Out on Tuesday is Lego Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite, a long title for a short (71 minutes) computer-animated original movie. It’s awfully cute, though.
This film caused lots of giggling at our house, part just from the weirdness of seeing these characters as Lego, but more from how fun it all was. (I worry that some six-year-old is going to be disappointed that his Lego figures don’t walk and talk and clap by smacking their U-shaped hands together.) I kept being amazed by what I was seeing, and what they all said, and their expressions, and the goofiness. Once of the Joker’s henchman actually holds someone upside down and shakes him until coins fall out of his pockets.
It’s a high-tech throwback to Saturday morning fun with a unique visual design sense. Each surprise brought new laughs from sheer enjoyment. There are lots of neat details, rewarding close attention, whether it’s Batman’s alternate suits or the Lego skeleton floating in the chemical pool.
It looks rather like any DC animated film, sleek and plastic, until you get close up. The characters, Superman and Batman, have those blocky legs. Capes are weird in Lego superhero world, since they’re grained to look like rough fabric. Bald Lex Luthor is particularly strange, since without hair, all we see is the nub on top of his head block.
The movie retells the plotline from the LEGO Batman 2 videogame. The action starts when Lex and Bruce Wayne are up for a Man of the Year award at a ceremony crashed by the Joker. Luthor is running for President, and he enlists the Joker’s help to win. We also get Catwoman, Two-Face, the Riddler, the Penguin, Harley Quinn, Robin … a whole gallery of heroes, plus Lego bats and sharks.
Superman’s an overwhelming do-gooder while Batman is jealous and hurt that his pal didn’t come to see him get an award. After Lex and the Joker team up, releasing a bunch of villains from Arkham Asylum along the way, Batman reluctantly gets help from the Big Blue Boy Scout. Seeing the three heroes interact is funny, as Robin looks up to Superman while Batman is grumpypants, muttering to himself about Superman’s powers destroying the evidence.
There’s lot of welcome humor (even in the end credits). Particularly, I find, when they use the Lego abilities. For instance, one vehicle during a chase splits in half, while another time, Robin turns his cycle into a boat in mid-air by reconfiguring the bricks. Also, I loved the way they played the classic theme every time Superman appears. That fanfare is inspirational.
Clancy Brown voices Lex Luthor in Lego Batman
Although Batman (voiced by Troy Baker, videogame regular) is the star, the best-known member of the voice cast is Clancy Brown, “the definitive voice of Lex Luthor”, who also played the character in Superman: The Animated Series. Here, Superman is played by Travis Willingham; Christopher Corey Smith is a dynamite Joker; and Charlie Schlatter is the voice of Robin. (You know, I liked 18 Again!) The Joker, in particular, is hilarious in his dementia. Said Brown about the part,
“I think Lex getting some laughs is a little overdue. And it’s fun for me to go a little bit out of character. Lex is usually so sincere and scary, and now he finally gets to say something clever to get some laughs.”
Eventually, the Justice League shows up to help out, and Gotham is saved. Here’s the movie trailer (which overplays the JL involvement, in my opinion):
Creation credits are given for Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Harley Quinn, Martian Manhunter, and Bane. I guess that means the Joker, Green Lantern, and the Flash just sprung into being on their own. Then KC explained to me that second-generation legacy characters are complicated, because the question of whether to include the Golden Age creators is difficult. (Should Martin Nodell get credit for Hal Jordan?) DC also doesn’t give creator credits to editors, so situations where they had significant input may be problematic.
The Martian Manhunter as Lego looks perpetually worried.
There are several extra features that are included on both the Blu-ray and the DVD.
“Building Batman” (15 minutes) is about stop-motion animating with Lego, hosted by Garrett Barati as he shows some children how it’s done. “Lego Batman Jumps Into Action” (38 seconds) is a teaser by Barati, as Batman tries to get ready for action.
There are five additional short films, the winners of a LEGO/DC Universe Super Heroes video contest, each about three minutes. Like the main feature, they’re cute and funny. Three cartoon episodes are also included: Two from Batman: The Brave and the Bold (“Triumvirate of Terror”, in which Superman and Wonder Woman appear, and “Scorn of the Star Sapphire”, guest-starring Green Lantern) and one episode from Teen Titans (“Overdrive”, which features Cyborg dealing with an upgrade). For some reason, this dubstep remix of Scooby-Doo is also included:
Lego Clark Kent isn’t sure what to make of Jesse Quick and Liberty Belle. (Clark Kent came with the movie; custom figures are by David Oakes.)
The initial releases on Blu-ray combo pack or DVD edition feature an on-pack freebie of a Lego Clark Kent. In case you want to recreate this (or make your own adventures), there are a ton of Lego Batman sets available. I kind of want this Superman set because it comes with a Wonder Woman mini-fig! (The studio provided a review copy.)