Review of "The Lego Batman Movie (DVD)"

published 08/07/2017 | afy9mab
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All of my DVD reviews are film only, so do not include pricing information. If you have time, please read and rate my Batman V Superman review.
Super
Pro Fantastic animation, fun characters and story.
Cons Lacks the freshness of The Lego Movie and is a little too long.
exceptional
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"Finally, a FUN Batman Movie!"

FILM ONLY REVIEW

When Gotham City is under attack from The Joker and his huge team of supervillains, Batman decides to take him on alone. But Joker has more tricks up his sleeve and if Batman wants to save the city from his hostile takeover, he might just have to drop the lone wolf thing and work with other people. He might even have to learn to lighten up, which is hard for a guy who only knows how to work in shades of black and sometimes very, very dark grey…

“Robot Chicken” director Chris McKay makes the leap to the big screen with this Batman parody. He has crafted a meticulously detailed world. Almost every item, character and location is constructed from virtual Lego bricks and they are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing. The animators have painstakingly captured the precision of Lego’s moulding techniques and have recreated the scratches and scuffs the toys pick up. In addition, they have also recreated the reflective and semi-translucent qualities of the plastic. There are a few more special effects this time around, which include billowing clouds of smoke and mist, liquid water, lightning and more realistic explosions. But these tweaks work because they are in the style of previous Batman movies. The location choices are more limited than in “The Lego Movie”, as the narrative mainly takes place in a single world. This just means that there is continuity of design and style, without forsaking a sense of scope. The animators manage to make Wayne Manor and the Batcave appear cavernous, while the city of Gotham feels like a sprawling metropolis, thanks to a range of locations and a mixture of long shots and close-ups. The director replicates the visual style of various Batman films, by emphasising shadows (even in the most mundane of situations for added comic effect) and ‘shooting’ the characters from below, which throws even more shadows onto them and their environment. There is the odd flash of lens flare (beloved of action directors the world over) and occasional wonky perspective, which is very much in the vein of Tim Burton. There are even a couple of Adam West-era fades from one scene to another.

The production is populated by a gigantic cast of Lego DC Universe minifigures (I honestly had no idea Lego had produced so many), including a huge batch of ridiculous Batman nemeses culled from eighty-odd years of comics, TV series and films. The sheer variety is breath-taking. A few characters from other franchises also gate-crash the action. The players have more expressive faces and eyes than the toys they are based on, but the director makes the most of their restricted movements, from their claw-like hands to their rigid legs and twistable wigs. In addition, Batman’s wardrobe is ridiculously inventive. McKay makes less of the buildable aspects of Lego, as most of Batman’s vehicles and gizmos are pre-built. But there are a few instances when the Master Builder techniques introduced in “The Lego Movie” make an appearance, resulting in some peculiar visual treats.

This production suffers in comparison to “The Lego Movie” simply because it comes pre-loaded with expectations that the first film wasn’t subject to. It operates in a smaller self-contained world, with a more limited pool of characters. The gag ratio wasn’t as high as I had expected, either. That being said, it has an awful lot more jokes than your average family film, split among character and situation comedy, slapstick, sight gags and blink-and-miss-it pop culture references. There’s even room for a dig at the pilloried “Suicide Squad” movie. Meanwhile, characters who provide their own sound effects. The plot is also more predictable, but there are plenty of daft action sequences and weird situations to keep viewers happy. The script is snappy and there’s enough character development to make the players likeable. The hundred-and-four-minute running-time is perhaps a trifle generous, as the pacing sags towards the end, but it is never less than entertaining.

I was worried when I found out the screenplay was being written by a team that included Seth Grahame-Smith (the writer of “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter”), as I think he’s a bit of one-trick pony. However, I was pleased to find that the script was smart, silly (and unlike the recent DC films), very self-aware. The basic narrative is pretty much a standard-issue “Batman” movie, but set in a Lego version of the world. He might be a super successful crime-fighter loved by all except the gigantic roster of supervillains knocking about, but then he goes home to Wayne Manor and has to battle crushing loneliness (which leads to one of the film’s stand-out sequences of poignant emptiness played for laughs). His relationship with the criminal world is also coloured by The Joker’s realisation that he isn’t in an exclusive hero-villain relationship with the Dark Knight. Batman admits he prefers to ‘fight around’ with the likes of Superman and Bane. Wounded by the Bat’s failure to commit, The Joker comes up with a plan that forces Batman to ask for crime-fighting help from his adopted son Dick Grayson, butler Alfred and new Commissioner Barbara Gordon. This leads to a level of self-reflection never previously seen in Batman movies, which is a shame because it’s so entertaining. It also gives the writers the chance to throw in messages about the importance of teamwork and compromise, without them seeming preachy.

The characterisation tweaks well-known characters for comic effect. Batman/Bruce Wayne is written as so stubbornly macho that he won’t even admit he has feelings. He’s in his element when he’s fighting crime, but when asked about his emotions he goes into denial or has a tantrum. He also has no idea how to deal with the adoptive son he’s picked up by accident. Joker is Batman’s polar opposite. He’s a slave to his emotions, so when he can’t get an exclusive hero-villain combat commitment from Batman, he takes it out on the rest of Gotham. He’s sneaky, petty and just a little bit off kilter. Barbara Gordon is the new police commissioner and she doesn’t take nonsense from anyone, least of all Batman. Sadly, she’s the only decent female character in the film, but she’s smart, strong and independent. Dick Grayson/Robin has never been so dorky or so utterly adorable. He’s like an overexcited puppy, desperate to be loved and thrilled to be adopted by Batman. He’s also dim and obedient, like any good sidekick. Alfred Pennyworth might be Bruce Wayne’s butler, but he’s also the closest thing the hero has to a father figure and he acts accordingly. He doles out advice, tries to get his charge to face his feelings and takes away his computer privileges when necessary. He’s a nice calm antidote to the more manic characters. The rest of the cast includes a multiplicity of villains, many of whom appear to facilitate a single joke. The dialogue is smart, snappy and downright daft in places. One of my favourite exchanges is between Batman and his soon-to-be son “All the kids at the orphanage call me Dick.” “Well, chidlren can be cruel.”

Will Arnett returns as the ridiculously gravelly, deep-voiced Batman, who he plays without a shade of irony, which only makes him seem more ridiculous. I love Rosario Dawson because she plays strong characters so well and Barbara Gordon/Batgirl is no exception, giving as good as she gets with some nicely-timed put-downs. Zach Galafianakis voices The Joker with unbridled glee. Ralph Fiennes is a wonderfully dry and deadpan Alfred (although why he doesn’t also voice the Voldemort cameo is anyone’s guess). Michael Cera continues his run of notable nerds as the voice of Dick Grayson/Robin, making him delightfully guileless.

The original music by Lorne Balfe takes its leads from every overblown Batman movie score you’ve ever heard. Expect tense, sweeping strings, heavy percussion, burring or stabbing brass, epic choral arrangements and swelling electric guitar. It’s a score that generally takes itself as seriously as the hero and fits right in because it’s so melodramatic. There are some softer arrangements for Batman’s inner turmoil, which are also used for comic effect because they are so cheesy. The other soundtrack choices include a tongue-in-cheek metal version of the “Batman” theme with Will Arnett on vocals, a lounge version of “Man in the Mirror”, Cutting Crew’s “(I Just) Died in Your Arms”, “Forever” by DNCE and the terribly naff “Friends Are Family” by Oh, Hush!. It’s a mixed bag, which works in the context of the film, but there’s nothing as catchy as “Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie”.

I liked “The Lego Batman Movie”, but I didn’t love it, even though I wanted to. I thought the animation was superb. I found the direction confident and inventive, while the writing was silly and smart, even though the plot wasn’t very original. I really liked the vocal performances too. But somehow it didn’t quite live up to its predecessor, probably because I went into this film with higher expectations. It just felt a little more limited in its scope. However, note to Warner Brothers’ executives: THIS is how you make an entertaining Batman movie. If you have kids who like the characters or enjoyed “The Lego Movie”, they’re bound to lap this one up too. In addition, if you’ve tired of how serious superhero films have become of late, this is the perfect antidote.

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Comments on this review

  • siberian-queen published 31/07/2017
    vh
  • IzzyS published 23/07/2017
    Good review.
  • Pointress published 19/07/2017
    vh
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Product Information : The Lego Batman Movie (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

DVD Region: DVD

Classification: Parental Guidance

Director(s): Chris McKay

Studio: Warner Bros.

Production Year: 2017

EAN: 5051892204675

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