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Lego Batman Movie, The (3D Blu-ray Review)

13 Jun, 2017 By: John Latchem

Street 6/13/17
Box Office $175.75 million

$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 3D BD, $44.95 UHD BD
Rated ‘PG’ for rude humor and some action
Voices of Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes.

The Lego Batman character voiced by Will Arnett was a huge factor in the success and popularity of 2014’s The Lego Movie, so giving him his own spinoff was a natural move, especially considering the current trend of cinematic superheroes in general.

The Lego Batman Movie amplifies all the parody elements inherent in his appearance in the earlier film, expanded to return the character to his traditional Gotham City setting, allowing for the wider array of Batman supporting characters and villains to get in on the fun.

This isn’t actually the first “Lego Batman movie” to come along, since Warner Bros. has been releasing a series of direct-to-video animated Lego movies based on Batman and the Justice League. But those were inspired more by the Lego video games featuring the characters, whereas this version draws influence from The Lego Movie and previous Batman movies. So it’s a bit fascinating to see how the two distinct Lego DC superhero franchises evolved.

There are similarities in the storytelling for both, which stems mostly from the nature of Lego as the foundational building block of the narrative. All the Lego movies, not just the superhero spinoffs, tend to use the recurring motif of “Lego physics,” and how that allows characters to reshape objects and vehicles to suit their needs.

The Lego Movie took that a step further with a metaphysical undercurrent of Lego as a toy, with the characters and story being the result of the people playing with them. The Lego Batman Movie pays service to those ideas without the need to fully go all the way with it — it’s implied that Gotham City is built on a table, and the story is very much in line with the idea of how people playing with the toys might use them to interact, but we never have to deal with human characters arranging all the toys as we did in the previous movie.

The Lego Batman Movie is also similar to its DTV cousins in that its world uses actual water and smoke (or CGI representations of such, at least), as opposed to The Lego Movie where those effects were simulated by Lego bricks. Where that aided the stop-motion quality that was one of the charms of the earlier film, this spinoff is much more fluid in its animation style for the most part, so omnipresent bricks comprising everything might seem too distracting. The animation is just as detailed and lively as its predecessor, and the 3D provides a nice immersion for the audience without being so overwhelming as to call attention to itself, though not providing much to the viewing experience above and beyond the 2D version.

The script takes a step back to examine Batman as a character in a ways a serious adaptation might not be able to, as it plays fast and loose with elements of the mythology to tell the story it wants to tell. While Batman enjoys the reputation as the top crime-fighter in Gotham City, whose citizens relish the thought of how cool it is to be the Caped Crusader, Batman finds himself spending his off hours alone in the Batcave catching up on old romantic comedies and munching on leftovers prepared for him by Alfred.

Batman’s staunch adherence to his loner reputation extends even to his rogues gallery, upsetting the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) when he refuses to acknowledge the Clown Prince of Crime as an arch-nemesis (Batman sees Superman as more of a rival, insisting the Joker means nothing to him).

While Joker draws up plans to prove he’s Batman’s worst enemy, Bruce Wayne becomes mesmerized by Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl, voiced by Rosario Dawson), who takes over the job of police commissioner from her retiring father. Distracted by love, Bruce inadvertently adopts plucky orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera, reunited with his “Arrested Development” uncle Arnett).

In an origin story for Robin that doesn’t match the comics at all (not that it matters, we get the gist of it), Batman decides Dick is small enough to bypass Superman’s security at the Fortress of Solitude to steal a device that can send Joker to the Phantom Zone, where Superman usually sends the worst criminals in the universe.

Of course, this is what the Joker is hoping for, not only because it proves Batman considers him a threat, but also that it allows him to arrange an alliance with other notorious bad guys, and not just comic book villains. And here’s where the film, like The Lego Movie before it, takes advantage of the wide array of franchises licensed by Lego.

Soon enough, Gotham City is terrorized by the likes of the Joker’s new army of Sauron, Lord Voldemort, King Kong, Gremlins, a Clash of the Titans Kraken, The Daleks of “Doctor Who,” and more notorious pop culture bad guys (most of which also fall under the purview of the Warner rights umbrella — what a coincidence!).

And thus, Batman must overcome his proclivity for solitude to learn how to accept help from others in order to save Gotham.

The film cheats a bit in its attempts to yank at the audience’s heartstrings (a feeling affectionately referred to as “the fizz” during the filmmaker commentary). We’re meant to sympathize with Batman over his supposed loneliness, making it that more meaningful if and when he actually acknowledges the contributions of others. But the Batman presented here is a bit of an over-serious caricature that accentuates his best-known traits, so using a satirical foundation to also provide a serious character study smacks a bit of the movie trying to have its cake and eat it too.

Still, it’s a minor concern in a film as entertaining as this, which ultimately proves to be a celebration of all things Batman. The film contains references to all previous Batman movies, including the 1940s serials, plus the classic 1960s TV show, with which it certainly shares its over-the-top sentiments. In that regard, it’s a bit of fortuitous timing that the movie would arrive on disc the week after the death of Adam West, as it certainly serves as a fitting tribute to his legacy and the zany spirit he brought to his portrayal of the character on TV (a clip of West’s Batusi, seen in the trailers, is one of the few live-action segments to make it into the film).

Just for good measure, the filmmakers cast Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face, returning him to the role he should have had in the live-action films after playing Harvey Dent in the 1989 movie. Multi-layered gags like that (and even a Gymkata reference) make the film a delight for attentive adults as much as kids.

The Blu-ray includes a healthy offering of bonus materials that, while not groundbreaking, do elevate the disc to the level of something collectors and fans should enjoy, simply for how it consolidates a wide array of material into one spot.

The centerpiece is four tie-in animated shorts featuring the characters, running about seven-and-a-half minutes total. In addition to this is a funny three-minute clip of the film’s Comic-Con panel, which is really an animated presentation of the Lego characters on a Lego Comic-Con stage.

There’s also another seven minutes of deleted scenes, presented in various stages of readiness, from storyboards to rough CGI to almost-finished renders.

Another extra presents the three winners of the Rebrick contest, with Arnett introducing the fan-made stop-motion animated Lego short films.

There’s also a section collecting the film’s trailers and social media promotional videos, which is something of a rarity for discs nowadays since the material is available online.

The behind-the-scenes portion of the extras amounts to five featurettes totaling about 28 minutes, plus the aforementioned audio commentary track with the filmmakers, who delve a lot into the technical aspects of creating the film.

Finally, for good measure, the disc includes the animated The Master: A Lego Ninjago Short, a cute sketch that ran in theaters and also serves as a preview for the upcoming The Lego Ninjago Movie (the trailer of which also is included).


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