What You’ll Like:
- Excellent direction gets you enthralled
- Fantastic animation
- Very cute characters and personalities
- Great voice acting
- Very cool and unexpected final act
What You May Not:
- Genuinely funny moments are too few and far between
- Too short, and takes a little bit to get really good
- Those who played the game (Lego Batman 2) may not need this as it is mostly a meshed collection of in game cut-scenes
What You’ll Remember:
- Killer old school John Williams and Danny Elfman Superman and Batman themes
Lego DC nerds hail! What could possibly be counted as the next iteration in the DC animated original film series (making this the 17th film, preceded by the recent and very fun Superman: Unbound), is the film version of the recent video game Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes Unite. Being the first Lego game in the franchise with actual voice acting, creators Jon Burton and David A. Goodman thought it would be a good idea to create a film, even if it wasn’t to be an all original story as many may have been led to believe when viewing its trailer. Goodman having worked previously on hit TV shows such as Family Guy and Futurama is no stranger to tongue-in-cheek self-aware humor, as well as Jon Burton making a career of video game directing and programming, certainly knowing how to weave storylines into an epic visual style; the two let most of their talent shine here, in this very surprisingly enjoyable family-friendly action/adventure comedy.
To begin, but not to go on record, Lego Batman The Movie seems not an entirely all original story. Instead, this film looks to weave all or most of the video games cut-scenes together into a 71-minute movie. The reason for this vagueness is due to my own personal playing of the game but not yet completing it; thus far though, all the cut-scenes are almost the same as the film’s plot and scenes. The good news here is that all these scenes are meshed together so meticulously with such flawless precision, most players will not even be able to tell where one scene ends and where the proceeding gaming segments begin. While this fact may not make Lego Batman a must-see for all fans, especially those who have already played through the game, it is mostly definitely a shining plus to any DC fan’s collection.
Lego Batman brings together all of your favorite Batman heroes and villains together in an animated Lego tale where Batman and Robin must stop the Joker and Lex Luthor from taking over Gotham city; exceeded by not only Lex’s plan to run for president, but also his new invention called the Deconstructor, a powerful ray gun that is able to deconstruct, or break apart, any object it hits. Or as this film would have it, any object’s set of Lego pieces falling completely apart. By the way, yes, that is Superman’s Lex Luthor, as Superman himself plays a primary role here as well, flying in randomly to aid the dynamic duo of Batman and Robin despite Batman’s stubborn insistence that Superman is not of need; more of a jealousy thing really, but as a cute running joke does add character to Batman, as well as being cute. Since Bruce Wayne initially wins Gotham’s very treasured “Man of the Year” award at the opening gala, Lex is understandably envious and is granted the motivation to take over Gotham through political means; he brings the Joker along as an aid, as well as gets a request to be vice president right beside Luthor. Moreover, Lex gets the help with almost all of Batman’s classic villains, such as Bane, The Riddler, Two Face, Penguin, Poison Ivy, and even Catwoman. Although these characters play more secondary roles and add very little, if anything, to the whole of the story’s plot, they still work for a bit of fan service as well as a couple of comedic moments of slapsticky buffoonery. In fact, granted the greatly chosen voice actors, most of these characters become more likeable as the film progresses, notably the Joker, who stands out as lead and makes a fantastically threatening villain. Although never too threatening as this is after all, primarily a kid’s film. Given Lego Batman’s aim towards mostly young boys, our beloved purple clad bad boy still has enough showmanship to stand out as the one who really steals the show here. Plus just like everyone, his Lego version is just so cute.
Each character’s cute-o-meter Lego personalities are just the beginning of what eventually makes Lego Batman so entertaining. While the film initially starts a bit slow, making the viewer feel as if this may just be another very average and run of the mill animated action film, things thankfully soon pick up due to director Burton’s absolutely excellent directorial style. No, there are no wishy-washy dramatic moments giving any sort of emotional connection with the character’s deeper struggles, such as many of the real live Batman films, but instead we get to know each one through their comedic reactions to various situations; you know, simple character traits that are easy enough for young kids to grasp, but still cute enough to charm adults. For example, Batman we get to know as stubborn and proud due to his constant irritation by Superman’s more bold and upbeat expressions, not to mention that the duo really needs his aid despite Batman’s insistence that they don’t. Robin we know as very likable in all his boyishness due to his continuously content and clumsy personality, as well as his desire to become closer partners with Batman. Superman, whilst displaying constant bravado plays the All-American charmer we’ve come to love, he is also somewhat air-headed in his exaggerated pompous approach, almost a superhero parody of himself really, and in direct contrast with the darker and deeper Dark Knight. The two do not hold much great chemistry but in all fairness they do not seem intended to. With excellent voice actors playing each part, there are no drab or boring people here in Lego Batman, and any secondary characters do keep their places and none are ever over or under utilized.
So what else makes Lego Batman so pleasingly enthralling? Quite easily, the action-focused directing and incredibly smooth and vivid animation. Burton has certainly acquired hefty experience programming and directing video game cut-scenes, and in Lego Batman such experiences thrive as Burton chooses only the most perfected shots to bring both suspense and awe in livening up all of the more intense scenes. Excellent use of camera work give the viewer an impressive sense of height, depth, and epic style still shots, as well as all the moments where sweeping and establishing shots are needed; this coupled with what feel like downright perfect editing makes Lego Batman better and better as the story moves along, gripping the viewer all the more. So would I consider this just as good as epic live action films? Not necessarily, but it is a comfort that here that while Lego Batman does not come in close range to ever being too violent, it still has enough integrity and respect for its genre to not water down its action approach, this given its demographic of perhaps mostly elementary school boys. But again, adults will not mind watching right beside. It all makes for something very surprising, and it is definitely a disappointment that the film simply runs too short, especially since you get the feeling that even if they added worthy subplots involving the more secondary villains and heroes (yes, more heroes, as some very cool surprise cameos make way for DC comic fans in a very fun enjoyable final act), it could have added significant excitement. Even if the main story itself were beefed up, it certainly wouldn’t stand as the end of the world if Burton and Goodman fleshed out and expand on the main story more than they already have. That being said, as an action/adventure film, Lego Batman has all it needs, and enough to invoke entertaining suspense, but seems to miss a key element for a Lego film. Though this is just one last small complaint, it should be stated that Lego Batman seems missing that self-aware charm past games and even the hysterical Lego Star Wars: The Padawan Menace film had. That is, Lego “in-jokes” that comically poke fun at the limitations the characters have for being Lego figures, or just snickering at Lego themselves. In watching Lego Batman, I counted one of these jokes in total, but it only stands as the beginning. Genuinely funny moments are too few as well, even if the rest of the story will keep you mostly entertained. But again, not the biggest complaint this side of Gotham; Batman has certainly been treated to far worse.
It is good news that Lego Batman has such an excellent director at the helm, who truly boosts things to a winning level with a straight-forward yet greatly effective style, meshing such a fast-paced set of game cut-scenes together, weaving them all in such fluidity that this easily passes as a genuine film to both gamers and non-gamers alike. The plot picks up fast, even if it does happen to take a few minutes to get genuinely interesting and involving to the viewer, therefore do not expect any drawn out dialogue or even Bruce Wayne to be in non-Bat attire for much of anything past the opening awards ceremony scene. While Lego Batman may enthrall children more than adults, those that at least appreciate comic or superhero films will get a very significant value here.
One 14-minute segment that is really on the fence of being a real behind-the-scenes bonus, featuring just one animator of the film showing a small group of elementary school kids around his small production studio. Here we learn a tidbits of what it takes to do stop-motion animation, and wouldn’t you know, the kids (who are a fairly boring but sweet bunch) get to help create one full scene themselves. Would have been nice to see a real behind-the-scene segment here. Besides this we get three full cartoon episodes, two from the ‘Batman: The Brave and the Bold’ series as well as one from Teen Titans. Rounding off is one stop-motion short exclusive that only runs about thirty seconds, and the top five fan-made stop motion shorts from the national Lego DC Universe Super Heroes contest; none of which last longer than a few minutes. A good hefty extras set if you don’t mind being without any sort of behind-the-scenes footage; it would have been a nice plus to see how Burton created all the stellar action sequences.
Graphics and Sound:
Absolutely gorgeous both visually and audibly. The HD blu-ray transfer has not a single hint of any sort of distortion throughout. The colors are fantastically vibrant and blacks are incredibly deep with none of that distortion noise that feels so prevalent in many HD transfers of film’s darker moments. The shine off the character’s Lego parts are incredibly detailed, and though that is mostly on the part of the great animation work, the HD transfer never hinders from showing us exactly what the creators intended. Just looking at the film would be proof to anyone as to why blu-ray is an easy trump over the DVD version. The technical visuals here only add to the experience and make this even that much more fun to watch. As far as sound, the balance could not be any more perfect. Music is up front and epic when it needs to be, not to mention that using the original Batman and Superman scores were a brilliant if simple idea by Burton. Dialogue is very clear and effects sounds never overtake any scene or become even the slightest bit obnoxious; it keeps itself clear but still very much a part of the film’s whole of its vision.
Lego Batman will appeal mostly to either children or DC comic fans, and although any other party aside from that will definitely find much to enjoy about the film, it holds itself up mostly to those demographics. It is a fun, action-packed, sometimes funny, and involving adventure that only seems to get better as it goes along; yet it never really delves into A+ status. Even if some do not find themselves as engrossed as others, the film definitely doesn’t go overlong at a time length that is barely over an hour. Sure it would have been even better to see an all original story, or perhaps a beefed up video game storyline that could expand this to an at least 85 or 90 minutes, Lego Batman is still a great value, even if at least it would be at the sale price of $13.99. Unless you’re a die-hard DC fan, I would not recommend paying more than that. I would give this an honest but very strong 2.5 batarangs out of 4, and you can add a half a batarang if you’re a more die-hard DC fan. A regular run of funny jokes or even a deeply detailed story would have gotten this a higher score by yours grinch truly, but I hate to say that these flaws are a bit too significant to go for a 3.