Lego Batman overcomes bumbling sidekick

In the interim week before the start of the big summer movie season, one can often find it difficult to choose a movie to watch. Such was the case with myself, and in an effort to put together a review for this week, I decided to go a different route than the traditional movie theater run I usually do. Instead of the admittedly pricey Regal Cinemas excursion, I wound up staying in to watch a direct-to-video movie. Now, direct-to-video movies are usually a gold mine of hilarious B-list options with terrible acting, writing, etc. Basically, they’re usually just quick cash-ins, often on existing franchises, but always of a lower quality than their forebears. While the notion of reviewing one of these amusing, relatively poor excuses for films was enticing, I wanted to do something even more impressive, while staying true to my own interests. And that is the story of how I stumbled upon Lego Batman: The Movie DC Super Heroes Unite. Try to say that ten times, am I right? For simplicity’s sake, we’ll refer to it as just Lego Batman for the duration of this review.

Lego Batman has a very Batman-like plot, which is great because that means Telltale Studios had a good grasp on the source material despite the cutesy Lego animation medium they utilized. The plot centers on the arch nemeses of Batman and Superman, The Joker and Lex Luthor, respectively. Luthor is currently campaigning for the United States presidency, but is consistently down in the polls compared to his co-candidates. He also manages to lose Gotham City’s Person of the Year competition to a Lego-supermodel-toting Bruce Wayne. With these failures eating away at the otherwise extremely successful Luthor, he looks to a new way to achieving his goal of becoming president. That’s how The Joker comes in; Luthor wants to use a modified version of The Joker’s laughing gas to brainwash the citizens of the country to support him in his candidacy. To do this, he breaks The Joker out of Arkham Asylum, and the two wind up generating a path of destruction in their wake. While Batman is initially averse to the idea of getting assistance in sorting the villains, he soon realizes that he may have bit off more than he could chew in his efforts to bring them both to justice.

Despite all odds, Lego Batman was a surprisingly entertaining movie. Probably the main thing that attributed to my enjoyment of it was the visuals. In high definition, the movie looked great. Now, you might be thinking that using blocky Lego characters and structures might be detrimental, but the colorful visual style combined with the slick-looking (literally and figuratively) character models made the whole movie very eye-catching. The art style used in the film also added a lot to the visuals; I particularly enjoyed Gotham City at night, as it reminded me of the gorgeous art utilized in the recent Batman: Arkham games. Finally, the cinematography in the movie was also surprisingly excellent, with strong camera panning work that allowed one to fully take in the scope of the visuals. Meanwhile, the music was also decidedly epic and filmic in its scope, but it wasn’t entirely notable, overall. If anything, this movie is a visual treat, and if you’re into sharp-looking animation, it is definitely worth a look.

The voice cast in Lego Batman was also surprisingly competent, with particularly strong performances coming from the actors who played The Joker and Superman. The Joker’s voice acting seemed heavily inspired by the brilliant work by Mark Hamill on Batman: The Animated Series and the recent Arkham games, and the movie’s more comedic take on The Joker’s antics was a perfect canvas on which the actor was able to bring the character to life. Meanwhile, Superman was portrayed in a “boy scout” capacity, and the voice actor’s hammy delivery of Superman’s camp-filled dialogue was both amusing and true to Telltale’s take on the character. The rest of the voice acting was solid, with Batman’s stoic character conveyed with aplomb.

The writing in the film is ultimately its biggest stumbling point. Although it isn’t bad per se, it is undeniably family-oriented and a far more campy take on the DC Universe in general. Depending on perspective, that’s not a real knock against the film. Sure, there was some very groan-inducing dialogue, but it was all in line with the film’s overall tone, and as such I didn’t hold it against the rest of the movie. Probably my favorite aspect of the writing, however, was making Robin the butt of all the jokes. Robin was most definitely the film’s primary source of comic relief, and children will absolutely love his antics. To be fair, I loved his antics. The writers made Robin out to be very incompetent, with Batman spending much of the movie either chastising him or rolling his eyes at him and leaving him behind every time there was a lead to follow up on. I’ve never been a huge fan of Robin (Tim Drake being the primary exception), so I was highly amused by his overall … derpy behavior. And yes, derpy is really the best way to describe it. Beyond this, though, the film was able to shoehorn some basic character development for Batman, wherein at the end of the film he finally admitted to needing assistance, and that was when the Justice League swooped in out of nowhere. There were some themes of friendship in there, somewhere, too, but I don’t really think that’s worth getting into.

Overall, Lego Batman was a far more entertaining diversion than I ever imagined it could be. It helped that I had someone watching with me, bemoaning the film’s ridiculousness at every turn. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that I did really enjoy the movie’s animation and visual style, along with its solid respect of the Batman and DC Universe mythos. The campier take on the characters could have been done without … but then again, I didn’t go into this expecting The Dark Knight or anything. So, if you’re as bored as I was and are looking for something to do…well, honestly you’d probably be better off doing something other than this. Maybe go watch Iron Man 3 next weekend?