The Hero-Villain Trope Revisited

By Kevin Yu

Though nothing near a masterpiece, The LEGO Batman Movie is a nice movie to watch. Whether you are a Batman fan, interested in the superhero genre, or just looking for entertainment, this movie will have something to offer.

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Still from The LEGO Batman Movie, (2017.)

The most fascinating thing about LEGO Batman is the way it deals with the hero-villain trope. The movie is a deliberate parody of the superhero genre; it pulls out the relation between heroes and villains, put it on the foreground, and calls attention for it: what makes a superhero superhero, is a supervillain. When SPOILER ALERT Batman says to the Joker, “You are not my worst enemy. You mean nothing to me.” and the Joker almost cries, it is both funny and sad and extremely powerful, because the underlying relation between heroes and villains that our generation has taken for granted, either consciously or unconsciously, is presented in our face in such a dramatic way. And the entire movie can be summarized as a journey of the Batman discovering how much the Joker means to him.

Towards the end, however, things don’t work out for me so well. SPOILER ALERT. It shouldn’t come as a disappointment that, in the end, the Batman finds out he is not immune to emotions and finally brings himself to say “I hate you” to the Joker, so the crisis is solved and everyone is happy. People all expect this ending, right? But it is just not satisfying enough for me. When deconstructing one trope, the hero-villain relation, LEGO Batman falls into another trope that we all expect when watching a superhero movie: the world will be saved from destruction and everything will work out for everyone. It is not anyone’s fault that LEGO Batman chooses to go in this direction, but being a parody to the genre, the movie should be self-aware that the audience will expect it to break their expectations. While it offers some great surprises from the beginning, they all resolve into nothing but clichés. It reveals to be not a deconstruction of the genre or anti-genre film after all. What a disappointment.

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Still from The LEGO Batman Movie, (2017.)

This movie is more than just the hero-villain trope, of course. It also deals with loneliness and the importance of family. The depiction of both of these themes is more than great in the beginning, but just like the hero-villain trope, they both fail to bring true surprises in the end. Nevertheless, The LEGO Batman Movie has its great moments. It is witty, funny, and delightful, if you can make peace with its flaws.

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4 Responses to The Hero-Villain Trope Revisited

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I loved the Lego Movie and i’ve been meaning to go see this film. The idea of the super hero and super villain needing each other in order to have these identities is really interesting and I can see how they could turn that into humor. So excited to see this now!

    -Kendra Thornton

  2. mediaphiles says:

    I have not seen the Lego Movie or the Lego Batman Movie. It’s cool that this film deals with genre and tropes in a unique way rather than just bringing back the the same genre tropes. -Jordan Hansgen

  3. I would actually really like to see this film. I always overlook animated films, but I have heard this one is quite good. I love that you bring up the super villain as an essential counterpart to the superhero. It’s impossible to have a hero if there is nothing to prompt their heroic feats. It’s interesting to see how complex tropes are worked into films like these.

    -Kelly FitzGerald

  4. mediaphiles says:

    I’m a huge fan of films that know what they are and stick to it. The way you described that this movie is great for entertainment and was made for that basically alone, brings high hopes for me to watch this movie.

    -Jake Fallin

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