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There are big changes brewing in Gotham City and, if Batman wants to save the city from The Joker’s hostile takeover, he may have to drop the lone vigilante thing, try to work with others, and maybe, just maybe, learn to lighten up. (From WB’s official synopsis)
 
 Lego Batman Movie, The
As Warner Bros. and DC brass have struggled through Joel Schumacher’s camp, Christopher Nolan’s eventual disinterest, and, now, a mess of a crossover universe, the studio’s various television animation departments have consistently made the best of the Batman character throughout multiple series. The key to this ongoing success (which has taken occasional stumbles, such as the first season of The Batman) seems to be the strength of the various formulas and the willingness to take chances with tone. The prevailing knowledge is that the public only likes Batman when he is ‘dark’ and serious is constantly and successfully challenged, leaving us with the distinct possibility that unpopular Batman movies aren’t unpopular because they’re too silly, but simply because they are bad movies. Meanwhile, the Danish-based Lego Group thrived beyond all reasonable expectations, thanks to licensing deals with just about every popular family-friendly franchise on the planet, including DC comics. The stars aligned when Warner Bros. and Lego handed Phil Lord and Christopher Miller – the guys that managed to make ridiculous theatrical concepts, like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) and 21 Jump Street (2012), work as movies – the reins on a Lego movie, appropriately titled The Lego Movie. They then managed to turn an extended ad into a funny, charming, and oddly noble hit cartoon. With dollar signs in their eyes, the two companies announced a sequel, but first, the breakout character – Batman himself – would get a Lego themed solo movie.
 
For some reason, I thought that The Lego Batman Movie wouldn’t work out as well as The Lego Movie, despite basically every ounce of evidence to the contrary. Lord & Miller have become an unexpected gold standard for comedy and the last time they weren’t directly responsible for a follow-up to one of their films ( Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, 2013), the results were sort of mediocre. I also doubted the appeal of the self-centered, yet completely self-unaware Lego-brand Batman in anything but a supporting capacity. Apparently, I just need to stop doubting this franchise (even the upcoming Lego Ninjago Movie – another blatant ad for a specific line of toys – looks pretty funny). Like its predecessor (as well as Lord & Miller’s other films), The Lego Batman Movie is built around a simple, morally upright character arc and uncluttered, but continuously active plot that serves the sheer wall of comedy, as written by no fewer than five writers (not including storyboard artists and script doctors). Besides spoofing literally every single (officially licensed) live-action iteration of Batman, the writers drop about 20 pop-culture gags per second and dig super deep into the comic’s lore to make references to the most obscure villains and storylines. Considering the volume of satire going on, The Lego Batman Movie really should be exhausting, but the jokes are thematically consistent and rarely repetitive, so it’s pretty easy to overlook the occasionally lame quip.
 
 Lego Batman Movie, The
Chris McKay, who was the animation director on the first film, has replaced Lord & Miller as chief director for the pseudo-sequel. McKay’s other directing work includes stop motion TV series, like Morel Orel (2006-2008) and Robot Chicken (2006- ), which carries over into both Lego-brand movies, which are meant to appear jittery, as if a child is creating the action by actually playing with the toys. The Lego Batman Movie is more action-packed than The Lego Movie and the quantity of stuff happening is visually overwhelming at times, yet McKay & company manage to rope everything together and give the grown-ups enough down-time to catch our breaths between rushes of ADHD activity. The problem here is that the Lego-ness of the film is pretty unnecessary. It’s certainly very cute to see this script enacted by toys, but almost every reference to building things feels kind of like a superfluous ad break. Unlike The Lego Movie, which was imbued with a central moral about the power of creativity, The Lego Batman Movie is a clever, sweet Batman parody that happens to be enacted by brand-name toys.
 

Video


While the STV, television, and internet-exclusive Lego cartoons continue with their smooth, plain, video game-like aesthetic, Lego Batman follows the style set by The Lego Movie. As it employs rigid, faux-stop-motion animated movement, it attempts to replicate the look of a live-action miniature shoot. McKay and his animators take pains to reproduce the limitations of anamorphic lenses and source lighting in the computer. These include shallow/soft focus, distorted frame edges, diffused highlights, lens flares, and chromatic aberration – all artefacts we’d expect from a film-based feature. This makes for less precise and less consistent image qualities than one would normally expect from an entirely computer-generated movie. Because of this mixed approach, the 1080p, 2.40:1 transfer pushes detail, colour vibrancy, clarity, and dynamic range to their limits. Edges are crisp, textures are tight, and the backgrounds are constantly busy without any notable compression artefacts. Colours are eclectic, consistent, and punchy, thanks in part to the strong contrast levels (I believe the idea is that the out-of-frame lighting sources are so harsh, because they’re human-size, rather than Lego-sized). The coolest visual element, at least in terms of what it has to offer the transfer, is all the neon smoke, which diffuses light, softens gradations, and leads to some very impressive colour blends.
 
 Lego Batman Movie, The

Audio


The Lego Batman Movie comes fitted with Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtracks. Not having an Atmos-ready sound system, I didn’t object to the disc defaulting to DTS-HD MA. This mix has loads of directional input, from simple and oddly realistic ambience (such as warm vocal echoes), to heavily-stylised and super-loud action sequences. Being a Lego movie, most of the sound effects are ‘shrunken’ versions of real-world noises and the tiny clicks of the Lego bricks themselves fill out the stereo/surround channels. The sound designers one-up their predecessor’s ‘kid playing with toys’ aural aesthetic by adding mouth-made sound effects to some scenes – stuff like ‘pew pew pew’ lasers and ‘voop voop’ robot movements. The score borrows elements from older movies and mixes them with Lorne Balfe’s (who worked with Hans Zimmer on The Dark Knight) original cues and a load of pop songs. When music is the key aural element, it is big and bassy, but does tend to disappear behind dialogue otherwise.
 

Extras


  • Director and crew commentary – Director Chris McKay is joined by a litany of collaborators, most of whom are either referred to by nicknames or mumble their names, so I didn’t get all of them. While group tracks tend to be too busy and technical tracks tend to be too dry, the two elements tend to cancel each other out here, making for an informative and pleasant listen. On the other hand, the silent spaces are a bit longer than expected and I would’ve liked more discussion about the story.
  • Animated shorts:
    • Dark Hoser (2:08, HD) – Batman is forced to enter the Justice League of Canada.
    • Batman is Just Not That Into You (2:10, HD) – Joker ‘breaks up’ with Batman on Harley Quinn’s self-help talk show.
    • Cooking with Alfred (2:02, HD) – Alfred hosts a cooking show.
    • Movie Sound Effects: How Do They Do That? (1:24, HD) – Batman’s villains record the film’s laser sounds.
  • The Master: A Lego Ninjago Short (5:25, HD) – A cute short in which the Ninjago leader (I assume) can’t quite get his intro credits right.
  • Four deleted scenes (7:00, HD)
  • One Brick at a Time: Making the Lego Batman Movie (16:10, HD) – The cast & crew discuss the film’s production in this fluffy behind-the-scenes featurette.
  • Rebrick Contest Winners (2:47, HD) – Will Arnett introduces the top three winners of a fan-made short film contest.
  • Inside Wayne Manor (2:36, HD) – Batman leads a tour of his mansion.
  • Brick by Brick: Making of the Lego Batman Movie (3:50, HD) – Despite the menu title, this is actually a casting featurette.
  • Behind the Bricks (4:13, HD) – Another EPK-style featurette that is basically the same as the first one.
  • Me and My Mini Fig (00:56, HD) – The cast plays with Lego figures.
  • Three trailers
  • Lego Life Trailer
  • Footage from a Lego-animated Comic Con panel hosted by Conan O’Brien (2:55, HD)
  • Five social media promos]

 
 Lego Batman Movie, The

Overall


The Lego Batman Movie is adorable, consistently funny, and very attractive. It’s a better Batman spoof than Lego-brand movie, but I suppose that a lack of Legoness won’t matter in another five years when there are 20 more Lego-themed movies eating up the box office. Eventually I’ll stop assuming the worst when I hear about them. Warner Bros.’ Blu-ray looks gorgeous, sounds quite impressive (even without the Atmos enhancements), and includes a decent collection of mostly child-friendly special features.
 
 Lego Batman Movie, The

 Lego Batman Movie, The

 Lego Batman Movie, The
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray, then resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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