The Lego Batman Movie
‘The Lego Batman Movie’ is the latest in a growing series of computer generated animated feature films emulating objects made from the perennially popular children’s building blocks, Legos. There are many direct to DVD movies utilizing this format typically as parodies of successful movie franchises and television shows. After the incredible fiscal achievement and overwhelming critical acclaim with ‘The Lego Movie’ in 2014, Lego fascination hit a fevered pitch. There is something intriguing about watching your favorite characters from fantasy and science fiction transformed into the ubiquitous toys from our childhood. They were lauded as an incredible outlet to encourage youthful creativity. Even if we followed the instructions for predesigned ships or buildings, they never looked anything like the included picture. This greatly enhances the fascination with Lego movies. Obviously, it e=would impossible to create the characters and events using actual Legos but the craftsmanship intrinsically demonstrated in the production of these films is awesome. At times the visual intensity of what is happening on the screen is overly busy. Having a copy for home viewing is the ideal way of experiencing this movie. It permits you to pause, re-watch and securitize the minutiae embedded in every frame. Of course, make certain your first viewing is uninterrupted. This film works on a myriad of levels each designed to provide another portion of the overall story. Some are specific for baby boomers with a plethora popular culture references geared towards testing your knowledge of comic books, fantasy and science fiction in all its varied forms. Your familiarity with the numerous incarnations of Batman from the campy 60’s TV cult classic to the dark and serious direction the franchise is currently taking. It isn’t required to enjoy the movie but for those of us that do a quirky smile will undoubtedly cross your lips as it brings the story to an entirely different level.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the Lego movies is the way that computerized representations of the colorful plastic block can impart such a tangible sense of realism and an immediacy of emotions. This is achieved with little more than sketching the face with a slight change to indicate the character’s mood r emotional state. The drawings of the face are rudimentary, simple lines that have the appearance of being quickly placed on the plastic head with a fine point marker. The actual animation is elaborated with an incredible level of detail executed with such precision permitting as to allow the insertion of Easter eggs. A sharp eye will be able to substantially enhance their enjoyment with references to the many incarnations of Batman in movies and television. This jesting the usually mutually exclusive universe are tossed together. The Joker Taunts Batman by reminding of the parade with music by Prince or the other caper involving a pair of boats, obvious references to Tim Burton’s ‘Batman (1989)’ and ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008) by Christopher Nolan. This unique way of breaking the fourth wall by placing the universe of this variation of Batman transcending the blatant inconsistencies of the wide range of presentations. This multi-level approach serving as the foundation for the humor when combined with the grounding effect created by the emotional content brings this movie to a level above many live action movies.
During their latest encounter, Batman (Will Arnett) is once again confronted by the Joker (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) who taunts the caped crusader insisting that they need each other. Without mutual antagonism, neither one would exist. It is their hatred that binds them together as well as providing the foundation for their perception of self. There are odd undertones to this exchange coming across worse as love than hatred. Batman tries to dismiss the idea as the ravings of a madman, but the psychological attack already scored a direct hit. As Batman races, back to the bat cave located beneath stately Wayne Manor of the isolated Wayne Island self-doubts have filled his mind. His butler reminds him, and confidant Alfred Pennyworth (voiced by Ralph Fiennes) reminds Bruce that he is expected at the retirement party for Commissioner Jim Gordon (voiced by Hector Elizondo). Reluctantly Bruce agrees. Once there is a festive affair as Jim Gordon retires passing the position to his daughter Barbara (voiced by Rosario Dawson). The new Commissioner Gordon has graduated at the top of her class and is anxious to put her new ideas into effect.
Barbara is adamantly opposed to the vigilante justice that Batman has fighting crime in Gotham for so long the police force has been reduced to firing up the Bat signal and making arrests after Batman has subdued the fiend du jour. The fledging Commissioner demands that if Batman wants to continue crime-fighting, he must do so within limits proscribed by the law and the full cooperation of the Gotham police department. As the celebration continues, it is disrupted by the appearance of the Joker and a horde of the worse villains Batman has ever faced. After a suspiciously brief confrontation the Joker surrenders, followed by his cadre of crooks. As they are in the process of going to jail, the Joker explains that he won. Now that all the criminals are incarcerated, Batman is no longer necessary. Barbara considers this incredible news; she had stayed that Batman’s vigilantism attracted the worse possible criminals. The Joker’s plan has just begun, the worse was still ahead.
Part of the plan was for Harley Quinn (voiced by Jenny Slate), escaped arrest to set up the next phase of the Joker’s insidious scheme. Batman is certain that the Joker has something terrible in the works. Batman comes up with an idea. He is going to break into the Fortress of Solitude and steal the Phantom Zone projector. This device is used to send the very worse criminals in the Lego multiverse into an extra-dimensional prison. Batman intends to break into Arkham Asylum and send the Joker into the Phantom Zone along with his army of criminals. Batman joined by an orphan he met during a charity event, Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), who took an off-handed remark from Bruce as a promise to adopt him. After selecting a costume in the Bat cave, he realizes the pants are too tight to move; Dick rips them off thus explaining why Batman’s young ward always seem to fight crime sans pants. Little touches such as this are sprinkled throughout the movie giving members of the audience able to understand the reference an added boost of humor. Pop culture references targeting slightly older viewers have become de rigueur in the Lego franchise, and it is without a doubt among the most entertaining elements. The pacing of the movie is rapid fire, and many of these Easter eggs are sight gags concealed in plain sight so it may require experiencing the film several times. Fortunately, it is so much fun you will gladly revisit this movie time and again.
The main sequence that everything builds towards is dependent on the Joker releasing arch villains from every part of the Lego multiverse. Combined with Batman’s traditional rogues’ gallery are such notable incarnations of evil as King Kong (voiced by Seth Green), the Wicked Witch of the West (voiced by Riki Lindhome), Sauron (voiced by Jemaine Clement) and Lord Voldemort (voiced by Eddie Izzard). One tidbit of trivia is notable, in the Harry Potter films the part of he who will not be named but usually is, was portrayed by Ralph Fiennes who was cast as Alfred instead. During the climactic melee, Barbara assumes her alter ego, Batgirl, although she insists on Batwoman, and Alfred puts on the costume of the sixties TV Batman, reinforcing all the nostalgic, campy references.
The movie was produced in Real 3D so thankfully a Blu-ray 3D version was including in the retail offering. Recently, the latest format war has resulted in the new Ultra High Definition 4K format as the high-end choice of formats. Warner Brothers have seen fit to set the line-up as DVD, Standard Blu-ray, 3D Blue-ray and UHD 4K. It is always a plus when the studio demonstrates such consideration to the fans. The 3D is exceedingly well-done although in several instances the effects are so busy with what appears to be hundreds of blocks swiftly flying about that the 3d impact is overwhelmed.