Tuesday, June 27, 2017

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Film Review

Building a perfect Batman

3/1/2017

Combine DC’s knack for storytelling with LEGO Studios’ affinity for tapping into the cultural imagination, and the result is a film you had no idea you wanted.

Batman“The LEGO Batman Movie” is easily the gloomiest film of the Dark Knight franchise. When he isn’t fighting crime as masked vigilante Batman, Bruce Wayne (Will Arnett) lives literally and figuratively on an island in his mansion with his butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes). He takes his dinner like he takes his brooding — alone. This is a Batman who doesn’t even see Alfred as anything more than Batman’s butler.

An early run-in with the Joker leaves the Clown Prince of Crime miffed about their relationship (Batman won’t call him his greatest villain), and he decides to terminate Batman and their relationship permanently. To save Gotham City, as well as himself, Batman must abandon his solo nature and team up in the fight against crime. After a misunderstanding, Batman accidentally adopts local orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), who he reluctantly takes on as a protégé. Eventually, it is down to Batman, Grayson, Commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) and Alfred to battle the Joker and save Gotham City.

“The LEGO Movie” not only worked as a story, it encompassed everything a LEGO fan remembers. In a similar fashion, “The LEGO Batman Movie” encompasses everything you know about Batman. Seriously. Everything. I swear there was almost a reference to anything remotely associated with him, from Detective Comics all the way to Batfleck (including Shark Repellent Bat Spray). While this is usually just a bit of fan service, it is used to the film’s advantage to praise and mock everything great/terrible Batman has gone through over the years. The rapid-fire nods and subtle in-jokes could have been spread out a bit. The script is a hilarious tribute to one of the greatest superheroes of all time, and surprisingly the most emotional focus of this film deals with critical aspects of Batman, namely his isolation and loneliness and his fear of becoming part of a family again.

The strength of this movie comes from how well it captures the human imagination. It’s perfectly understandable that Batman would find himself up against his Rogues Gallery that includes everyone from Poison Ivy, Clayface, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze and other classic characters to those you might not believe actually exist like Calendar Man, Kite Man and Condiment King. Even more so, LEGO isn’t tied to any one universe, and to also have Bats tangle with Sauron (“Lord of the Rings”), Lord Voldemort (“Harry Potter”) and the Wicked Witch of the West (“Oz”) for good measure makes just as much sense.

Sound effects also add to the sense of being lost in the imagination. The sounds of guns firing are made by someone literally saying “pew pew,” and one can hear the rustle of LEGO blocks as buildings fall and explode.

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In addition to the great storyline, animation and voice casting, LEGO is on its way to becoming the king of the soundtrack game as well. The two tracks that will likely be most remembered are the metal-tinged “Who’s the (Bat)Man” by Patrick Stump (performed by Batman), and “Friends Are Family” by Oh, Hush! and the cast. But the real treat was hearing the crooning of Richard Cheese during the Justice League party. Those unfamiliar with Dick need only know that he performs popular music, old and new, in a lounge/swing style. For this movie, it’s “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson and “Everything is Awesome” from “LEGO Movie.”

Dazzlingly inventive and unrelentingly funny, “The LEGO Batman Movie” adds another enjoyable and surprisingly moving entry to the ever-impressive LEGO movie franchise. ♦

 

 

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