Lego Batman: The Movie Review

When I played LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes for the first time, it was probably the most fun I’ve ever allowed myself to have playing a videogame. You run around collecting coins, breaking bad guys to pieces and building miniature LEGO sets in fast forward time. Well, the movie is more of the same experience, but the only thing you have to do with your hands it press Play!

Before we get started, let’s clear up one thing: if you have played the game, you know the story. Except for a few added scenes to smooth everything together, the movie is essentially comprised of all the cutscenes in the videogame. That being said, the storyline of LEGO Batman: The Movie is absolutely awesome. It’s the classic tag team power match-up of Batman and Superman (and Robin – everybody forgets Robin) going against Joker and Lex Luthor. Ultimately, as the lesson is learned, Batman realizes that it is going to take more than just the two of them to defeat the duo, and the Justice League is called into the mix to fix off the baddies. In fact, my only knock of the film is that the Justice League isn’t featured more in it. I know that it would have taken focus off the relationship between Batman and Superman, but it would have been great to see more Easter Eggs like Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet made with clear LEGO pieces. Overall though, it’s a story that would translate into pretty much any format and the writers should be very proud of themselves for creating an experience that both three-year olds and their nerdy parents can enjoy.

Quite possibly the best part of LEGO Batman: The Movie is the LEGO. LEGO Everything. Nub-heads, cheap cloth LEGO capes, and a ton of other LEGO translations that I won’t spoil are really proof that the small things matter. Somehow, with all the malarkey of  exploding LEGO chickens turning into LEGO drumsticks, the movie somehow is able to remain true to form. The Danny Elfman Batman: Returns tribute of an introduction, along with the absurd need to play John Williams’ Superman theme everytime he does something cool makes the characters feel bigger than LEGOs.

That isn't rock candy...
That isn’t rock candy…

Batman is arrogant and stoic, while Superman is a total bro. It’s a great yin-yang relationship that the Superman/Batman comics explored and I think that it translates well to a 71 minute film. While it can be a bit corny at times, the charm injected to each and every moment will have you secretly wishing for more. It’s basically your inner child’s imagining of the Dark Knight. If you’re not too cool for school, you could be in for a great time. Take your pants off in the comfort of your own home and enjoy!

Batman secretly wears Superman pajamas around the Batcave...
Batman secretly wears Superman pajamas around the Batcave…

“Listen to your… listen to your Batman” and buy this movie. It’s noticeably cheaper than the usual DC Animated movie and it includes an awesome Clark Kent LEGO piece.

Category Explanation Score
Plot While not Oscar-worthy, the story has enough substance that it will keep you wondering what will happen next and the ending fits. 8/10
Voice-acting All voices are fitting of their characters and LEGO Batman knocks it out of the park with experienced but relatively unknown actors. 9/10
Representation of Source Material The buddy cop bromance between Batman and Superman is in full effect in this film and it pays off in the end. 9/10
Animation Again. LEGO EVERYTHING. In a good way. 10/10
Sound Effects and Music The themes that Danny Elfman and John Williams made famous return in classic form. 10/10
Captivity There are a lot of slow transitions here where you can tell it was pieced together from previous material that kind of mess up the flow of the film. 7/10
Overall awesomeness The movie does a great job at being cute versions of the things we love about the DC Universe, especially Batman. 10/10
Creativity Anytime LEGO does a project, they go all out. Half the fun is finding little details they tweaked for the sake of being LEGO. 9/10
Replayability It’s a fun movie, but I’m pretty sure it will find it’s way to the back of the collection 6/10
Special Features There are a couple of cute stop-motion shorts, and extra vault episodes are always nice, but nothing really to write home about. 5/10
Superman-Batman: Public Enemies
Justice League: Doom
The Flashpoint Paradox, based off Geoff John’s awesome Flashpoint run (Flashpoint #1-5), out July 30, 2013 . I personally cannot wait for this. It has an All-Star cast, led by director Jay Oliva (The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1 and 2), and an incredible take on Batman’s orgin. I’ve attached a teaser below.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 Review

When Part 1 of DC’s animated version of The Dark Knight Returns was released in late September last year, fans were pretty upset that they would have to wait four whole months for the second half to drop. Well the wait is finally over and the entire story is now on DVD for your eager minds to digest. For those of you new to comics, the films are based off of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, a 1986 story arc set in a futuristic 1980’s Gotham where government control is almost as bad of an issue as the youth’s grammar is. Bruce Wayne had been retired as Batman for ten years when some punk group of degenerates called the Mutants force him to pull a Michael Jordan and come out of retirement to kick some serious ass.  In short, Part 1 ends with Batman defeating the Mutants and bringing attention to himself in a major way; the media, the President, newly appointed Commissioner Ellen Yindel, and unfortunately, the Joker.

This story arc is widely considered one of the greatest of comic books ever – and it is not without reason. Considering that comics up to that point (at least mainstream comics like DC and Marvel), were for the most part very happy-go-lucky and very politically correct. They just wanted to stay in their little bubble – tell their story, catch the bad guy, get the girl. Rinse, lather, repeat. Frank Miller comes along and uses one of the most loveable characters in comic history to entertain the idea of fighting the government. It’s paramount to the Batman mythos that we follow today and asks us to question whether authority is just or not. One of my favorite quotes from this movie (and believe me, there are quite a few quotables and inspirational speeches in this one) is “You say you answer to some sort of authority. They only want me dead because I’m an embarrassment. Because I do what they can’t. What kind of authority is that?” That’s a damn good question, Batman. Part 2 is not only the more introspective of the two parts, but the most action-packed, as well. Not only does Batman battle the Joker in this movie, but he also takes on: Gotham City PD, a chaotic Gotham City, the United States government and their tool of a soldier, Superman, and untimely arthritis. The Superman part, to me, was the most intriguing. This back-story of an “agreement” for superheroes to cease being is one that I always wanted to see in full and I wish they could go into more detail (Note: For more stories exploring the government regulation of heroes, try DC’s “Kingdom Come” or Marvel’s “Civil War”). Miller also comments quite a bit on the human condition. Through a series of telecast interviews, it is pretty apparent that just about everybody in Gotham is a total asshole! Even Batman gets his Donald Trump on by repeatedly threatening to fire Robin. Half the people in the interviews make you feel like punching them in the face, and it’s a good reason the world is “going to hell in a handbasket (that quote is via Adrian).” Hopefully, both will be read and reflected upon. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns has really changed the game in comics and helped turn them from children’s books to being some of the most cerebral works of literature out there.

As far as comparing the movie to the graphic novel, director Jay Oliva and writer Bob Goodman have done a terrific job of figuring out which pieces of the book need to be cut out or elaborated on to really captivate what Frank Miller was trying to get across. You can tell that he and his team really appreciate the source matter. What seems to impress me most is how the team was able to take a four-chapter novel and turn it into a 2½ hour long film while not really adding anything unnecessary or leaving out anything vital. One of my biggest gripes about DC Universe Animated Original Movies’ last Batman adaptation (Batman: Year One) is that it too close to the source material. This is unfortunate because it keeps fans new to comics from really enjoying the comics as much as they could have. The Dark Knight Returns: Part II does not have this issue; I feel that somebody could watch both parts to TDKR and still thoroughly enjoy the novel as a new experience. One of the biggest pieces missing from the animated show is the internal thought-process that Batman has. One of the biggest recurring themes of the novel is that Batman is no longer the bulletproof God that he once was. Every panel is full of  “stupid old man” this and “senile fool” that. It really helps build the concept that Batman is a true hero, and there is no sure bet that Batman will emerge victorious.

Animation-wise, the visuals are very clean. They somehow manage to take Frank Miller’s art, which has very unique and manic style, and make it into something that translates into a strong animated movie. The fight scenes are incredible – drawn out in the interest of brutality. Both of the epic battles, one against the Joker, and one against Superman, are terrifyingly exciting and either match or exceed the impact of the ones in the original. The voice-acting is also superb, with the one exception being Michael Emerson’s Joker. As far as voice-acting goes, the bar is set at Mark Hamill every time and the performance of the actor playing Joker is based on how close to the bar he can reach. I believe that Emerson tried hard, but is cursed with sounding too much like Seth McFarlane’s Roger from American Dad. However, Peter Weller’s old man Bat’s was perfect for the image Frank Miller painted him in, and Mark Valley’s Superman was very reminiscent of the Animated Series.

Overall, my recommendation is to go out, buy both parts of the movie, and the graphic novel. It’s a special piece of history put into a format that the masses can truly appreciate it. The great thing is, you don’t need to be a comic book whiz to appreciate it. With all the small details that Miller and Oliva alike put into the final product, fans new to Batman comics will find themselves wanting to dig deeper in the catalog. Trust me, you need to give this a go!

– Dave Endorcrine, the show host that guest stars the Joker at the beginning, is a parody of Dave Letterman, and is played by Conan O’Brien.
– Corto Maltese, the island that the Russians try to invade through the movie, is actually based off a1960’s Italian comic book of the same name
Category Explanation Score
Plot This movie is full of plot twists and surprises! The film goes by so quickly due to the superb pacing of the story, sectioned off in multiple parts. 10/10
Voice-acting Although the Joker sounds like a Seth McFarlane character, the rest of the cast more than make up for it, as fans could probably name most of the characters with their eyes closed. 9/10
Representation of Source Material Jay Oliva and crew do a great job of portraying Frank Miller’s vision, knowing what to keep and what to cut out or expand upon. However, it would have been nice to get the internal monologue that Batman and Superman had throughout the novel. 9/10
Animation TDKR Part II excellently portrays the gritty, 80’s style art that Frank Miller originally had. There is an obvious difference in animation between The Dark Knight Returns and the other DC animated movies. 10/10
Sound Effects and Music Every bone-jarring punch, every slice-n-dice stab, it’s all in there. Background music also helps build suspense and intensifies emotion. 10/10
Captivity I found myself glued to the screen for the entire film. Also, the characters really grow on you. You easily find yourself loving and hating a few by the end. 10/10
Overall awesomeness The action and fight sequences were really enjoyable. Batman really goes all out against his foes. 10/10
Creativity Gotta dock a point just for the fact that it’s a remake of a book. That aside, the creative team does a good job keeping the movie and the source material distinctly different. 9/10
Replayability This is the type of film you can watch over and over. Especially when coupled with the first part, it makes for one, long entertaining show, again and again. 9/10
Special Features Where these DC movies really make it or break it for me are the Special Features.  This movie is packed with goodies: When Heroes Collide examines the fascination of a Superman-Batman showdown, a documentary about the Joker’s character, and a good explanation of scenes that differed in the movie from the novel. 9/10
Batman: Year One
Superman-Batman: Public Enemies
Batman: Under the Red Hood
Superman: Unbound follows Geoff John’s Brainiac storyline. We’ve attached a trailer below.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib