Thursday, February 9, 2017
The Lego Batman Movie SPOILERS Adoption Movie Review
Be warned… SPOILERS ALL THE WAY THROUGH THIS REVIEW
After thwarting another crime in Gotham City, Batman returns to his lair. Although a hero and a celebrity, he lives a life of near solitude. His only companion has been Alfred, his loyal butler and father-figure. Alfred confronts Batman, saying that Batman’s greatest fear is being a part of a family; years ago, before Bruce Wayne became Batman, he lost his parents. As an adult, his self-imposed solitude has worked to protect him from emotional vulnerability and loss. A sarcastic comment made Batman the unwitting adoptive parent of Dick Grayson, an optimistic, energetic young orphan. Alfred suggests that taking responsibility for Dick Grayson could be Batman’s first step towards conquering his fear of relationship. Dick takes the superhero name of Robin. Together with the new police commissioner, Batman and Robin face a new threat from the Joker, who hopes to bring Gotham City under his control.
The Adoption Connection
Bruce Wayne was orphaned as a young child, and since then has been raised by the family butler, who continues to fill a parental role in Bruce’s life, even now that Bruce is an adult – and a superhero. Meanwhile, hurt by the loss of his parents, Bruce avoids family relationships, and denies even looking at old family photographs. He refuses to acknowledge his sadness, instead saying that his only emotion is rage.
Bruce has unintentionally adopted Dick; Dick is a wide-eyed young orphan who asks a distracted Bruce a series of questions. Bruce continues to answer in the spirit of “yeah, sure, whatever,” without paying attention to what Dick is asking. That’s too bad, because Dick has been asking how to make himself more appealing to prospective adoptive parents, and ultimately asks whether Bruce will adopt him.
Dick comments that he has never had a family photo; he proclaims a selfie of himself, Batman, Alfred and the police commissioner to be his first family photo.
You might also want to check out our reviews of The Lego Movie, Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, and Batman Begins – and of course, Check out our book on Amazon to see how to use films to have adoption-friendly family movie nights all year round!
Alfred has been a consistent, caring adult to Bruce. He challenges Bruce to face his fear of being a part of a family again. Even though Bruce denies the desire to be in relationships, his need is obvious.
Dick is thrilled to be a part of a family.
Bruce eventually grows out of his aversion to being part of a family, and eventually embraces Dick as his son.
Alfred wisely asks Bruce whether his emotional seclusion is truly to protect others – or whether its only to protect himself. He asserts that Bruce is “afraid of feeling the pain you feel when you lose someone close to you.” That’s something that will relate to many people touched by adoption. Eventually, a character asserts the positive message that, “sometimes, losing people is part of life – but that doesn’t mean you stop letting them in.”
The film presents adoption and orphans in some unhelpful and uncomfortable ways. Bruce is referred to as “the greatest orphan of all time.” Dick asks Bruce, “Do you have any advice on how to get adopted?” He goes on to list several things he could do to become more likely to be adopted including learning a foreign language and having “experimental surgery to make my eyes larger and more vulnerable looking.” He also asks Bruce whether Bruce would be more interested in adopting a “base model orphan” or one with “more upgraded features.” Bruce doesn’t really listen to Dick’s questions and carelessly answers each of his questions with a thoughtless affirmative. Although Bruce still isn’t listening, Dick confides in him, “All I want is to get adopted so I can finally stop being alone.” Bruce still isn’t paying attention when Dick asks whether Bruce is looking to adopt, and his careless answer of “yup, yup, yup, yup” makes him Dick’s unwitting adoptive parent.
Dick shows up at Bruce’s home, and apparently has lived there for a few days before Bruce is even
aware that he is there. Upon learning that he has adopted Dick, Bruce tells Alfred to “put that kid on the next jet to the orphanage.” Alfred does not comply; Dick learns Bruce’s secret identity and petitions to be included in some missions. Bruce allows him to come along only when he realizes that Dick is small, nimble, and, in Bruce’s words, “100% expendable.” On the mission, Bruce refuses to allow Dick to call him “dad,” and is only proud of Dick when Dick satisfactorily obeys him. He even flatly denies that Dick is his son at one point, and only acknowledges that Dick is his son because another character suggests that it would be “weirder” if a grown man was with a boy who was not his son. Even though Bruce is later called to account for this callous attitude towards Dick, and even though he eventually improves, it could be troubling for some viewers. The unkind things Bruce says are there to highlight the self-centeredness and reluctance to be in relationship that have come from his own loss, and they’re often intended to draw laughs from the audience, but for kids who have been orphaned, neglected, misused, and threatened with disrupted placements, the jokes could be very painful. Most teenagers could be able to deal with what Bruce says, but this film also seems likely to appeal to young kids who might not be easily able to not take Bruce’s unkind words personally.
In a way, Bruce’s approach to Dick is similar to Gru’s negative approach to his future daughters in the first Despicable Me film – he intends to use his adopted children to accomplish a dangerous task that he can’t accomplish himself, and he does not have true intentions to be a parent. Negative portrayals of the intentions of adoptive parents could be troubling for some young viewers who have been, or who may become, adopted.
Bruce makes Dick an accessory to a crime.
The Lego Batman Movie is funny from the first scene. It’s well-made, engaging, and means well. There are some challenging portrayals of orphans and adoption that could be difficult for some adoptive families – and in particular, which could be confusing or troubling for some younger adopted children – that’s too bad, because outside of these things, this is a delightful film that I thoroughly enjoyed. It has some very positive messages about dealing with loss, and it also portrays the impact of Bruce’s initial negative approach to dealing with loss. However, his treatment of Dick could upset some young viewers. For kids who take cinematic mentions of adoption to heart – particularly younger kids, parents should probably screen it first. Kids and teens 12 and up may be less likely to take these issues to heart; but parents should be present during the film so that they can engage their teens in important conversations afterwards. Overall, for adoptive families, I’d rate this film as good for kids 12 and up; parental guidance particularly important for kids 10-13, and for kids under 9 it might be particularly good for parents to screen it before their kids see it.
Questions for Discussion
Why was Bruce scared of relationships? What was he scared of? How did this fear impact him?
What was Dick hoping would come from being adopted? Was it realistic?
Bruce adopted Dick without realizing he was doing it – how do you think adoptions happen in the real world?
In what ways was Batman a good dad? What things did he have wrong, at first?
What makes a good dad, a good dad?
Dick seemed to feel that he had to change something about himself in order for him to be able to get adopted – how do you feel about that? If you were Dick’s friend, what would you tell him? Do all
kids deserve a forever home?
How has Bruce dealt with the “pain you feel when you lose someone close to you?” Which were the best things he did?