Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Lego Batman Movie (2017) (Movie Review)

      It’s been years sense that last theatrical Batman spoof movie came out in 1997 titled “Batman and Robin”. It’s been even more years sense the last “good” Batman spoof movie came out in 1966 titled “Batman: The Movie”. Now in the year of 2017, we’ve got a new theatrical spoof titled “The Lego Batman Movie”, and it’s not only the funniest by far, it’s possibly one of the best things to ever come out under the Batman logo. Okay, let me stop and back up a little. The 2014 animated film “The Lego Movie” was a huge hit, and took many of us by surprise. It was funny, it was imaginative, it was visually dazzling, and it had a heart at the center. One of the standout characters featured in that film was Lego Batman voiced by Will Arnett. It was decided that the Lego movie franchise should continue, but focusing on individual characters in their own set Lego worlds, beginning with none other than Lego Batman himself. Thus we have our film, which works as both a perfect follow up to “The Lego Movie”, and surprisingly works as an animated Batman movie.

      As our movie begins, we see the Joker enacting one of his sinister plans to blow up the city with the aid of every single Batman villain ever established. As you’d expect, our hero comes to save the day, but not without breaking the Jokers heart when he reveals his true feelings toured the famous clown prince of crime. This revelation upsets the Joker something awful, and he vows to make sure that Batman finally see’s his arch foe for what he truly is. On the other side of our hero’s life, Batman is actually very lonely, depressed, and while he’ll never admit it out loud, he’s longing to start a new family again. Thus we enter Robin, who through a series of events becomes Batman’s adopted son, and begins to fill the void in his empty life. Our hero also finds himself falling in love with the new police commissioner Barbara Gordon, whom Batman recruits as the crime fighting Batgirl. While this new Bat family is slowly coming together, the Joker unleashes yet another scheme on the city, and puts our hero to the test if he’s ready to fight as a team-player or risk the lives of his new family.

      I’ll admit, I was very underwhelmed by the trailer, as it looked like “just a silly children’s comedy”, and nothing more. Then I remembered how much I loved “The Lego Movie” and decided to give this one a chance. To my surprise, this film isn’t just a clever spoof ... it actually feels like a legit Batman movie, just in a different presentation then all the rest. It still covers issues and character arches that one would expect from a real Batman movie, and there’s even some moral substance at the center. Well, by kid movie standards anyway. Will Arnett is actually a very credible Batman, and might just be one of my favorite portrayals of the character. I like seeing this version of Batman go through his own arch of facing his fears and complications, while still being very charismatic and funny. Robin is voiced by Scott Pilgrim himself “Michael Cera”, who I’m personally not a fan of, but he was fine in the role. His relationship with Batman in this film is admittedly one of the best I’ve seen in any incarnation. I liked their banter, I liked how they poked fun at each others tropes, and it was just satisfying to see them come together. Now as for Batgirl, honestly, I just don’t get why this version of Batman has the hots for her. This is actually the second animated Batman movie in a row to feature some kind of relationship between these two, and it just feels out of place to me. Although, for whatever it’s worth, I do like the voice actress Rosario Dawson. 

        Now let’s talk about the Joker, who’s voiced in this film by Zach Galifianakis. This is like the sixth theatrical rendition of this character (second brought to life through voice acting), and it’s surprisingly a very original portrayal of the character. While this Joker is obviously unleashing his evil on the city, his goal is simply to have Batman admit that they complete each other’s lives. It's actually kind of a heartbreaking scene when Batman flat out tells the Joker he means nothing to him, and that he doesn’t even come close to being his greatest foe. I love how passionate this version of Joker gets to prove him wrong, and to see their relationship progress over the course of the film is very amusing. All of Batman’s other iconic foes all make appearances including Bane, Poison Ive, Cat-woman, Scarecrow, Harley Quinn, Clayface, the Penguin, and thank goodness they didn’t forget to include Mr. Freeze. Personally I wish they could have given Mr. Freeze a slightly bigger role then just a walk by cameo, but at least my favorite Batman villain was there in some form. The majority of these villains just make brief appearances, but there’s some nice touches here and there. I really liked that Two-Face in this film is voiced by Billy Dee Williams, who originally played the character Harvey Dent in the original Tim Burton “Batman”, but never played his evil alter ego. Also, the Riddler in this movie is voiced by Conan O’Brien, but you’d never recognize him. Just about every obscure Batman villain ever makes an appearance in this film, even Egg Head makes an appearance, which was a great little call back to the classic 60’s show.

       On that note, if you’re a long time Batman fan, and have been watching his countless movies, TV shows, spin-offs and even old cereals ... then you will have the time of your life noticing countless references, nods, jokes and Easter eggs aimed at just about every one of his incarnations. Seriously, this movie is a Batman fans wet dream. Every single movie leading up to this film is mentioned and satirized brilliantly. There are so many details that got me laughing a lot more than most of the little kids that were in the theater with me, probably because they don’t know about little things like “bat-shark repellent”. There were also some recognizable music cues from other Batman material, and the original songs for this film were nothing short of awesome. As for the comedy in general, I’m not going to lie ... this movie is HILARIOUS! I really don’t think I’ve had this much fun with an animated film sense “The Simpsons Movie” came out way back in 2006. I was honestly laughing so hard at some scenes that I got worried some security gourd might throw me out of the theater. Right from the start, I loved how this film parodied your standard action movie intros, especially in regards to the over saturation of logos that appear before a movie. I also loved the jokes aimed at Superman and the current DC cinematic universe. Surprisingly, one of my favorite jokes revolves around that classic cliché of “shocking news causing someone to spit out their drink”, and if you’ve seen the movie, you probably know what I’m talking about. 

      The animation naturally is amazing to look at, very colorful, very detailed, and it gives this movie its own unique atmosphere and style. Now the down side is that while this film is a visual marvel, and the jokes are consistently fast and funny, it can be a bit exhausting at times. There’s a lot of mayhem, and a lot of noise, so you really have to be in the right state of mind to watch this. You have to be in the mind set of a child that’s having fun playing with his toys. That doesn’t sound too hard to do, but the films frantic nature really clashes with the quieter, serious moments. I am glad the movie has some quiet scenes to let some character emotion sink in, but the transitions aren’t always handled that well. Even the shifts in tone can get a little rocky. Even the morals got a little repetitive at times. Now there are some genuinely touching scenes, and I do like the message overall. Heck, I’m amazed that a film of this sort even has a moral or theme, so good for this movie to even have something of substance as opposed to just mindless fun.

     For all those minor faults, it doesn’t spoil the films overall fun-factor, that is, as long as you’re in the right mind set. Let me put it this way, the climax is one of the most awesome things I’ve experienced at the cinema in years, making me feel like a six year old in a twenty-five year old man’s body, and I just embraced it. Here’s the set up for this mega finally, the Joker leaves Batman’s Lego universe and recruits various iconic villains from other franchises to concur the city. This includes Voldemort from the “Harry Potter” series, Agent Smith from “The Matrix”, The Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz”, Medusa and the Kraken from “Clash of the Titans”, Sauron from “The Lord of the Rings”, “Dracula”, King Kong, the Gremlins, and tons of others. Then Batman recruits his own army of all his iconic foes who were all betrayed by the Joker earlier. Thus a massive battle takes place between classic Batman villains and other classic movie villains, which is about as epic as they get. Ever sense I was a child I always wanted to see something like this, in fact that’s what I did with all my toys. I only wish they spent a little more time on individual characters here, and a little more banter between the two groups of villains. Also, when Voldemort arrives on the scene he’s voiced by Eddie Izzard, which is a very odd choice. That’s not to say he couldn’t pull off the role, it’s just that Ralph Fiennes who played Voldemort in the actual “Harry Potter” movies also provides the voice for Batman’s butler Alfred in this movie. So why not have Ralph Fiennes do the voice for Voldemort in this film instead of Eddie Izzard, I mean it’s his character and he’s right there in the recording studio.  

       In the end, I really enjoyed “The Lego Batman Movie”, and I honestly consider it to be one of the best theatrical spoof movies on par with the likes of “Space Balls”. It’s wildly funny, beautifully animated, and while it’s full of crazy mayhem, it’s still perfectly family-friendly material. Of course the real surprise was that despite looking at building blocks, it still felt like a real Batman movie in its own right. If you loved “The Lego Movie”, you’ll have a great time with this film, and if you’re a Batman fan, this movie is mandatory to see.

                                            I give “The Lego Batman Movie” 4 stars out of 5.

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