The Lego Batman Movie (2017): A Wonderful Satire and Celebration of Batman

    “The Lego Batman” movie is hilarious, a great satire and celebration of Batman and a great addition to the Batmanverse if you are any sort of fan of the character. This is a film that finally makes Batman fun again and brings in just how important the Bat Family is, which is something many of the live action films have forgotten. Before I get into story spoilers, I highly recommend this film. Much like the “Lego Movie,” it never stops being fun.

    The film was directed by Chris McKay, written by Erik Sommers, Chris McKenna, Seth Grahame-Smith, Jared Stern and John Wittington while being produced by Dan Lin, Roy Lee, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.

   The story involves Batman who after defeating Joker and his Rogues Gallery once again is alone but finds his life changed when Jim Gordon (Hector Elizondo) retires and his daughter Barbara (Rosario Dawson) takes his place and wants to work with Batman (Will Arnett). Dick Grayson (Mchael Cera) is also accidentally adopted by Batman who must now deal with caring for others again as Joker sets a plan in motion to reach the enemies in the Phantom Zone, as he’s hurt that Batman doesn’t see him as his nemesis.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world of Batman is fascinating and Lego’s take on it adds a lot of much needed humor as well as a recognition of the campy roots that have always been a part of Batman to some degree. We see a diverse array of Rogues, the Justice League of course the people of Gotham.

The Action – The action is fantastic, with my favorite parts being the opening fight where Batman faces off against his Rogues and the Phantom Zone enemies invading and pretty much destroying Gotham. The action is fluid and quick and remains focused even with so much going on.

The Joker – Zach Galifianakis was brilliant casting as the Joker. He brings so much snide and emotion to the role and I loved how he had a co-dependent relationship with Batman where all he wanted was to be the most hated and Batman’s nemesis aka have a special relationship. His Joker isn’t all bad either as at the end he helps save Gotham and in the Phantom Zone is freaked out by the mentality some of the villains have.

The Bat Family – The Bat Family is wonderful as see Alfred is Bruce’s surrogate father just as he becomes Dick Grayson’s (Michael Cera doing some great comedy) surrogate Dad. Batgirl (Rosario Dawson is once again fantastic) is the one who sees the big picture of them working together and that it is needed and Batman is the inventor whose inventions help save the day. It is Alfred calling Bruce to action that helps him grow (Fiennes does a wonderful job as the character), Robin’s usefulness, innocence and admiration and Batgirl’s accountability that help him complete his arc and finally grow out of the fear that was with him on the day his parent’s died.

Satire of Batman – Batman is trapped as a perpetual child who plays rock and roll is an ungrateful narcissist and this on display, from tantrums (a good satire of Bale and Affleck’s Batman at his most extreme), his strange villains from his early run (Condiment King, etc.) his strange rivalry with Superman (Batman v Superman, Dark Knight Returns) and how a lot of it comes from Batman’s childish need to one up and be extreme, and his isolation and just lonely that really is. The great thing is, a character arc comes out of it!

Batman’s Character Arc – In the end this satire is a celebration of the character because his anger and rage is mocked but it is also explored and it goes somewhere. Batman grows up and realizes he isn’t alone. Besides “Dark Knight Rises” I can’t think of a film that has really done this well (“Batman Returns” did it but not well).

 Okay: Batman’s Rogues – Batman’s rogues don’t much besides being minions of the Joker and function as one entity (which was a shame) some of the references are funny though, from Condiment King (actual rogue) to Bane having Tom Hardy’s Bane’s voice. As jokes and references they are fine but they don’t exist as characters, which would have raised this film higher.

The Phantom Zone Villains – Gremlins, The Eye of Sauron, King Kong and Lord Voldemort are some of the baddies in the Phantom Zone. They also largely exist as references too and as villains so powerful Batman’s Rogues and the Bat Family have to team up to defeat them.

The Cons: The Legoverse – Gotham is built over dirty laundry and the Phantom Zone has a talking Lego that sounds like a kid. I didn’t like either of these things. I get it is the Legoverse but these things took me out of the great Batman story that was taking place and was the worst part of the film and only real con.

   This was a film that was amazing as a Batman film, but brought down by the ties to the Legoverse. It was that aspect that took me out of the great Batman story that was being told. There is fantastic character arc that takes place with Batman finally growing up, from Gotham being built over dirty laundry and the Phantom Zone talking lego…I still highly recommend this film and consider it a favorite. I’m curious to see what the Lego Team comes up with next and hope that DC can take note of the fact that Batman can’t remain static. The great movies have him grow and change, it is when that is forgotten we are given the dramatic child who Will Arnett satires beautifully.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

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The Lego Movie (2014): The Connection in Fun

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This movie was really good. I wouldn’t consider it a favorite, but as a story and comedy there was so much that is great here, this film would be impossible for me to dislike. There are lots of reasons for this but some of the major ones are the creativity of how it was done, the message and the fantastic cast of characters and the actors behind them. Which is saying a lot for a movie that arose out of a toy property.

“The Lego Movie,” was directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller who also wrote the screenplay and were two of the writers for the story. It was produced by Dan Lin and Roy Lee and the last two writers of the story were Kevin and Dan Hageman.

The premise begins with Lord Business (Will Ferrell) seeking the “Kragle” which is being protected by the wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman). He is defeated by Lord Business but makes a prophecy that “the Special” will find the Piece of Resistance that can stop “the Kragle” and save the Lego Universe. From here we pick up with our everyday guy Emmet (Chris Pratt) who stumbles on the Piece of Resistance and finds Lord Business and his men hunting him down. It is up to Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and others to protect him and try to stop Lord Business from destroying them all by using the “Kragle.” From here the story unfolds.

SPOILERS ahead.

Here is the assessment of the story:

The Pros: The World – The world is wonderful and extremely meta. It is akin to the word of Toy Story where the legos exist in two worlds. The world where they were made by “The Man Upstairs” and the world where they move and interact and are much more than toys. It is here that the reality of “The Man” and his child that leads to what makes the world real. There is also a richness in the sheer variety of universes, from the main one, to Lord Businesses Tower, to the Old West and many more. What can you make with legos? That is the essence of this universe and “The Builders” are leaders within it because of their creativity.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack reminded me a lot of “Wreck-it-Ralph” in how it was a mixture of electronic and orchestra. The theme song “Everything is Awesome” is one of the best illustrations of this. It fits with the childish theme and epicness of creating your own adventure with toys. Mark Mothersbaugh did great.

The Characters – The main cast has some pretty interesting characters, some of whom have some great arcs. I’ll give them both an individual section why, at least the ones I consider pros.

Vitruvius – Morgan Freeman plays the lead wizard who sacrifices himself to try and stop Lord Business. He invents the prophecy to show that the power and being a “Special” is in everyone. He doesn’t really have an arc, but it’s Morgan Freeman and he clearly had a lot of fun playing this mentor role for Wyldstyle and Emmet.

Batman – Batman is Wyldstyle’s boyfriend and his arc is growing to respect Emmet who sees as boring and stupid. He’s an interesting character who is extremely self involved (goes to party during a crisis) but has a good heart as he supports Emmet and Wyldstyle and appreciates Emmet’s arc.

Good Cop/Bad Cop – Liam Neeson plays a cop with two personalities who serves Lord Business. At one point his good half is erased by Lord Business and he is nothing but a cruel weapon against the heroes…but he comes around after Lord Business turns on him and draws “Good Cop” back on his face so he is once more back to balance. His story is that quest for balance and I wish we’d had more character moments with him.

Lord Business – Lord Business is creative and an inventor who doesn’t feel appreciated so he wants everyone to be in order and keep things as they should be. This leads to him using the “Kragle” to freeze people in place and using his robots to set people up how he wants them. He is a clear bad guy but Emmet changes him when he recognizes him for his creativity in mirror of the son recognizing the dad’s creativity too. It’s a great scene and he becomes a good guy in the end. I didn’t mind this as he was cartoony so could go either way at the end. Will Ferrell does fantastic.

80’s Astronaut – Charlie Day is a wonderful actor! The first time I saw him was in “Pacific Rim” and in this his character brings the energy up to 11. He wants to build a spaceship and keeps getting shutdown but when he has the chance too he helps save the day and builds an awesome ship as well as hacking into Lord Businesses system since it’s 80’s technology.

Wyldstyle/Lucy – Elizabeth Banks plays a pretty cool character who is doing everything to be different but learns in the end that you don’t have to be different to be a hero. We see her recognize that after Emmet’s sacrifice and how she inspires the normal folks to rise up and fight against Lord Business. I liked her character except she never broke things off with Batman before almost sharing a moment with Emmet. That is one thing I would have changed. Though that defined their relationship pretty well, neither really listened to each other they just liked doing cool action adventures together.

Emmet – Emmet is the everyday guy who can build a Bunk-Couch for his friends. Chris Pratt was perfect for this role as he plays the overly excited nice guy really well. His arc is finding that who he is is okay and that he is special and everyone is special. This leads to his sacrifice, meeting the humans and saving their relationship in his action to save his world. It was done really well, though I wish his character had more depth. Lucy is probably the deepest character in the film. Emmet sort of becomes deep after but that is largely because he becomes active in his own life and no longer passive.

The Message – The message was great, there is beauty in chaos and sometimes it is important to follow directions…but most of all it’s in having fun with others that we make connections that count. Will Ferrell is a collector and businessman and when his son is playing with the toys he is the one using the “Kragle” to glue them into place. It is his son who is freeing them. In the end it is Emmet moving in reality that sparks the change and the father finally relates and begins to play with his son when he realizes how important imagination is and how distant he’s been. It’s a beautiful scene and great acting on Ferrell’s part.

Okay: Side characters – Most of the side characters are just gag characters. Whether it’s Metal Beard, the Green Lantern and Superman joke where Superman keeps trying to avoid Green Lantern while Lantern thinks he his best friend as well as the wizards like Dumbledore and Gandalf. They function more as pop culture references and in-jokes more than anything else.

The Cons: Nothing at Stake – My biggest issue is when it goes meta it feels like nothing is at stake. A father and son are playing with toys so in the end they can reset the world if they want too in the end making all of our characters’ sacrifices nothing. This is my biggest issue with the movie. The meta moments were sweet but they did cost the stakes.

Tone – The tone is kind of all over the place. At times it is funny and making fun of itself, other times it is serious and dramatic. This is another reason I can’t consider it a favorite film. It feels like it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be beyond a child playing with toys.

This film is worth checking out! It isn’t a favorite film and it isn’t a “Wreck-it Ralph” or “How to Train Your Dragon,” but for the sheer fun of it all and the great message it brings…it’s something you don’t see everyday. I’d watch it again and I’m curious if that if a sequel is made if it will become a favorite. Until then, this is really good as it is.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10