If you think Batman is oversaturated, you’re never going to be proven otherwise at the rate DC milks this cash-cow. Out of the four 2016 movies featuring Batman, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders was the best because it didn’t take itself so damn seriously. Thankfully his solo LEGO film follows in that vein. My favorite movie of last year, Deadpool, was released in February. Will history repeat itself with The LEGO Batman movie? Since I struggled to write a review that’s not just “EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!,” I’d recommend betting on black.
Somewhat SPOILERY iterations of what I discussed with The Wages of Cinema to follow. (Do you prefer me speaking extemporaneously on movies or reading me take the extra time to make typos about movies?)
If you saw The LEGO Movie, you already know Will Arnett is the perfect smarmy Batman. This spinoff goes even further in taking the piss out of DC’s most overrated icon. He’s an emotionally-stunted narcissistic crepuscular dilettante destined to die alone & friendless until he inadvertently adopts an orphan because Gotham City lacks legal formalities. (That’s totally not a description of me. My kitty’s parents were still alive when I intentionally kidnapped her.) It’s done in such a hilarious post-modern manner, however, that it also feels like a love letter to his legacy. All sides of the fandom win! His Crime Alley family portrait is hilariously heartbreaking.
The Joker is a better rounded character when he’s portrayed by someone with a hardy sense of humor (i.e. not sending your co-stars used anal beads & carcasses), so Zach Galifinakis fits. He voice seemed underwhelming in the trailers, but it works in context as the most admittedly needy Clown Prince of Crime. While I do vicariously enjoy the occasional murder spree, the Joker’s scheme here is much more captivating because it relies upon ingenuity over gore.
Ralph Fiennes is my new favorite Alfred. He even wears the Adam West Batsuit & a Kato-esque number! Although he looks more like Carrie Kelly than Dick Grayson, Michael Cera’s puppy-like Robin is crucial to the emotional throughline. Rosario Dwason is great in everything, & her independent Batgirl is no exception. I was disappointed that they didn’t mention her librarian training at the Harvard For Police. She briefly wears one of those bizarrely off-model Batgirl Halloween costumes (why is it so much harder to buy a Batgirl costume that looks like something any of them have worn, DC?), so I guess those are canon now? I was surprised we saw neither Renee Montoya nor Harvey Bullock, but they did squeeze in Aaron Cash & a genderbent Chief O’Hara.
There are a bunch of clever inversions. Batman is so conceited & emotionally repressed he refuses to acknowledge the Joker as his archnemesis. Whenever Joker abuses Harley Quinn, it’s my new headcanon that he learned it from watching Batman. (Jenny Slate’s Harley & Mr. J look like a well-adjusted couple here.) The subtext of the Joker being “in love” with Batman essentially becomes text, but it’s handled deftly so it’s neither homophobic nor salacious. Rather than being a glorified revolving door, this Arkham Asylum is actually secure. It’s Batman’s paranoia that ruins it by sending Joker to the Phantom Zone. (In the comics, the Phantom Zone would be a much safer place to stockpile Gotham’s criminals.) Whereas Batman is the superhero most beloved by the public, the Justice League never invites him to their annual parties! Self-absorbed Batman isn’t rewarded with Batgirl’s affections because this wasn’t made by Bruce Timm. The climax follows through on the worst case scenario threatened at the beginning.
Unlike the DC movieverse, which it frequently mocks, this flick is awash with vibrant color! All the character designs are unique but immediately recognizable. (It still seems wrong Batman lacks his iconic glove spikes. The Penguin paradoxically has less nose than Voldemort.) I wish more movies could be spectacular toy commercials like this! About 90% of the new LEGO toys for the movie do appear onscreen. It’s a lucky thing I don’t collect LEGO, or the tie-ins would make me even more broke. (How does LEGO justify its exorbitant prices anyway?) There’s sadly no update of Catwoman’s Kitty Car, but The Scuttler (sharing a name with a very obscure villain) is a nifty vehicle that ought to be added to comics continuity. My beloved penguin commandos & Bat-Shark Repellent make triumphant returns to the silver screen! Where is Gentleman Ghost’s minifig, LEGO?
I was ecstatic to see the cinematic debuts of so many obscure villains. This is also my biggest complaint about the film, as the majority are cameos. The Joker recruiting out-of-franchise foes from the Phantom Zone (including a classic Clash of the Titans Kraken with new atomic breath since Godzilla is off-limits to Lego Dimensions) is not what I paid to see. (Hearing King Kong spout nefarious one-liners is jarring.) Get out of Killer Moth’s limelight! Billy Dee Williams finally gets to play Two-Face after he was unjustly recast for Batman Forever, but he doesn’t get to do or say anything memorable. Garfunkel & Oates play Poison Ivy & Clayface (it’s unclear whether the blocky behemoth is a redesigned Lady Clayface or one of the male versions) but don’t provide any of the songs. Notable comedians are likewise squandered on the rest of the rogues gallery. Why not highlight how LEGO is the perfect format for making someone like Zodiac Master seem formidable? Previous cinematic foes Ra’s al Ghul, Talia al Ghul, Mr. Zsasz, & Phantasm are missing. Mad Hatter is conspicuous by his absence since his henchwench, March Harriet, appears.
When I saw the latest Underworld & Resident Evil movies, I recommended you already be a fan of the film franchises. I endorse The LEGO Batman Movie to everybody regardless of their opinions on the caped crusader! This visual spectacle is a layered comedy that has something to offer all demographics. Despite bunting on spotlighting how awesome supervillains not named the Joker can be, it’s still superb. Kudos to director Chris McKay & five screenwriters for building a worthy successor to The LEGO Movie!
There’s a Kickstarter for Toys That Time Forgot, a book about unproduced toys. The stretch goals are for additonal chapters to make the book better!
Martin Jones was one of many lovely creators I met through Booktrope. I recently read his wonderfully titled debut novel, Mason Wilson & the Dead Bird Debacle. It’s about an British boy who runs afoul of intrigue whilst investigating what happens to bird corpses for a school project. The prose from Mason’s perspective is highly readable & clear. Based on the cover’s gumshoe art, I was expecting more sleuthing ala Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys. The mystery is pretty straightforward once Mason falls into it by spectacular luck. Its middle school aged target audience, however, may find the adventure more engaging. Parents shouldn’t object to their kids reading it as it’s quite wholesome. It’ll be interesting to see how Mason develops in successive tales.
Not only is it the last in the series, my pre-Toy Fair top ten Star Wars Black wish list was the easiest one to complete. Normally having to whittle down my expansive lists to a mere ten fills me with existential dread. Here I was satisfied with the first ten I thought of. I didn’t even have to dip into the
Expanded Universe Legends. Does that mean Hasbro is doing a great job at character selection, or am I a bigger Marvel/DC fan?
10) Jawas – At least two Jawas need to come in a pack with various guns, gizmos, & light-piped eyes.
9) Padme Amidala – There’s a bunch of outfits the Queen elect of Naboo could be made in. The midriff bearing arena outfit is most obvious, but they could keep rolling out less prominent ones like her goth ensemble.
8) Nexu – If they make an arena Padme, it makes sense to have a Nexu for her to fight. It’s not a huge monster like an Acklay or Rancor, so this space tiger stands a better chance of getting the Black Series treatment even if it has to be deluxe.
7) Jyn Erso in Imperial aircraft marshaller disguise – It’s ridiculous that there isn’t already a 6″ figure commemorating the best scene in Rogue One’s trailer. It is imperative that she includes two removable beacons so her toy can have the Nightwing-style fights the movie’s climax denied her. A pistol & helmet are less essential.
6) Zam Wesell – As the only non-Fett mercenary to do anything onscreen, Zam Wesell & her violet wardrobe should be more appreciated. She gets bonus points for being played by Leeanna Walsman who was also the Borlik the Magnet Girl from Farscape.
5) General Grievous – I saw a mock-up of this in a Hasbro survey, so it’s pretty likely he’s getting made. I just wanted to be right about one of my wish list picks! He better have arms that split apart, four lightsabers, & a removable cloth cape. If they can avoid giving him a deluxe MSRP, that’d be even better.
4) Count Dooku – In addition to a cape that won’t inhibit his shoulders, Darth Tyrannus needs both his lightsaber & Force lightning effects. Hasbro gets another opportunity to recycle Electro’s electricity hands.
3) Gamorrean Guard– Kit them out with vibro-axes, which look suspiciously like regular axes. Insert dated Angry Birds joke here.
2) Wicket – The most famous Ewok needs a spear. Since Ewoks are smaller than average, he better come in a two-pack with #1 below.
1) Logray -Logray is empirically the best Ewok. The Ewok shaman needs his staff, medicine pouch, & to not cost as much as a regular Black Series figure unless he comes with Wicket.
Next week will probably feature some Toy Fair 2017 armchair coverage with me lamenting that none of picks are being made!
Remember to bookmark this blog to your favorites, subscribe for email updates, or follow it on the social media of your choice by clicking the corner cog icon. You can pick one or all options. Ordinarily I’d trust you to figure that out yourself, but who am I to argue with the end of every YouTube video? Heed the call to action!