Batman vs Joker encounters. The irony, however, also injected hints of humour into the character. The first film of Batman, probably cashing in on this humour, was a rather campier take on the superhero and his partner in (fighting) crime Robin. The 1996 film used Batman as a tool to comment on global issues like the Cold War. The film came across as a parody in which the superhero was seen poking fun, including at the Pentagon.
It was filmmaker Tim Burton who reintroduced Batman in 1989 as the dark caped crusader it was conceived as. Michael Keaton, who had been typecast as a comedian, was cast as Batman. In spite of the unconventional casting, the atmosphere, tone and treatment of the film was full of noir aesthetics, as opposed to the camp aesthetics of the 1966 movie. The Gothic environment was a reflection of the inner turbulence of Batman and the loneliness of Bruce Wayne.
The mystery attached with the character of Batman continued to cast its spell on the viewers, owing to the human fascination with the unknown and the inaccessible. It was only until filmmaker Christopher Nolan shattered the fourth wall by spelling out the detailed back story of Batman and projecting it as a conflicted character that the fans saw Batman as an alter ego of the vulnerable Bruce Wayne.
The Dark Knight trilogy humanised the superhero. The fascination was no longer towards the detached soul that Batman was hitherto portrayed as. Nolan depicted Batman as a humane character invested in his past, struggling with his present and concerned about the collective future of Gotham. Along with the external conflicts with the bad guys, the struggle was also internal as the challenge for Batman was to overcome his dark past, not by embracing it but by rising above it. The viewers found in themselves a part of Batman and they started relating to the character thereafter.
Filmmaker Zack Snyder followed suit when he humanised the conventionally invincible Superman in Man of Steel. The fans were amazed by how vulnerable Superman could be inside that steely exterior. However, the next move by Snyder in Batman Vs Superman went on to backfire. He took the humanisation to a whole new level through the Martha debacle that it made both the superheroes come across as emotional fools.
Consequently, the fans lashed out on social media and retaliated in the most creative way possible, through memes and spoofs on everything from Batman's hoarse voice to the 'Do you bleed?' sequence. It was probably the first time that the Marvel buffs poked fun at a DC juggernaut and the DC fans did not mind joining them, as a medium of expressing disappointment in the overindulgence of the filmmaker.
But the Dark Knight has risen again, this time in the Lego universe. The humanisation by Nolan and in turn, the Martha debacle by Snyder, have changed Batman's perceived persona from cerebral to comical. Warner Animation Group has wisely decided to reinvent itself by banking on this change.
As was evident by The Lego Movie and the four trailers of The Batman Lego Movie, this Batman does not take himself too seriously. The animated universe helps further the funny portrayal of Batman as the characters look adorable in their Lego avatars. The makers take digs at the death of Batman's parents, the costume of Robin, the straight-faced humour of Alfred, the increasing irrelevance of The Joker after Heath Ledger's demise and Superman's diminishing invincibility after the Man of Steel franchise. All these points have been at the center of the jokes doing the rounds on social media for the past couple of years.
The caricature of Batman from 1966 is all set to strike back in The Batman Lego Movie. But this time, the rationale behind Batman's makeover is not to present a satirical take on the global superpowers. Rather, it is merely a creative attempt on part of Warner Bros to allow the disappointed fans to sit back and laugh out loud at their favourite superhero.
But somewhere in the deepest darkest desires of their guilt-ridden heart, the projection of Batman as a laughing object is also their best, and perhaps the final, attempt at redeeming their lost glory. Because we know how they got these scars. It was Martha.
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Kapila Vatsyayan authored nearly 20 books on different forms of art and their histories in her long career. Some of her notable works include The Square and the Circle of Indian Arts (1997), Bharata: The Natya Sastra (2006), Dance in Indian Painting (2004), Classical Indian Dance in Literature and the Arts (2007), and Transmissions and Transformations: Learning Through the Arts in Asia (2011).
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