Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Lego Batman Movie (2017) (8th Movie Review of 11)

      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”. Then in the year of 2017, we got yet another theatrical spoof titled “The Lego Batman Movie”, and it’s not only the funniest by far, but 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. The champion to kick things off naturally is 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 excellent stand-alone 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 just about every other 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 sees his arch foe for what he truly is. We see that Batman in this films universe is a big celebrity and has a party boy attitude to match. However, underneath the surface, Batman is actually very lonely, depressed, and while he’ll never admit it out loud, he’s longing to start a new family again, but he just can’t escape his fear of losing someone else he loves. Then, out of the blue one day, our hero finds himself with an adopted son, who takes on the role of a side kick named Robin. While irritating at first, he still takes the boy along on missions, and gradually 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 eventually 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 in the process.

      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 arcs 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. The second the movie started, I was completely submersed into the films atmosphere, tone, hummer and I knew I was in for a treat. Will Arnett returns to voice Batman, and he’s actually very credible in the role. Truthfully, this might just be one of my top 3 favorite portrayals of the character. Will Arnett once again has great charisma in the role, but also looking at this character from a writing perspective, this film really nails the character better than most live action films. He’s still broody, like any version of the character, has his own internal conflicts, as well as a good reformation story, but he’s also exploding with personality at the same time, and it’s just a perfect fusion. Truthfully, I never thought a Batman, that’s basically just an animated brick, could be this entertaining and multilayered all at once. Then it hit me, these are two of my favorite child hood things coming together, it’s Lego and Batman coming together … of course it’s going to be special. On a side note, we don’t see too much of Bruce Wayne, yet we can still feel the presence of his alter ego under the mask. 

    Robin is voiced by Scott Pilgrim himself “Michael Cera”, who I’m personally not a fan of, but he was great 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 other’s tropes, and I especially love that they made fun of his silly costume. It was just really satisfying to see them come together both as crime fighters, and as father and son. Honestly, of all the movies and TV shows, I don’t think I’ve ever felt a father/son connection between Batman and Robin that felt as real as in this film. I also loved that Alfred took on the role of Mr. 60’s Batman. That was both a brilliant call back, and just a great excuse to get Alfred in on the action. Now let’s look at Batgirl, who thankfully is old-enough in this film to have a romantic relationship with Batman. Honestly, I never understood why other shows and spin off material would push a relationship between the two, especially when one character was half the age of the other. Well, this film finely got it right, although, I admittedly liked her more as just plain police commissioner Barbara Gordon. However, it’s still cool to have Batgirl there to complete the Batman family, and I even liked the purple and yellow redesign of her costume. She’s voiced by Rosario Dawson, who I’ve had a small crush on ever sense I saw the 2005 musical "Rent", and even though she’s not present on screen, I still think she has a sexy voice.  

      Naturally this is the fifth theatrical Batman movie to feature The Joker, and this time he’s voiced by Zach Galifianakis. Surprise, surprise, this is yet another great portrayal of a classic character in this Lego universe, as it captures the spirit of the Joker, while also being very original in the process. It’s a Joker that’s obviously unleashing his evil on the city, but his goal is so much more personal as he simply want’s Batman to realize that they complete each other’s lives. It's actually kind of a heartbreaking scene when Batman flat out tells the Joker that he means nothing to him. I really love how passionate this version of Joker gets to prove Batman wrong, and to see their relationship progress over the course of the film is very amusing. It all ultimately builds to an obvious, yet poignant statement that the Joker really isn’t his greatest enemy after all … it’s really Batman himself who’s our heroes worst enemy. Also, as a bones, it was great to finally see Harley Quinn in a Batman movie. Even though it’s only animated, it’s still one of the most appealing aspects of the Joker, to have his loony girl friend at his side.

     While Joker is really the only main villain of the movie, just about everyone of Batmans other iconic foes make select appearances. This movies version of Bane looks just like the comics, but with a voice and personality that’s clearly based off Tom Hardy’s portrayal from “The Dark Knight Rises”. Thank goodness this film remembered to include Mr. Freeze, but I do wish he had a bigger role rather than some walk-by cameos in the background. Still I’m glad to see my favorite Batman villain was present in some form. The Riddler in this movie is voiced by Conan O’Brien, but the relevance of this is questionable as he barely has more than two lines. Actually, the real crime in regards to a snubbed voice actor is Billy Dee Williams, who in this movie supplies the voice of Two-Face. Now he originally played the character Harvey Dent in Tim Burton original live action “Batman”, but never played his evil alter ego. Now here he is finally bringing life to Two-Face, and the movie barrel dose anything with him ... that really sucks. Other noteworthy villain’s present in the film include Poison Ive, Cat-woman, Scarecrow, Clayface, the Penguin, Killer Crock and even Egg Head makes an appearance, which was a great little call back to the classic 60’s show. While I wish select characters could have gotten more attention, it’s still great to see so many iconic Batman villains all together in one film. Heck, the movie goes out of its way to reference the really obscure Batman villains that never even made it paced the comic books.  

       On that note, if you’re a long time Batman fan, and have been reading the various comics, graphic novels, or played the games, or watched any one of 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, and even the smallest of fans can find something to love in this film. Every single Batman movie leading up to this film is mentioned and is equally satirized as well as celebrated. brilliantly. There are so many details that I could probably watch this film 100 times and notice something new on each viewing. Some in-jokes got me laughing a lot more than most of the little kids 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. I think my favorite scene was the opening battle in which Batman fights off all his enemies while singing the Bat-Rap song. That right there set the mood, the energy, and I never came down from the high after that. I also loved the song "Forever", and found myself wishing it could have been the theme song for "Batman Forever". 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. 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”.  

      The animation naturally is amazing to look at, very colorful, very detailed, and it gives this movie its own unique atmosphere and style. I love the colors, I love the lighting, I love the creative designs, and the whole thing really is one delicious feast for the eyes. Now the down side is that while this film is a visual marvel, and the jokes are consistently fast and funny, it can admittedly 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 mindset of a child that’s having fun playing with his toys. That doesn’t sound too hard to do, but the films frantic nature occasionally clashes with those quieter, serious moments, and the transitions between the two tones can get a pinch rocky. Actually, I shouldn’t complain at all, as I'm just glad the movie has some quiet scenes to let some characters emotions sink in. 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. Truthfully, some of the films inspirational statements really hit home for me. I think the most impactful line of all was this statement from Lego Bruce Wayne … “In life, you’ll always loose people you love … but that doesn’t mean you stop letting people into your life”. 

    At last, I have to talk about the climax, which truthfully is one of the most awesome things I’ve experienced at the cinema in years. It’s something special that made 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 finale, the Joker leaves Batman’s Lego universe and recruits various iconic villains from other franchises to concur the city. This includes Lego Voldemort from the “Harry Potter” series, Lego Agent Smith from “The Matrix”, Lego The Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz”, Lego Medusa and the Kraken from “Clash of the Titans”, Lego Sauron from “The Lord of the Rings”, Lego Dracula, Lego King Kong, Lego Jaws, the Lego Gremlins, and tons of others. Then Batman rallies his family, and even 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 different groups of villains. As the battle comes to a close, we see the city split apart, and the only way to save it is for some decisive people to connect together, and thus bring the city back together. . It's actually kind of a touching statement that's meaningful for our time, but isn't preachy in the delivery. Also, when Lego 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 absolutely loved “The Lego Batman Movie” with all my nostalgic heart. 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, full of details and while it’s also full of crazy mayhem, it’s still perfectly family-friendly material. The morals are good, it has a very warm feel, and I was just smiling from ear to ear. Of course, the real surprise was that despite featuring building blocks, it still felt like a real Batman movie in its own right. Having said all that, this isn't a movie for everyone, and all my praise comes from personal taste. 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, but I probably wouldn't recommend this to anyone else. 

I give “The Lego Batman Movie” 4 ½ stars out of 5. Coming up next, we once again transition from bright and cheerful, to dark and depressing, a review of Tim Burtons “Batman Returns” is up next. 

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