Saturday, February 11, 2017

Holy Bricks, Batman!: A 'Lego Batman Movie' Review

I don't know about you, but I think Warner Animation Group is full of surprises...

The Lego Movie, I think, took many of us by surprise, being more than just a fun little movie about the bricks we all love. Their second feature, the Sony ImageWorks-made Storks, was more divisive. For some, myself included, it was a surprisingly strong comedy with great Looney Tunes-like energy, others found it to be incoherent noise and blabber-jabber. So how were they going to pull off the Batman-centric Lego movie that didn't have directing/writing duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller in the cockpit?

The answer?

They pulled it all off with flying colors. Literally and figuratively...

SPOILERS ahead...

Give it director Chris McKay, writer Seth-Grahame Smith and his team, The Lego Batman Movie is a very hilarious send-up of everything Batman, poking at everything from the comics to the movies to even its more offbeat adaptations. Best of all, it completely subverts expectations. You would think this would be a simply funny movie where Batman takes on foes, right? Not really. In the film, Batman's characteristics are exaggerated the extreme. He has no attachment to anybody, prefers to seriously work alone, and will never express anything to The Joker (not even an "I hate you"), which grills the clown prince of crime. Deep down, he wants a family, at the same time he fears losing a new family.

Gotham City's new police commissioner, Barbara Gordon, wants a new Gotham that doesn't let Batman do all the work alone, challenging the Caped Crusader. The Joker hatches a big scheme in the process, getting him and all of his cronies sans Harley Quinn locked up. Batman plans to send all of the bad guys into the Phantom Zone (which he, of course, steals from Superman) in order to prove that he truly can clean Gotham of crime. At the same time, he inadvertently adopts a young man named Dick Grayson, who of course becomes Robin later on.

There's a lot of great stuff here, from the father-son dynamics to the parodies of Batman stories. His relationship with Alfred is a lot of fun as well. The Joker's master plan is a real burst of coolness, he recruits lots of iconic villains and baddies, and together they all take Gotham City by storm. Menaces like the Wicked Witch, King Kong, Voldemort, the Eye of Sauron, and so on. Batman and his crew respond by forming Suicide Squad, literally... Making it the Suicide Squad movie Suicide Squad should've been.

Bolstering all of this is fantastic action that's staged impeccably, an explosive script, and pretty even pacing. Oddly enough, unlike most animated films these days, it didn't feel too long nor did it feel too short. There's real heart to this film, which I was not expecting. The Lego Movie should've taught me that lesson, but no, The Lego Batman Movie actually is a heartfelt film about Batman's reluctance to start a new family because of his fears of losing more people who are near-and-dear to him. This balanced with comedy quite well, and while I didn't think it was as sharp as The Lego Movie, it comes pretty darn close!

It's a Batman movie I never knew I really needed. Who would've thought Batman, Robin, Alfred, and Batgirl facing off against iconic baddies outside of the DC rogues gallery would've made for a great movie?

2017's animated feature line-up is off to a strong start. While most of this year's crop - from what I'm seeing - isn't doing it for me, I can only hope that it'll do like this movie and... Surprise me. Yes, The Lego Batman Movie is something special...

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