The LEGO Batman Movie
A Review By Ron Graham
My friend Ted tells me from time to time that he feels the superhero genre in movies is becoming, well, saturated. He may even have used the expression “jump the shark” once or twice.
And I even started to feel that way after seeing “Suicide Squad.” It was like, no matter what a fantastic job studios (especially Marvel Studios) were doing with their super-hero storytelling, the stories were becoming too complex for a two-hour movie, with too many characters to follow, let alone invest ourselves in.
“The Lego Batman Movie” is a send-up of this very concept. Dozens of characters from the DC Universe appear, and many of them are just there to be in the background. Favorites of mine like Catman and Captain Boomerang don’t even chew up the colorful plastic scenery – which is fair enough since you may not be familiar with them anyway. But that is a central message in this film, whether intended or not, and you may remember that when the “Avengers: Infinity War” films come along and the live-action superheroes number in the dozens. Count it all joy if your favorite Avengers don’t get blasted to smithereens by the Infinity Gauntlet.
Even Batman’s traditional enemies – save for the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) and Harley Quinn (Jenny Slate) – have been thrown in jail so the Joker could trade-up to a higher class of super-villain and finally get Batman to treat him as his number one bad-guy. (I’ve always thought the Joker felt that way about Bats – it’s the central premise to this film, and it was for the classic “The Dark Knight Returns” graphic novel as well.)
So the Joker gets hold of Superman’s Phantom Zone Projector, and finds the Phantom Zone is home now to Sauron, Lord Voldemort, King Kong, Godzilla, the Wicked Witch of the West, the Mummy, Dracula, and a few dozen Daleks. Exterminate! You can see now that this film is loaded more than a large plate of loaded nachos.
The flip side of the film is that it concentrates on the brooding Batman (Will Arnett), and his need to develop relationships. A family. This also was the flip side of “The Dark Knight Returns.” This family will consist of a very silly Robin (Michael Cera), the usual kindly Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) and the usual progressive Batgirl (Rosario Dawson).
That’s a lot to do in 90 minutes: polish off the upgraded bad guys (with some maybe kinda sorta unexpected help along the way), and learn teamwork and some openness. The film accomplishes all this, but with the color spectrum, sped-up pop music and so on, it does so at the strong risk of giving the audience a headache. It gave me one.
Seriously, it reminds me of the fast-moving, loud and colorful antics that go on at Quicken Loans Arena during Cleveland Cavaliers time-outs. (With cheerleaders, loud music, halfcourt shot contests and so on.) I love the Cavs and love the game, but not so much the time-outs. “The Lego Batman Movie” is a 90-minute Quicken Loans time-out.
And for all the color and one-liners, this film is essentially a retelling of “The Dark Knight Returns” – a story told perfectly well as it was, not needing this kind of film to tell it.
If you must go, try to take kids. Their reactions might be more fun to watch than the film itself.
3 of 5 stars.