Friday, February 10, 2017

The LEGO Batman Movie

Before you read this post, you must first say the secret password...

If you answered correctly, you already know how funny this movie is. I can't give away the jokes, let me just say that if you thought the opening credits of last year's "Deadpool" were amusing, be prepared for several guffaws before the movie really starts here. Director McKay and the team of writers came up with the right mocking attitude for the film. Kids may sometimes not understand the jokes, but there is plenty of eye candy to keep them happy. Adults on the other hand will laugh out loud at the satire directed at almost all superhero film tropes, but especially those associated with the Batman movies.

Many of us who find the constant angst and introspection of comic book characters to be emphasized a bit much in the last ten years, will enjoy the takedown performed by this movie. Although it is an echo of some of the same themes as mentioned in the LEGO Movie  , the story here is far different and the emphasis is on wild visuals that will keep you engaged the whole time that the movie is rolling. Will Arnett returns as the voice of LEGO Batman, and his gruff tone, sometimes whispered asides and general self inflating attitude make this a Batman far different from any we have seen before.

There are movie fans who are dismissive of fan service references in movies. They disapprove of the Easter Eggs that fanboys would jones over. This movie is a plateful of scrambled eggs, with a moment from Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy dropped in right beside a campy reference to the Batman of the 1960s television series. Imagine the Dark Knight battling a shark with repellent from  his utility belt and you will get the idea. Poison Ivy kills a half dozen penguins flying on a bombing mission when she accidentally kisses them. Moments from "Batman and Robin" live next door to "Batman vs. Superman". The people who micromanage the fun out of the DC Universe films need to watch this movie and maybe let some of the creative forces that were contributors here could be turned loose on the Justice League or future films from the DCU. The writers here seem to get that there should be some fun in the characters they are bringing to life.

Just as three years ago, the look of this LEGO movie is amazing. A combination of computer generated blocks and LEGO sized characters come to life in some great ways. The theme of creativity is not deeply explored in this movie as it was in the previous LEGO film, but that does not mean that the film making has lost it's creative edge. The production design and color palate of this movie are cartoon/toy exploding sugar treats for the eyes. When you hear Arnett's sardonic comments in contrast to the chipper immature Micael Cera as Dick Grayson, you just half to laugh. It is another insider joke that Alfred is voiced by Ralph Fiennes, while Lord Voldemort, who does appear in this movie, is voiced by someone else. Real Batman fans will love the casting of Billy Dee Williams as the voice of Two Face.

The original songs in the film are also very amusing. None of them are as catchy as "Everything is Awesome", but they contain just as many jokes and are integrated into the film really well. The source music from other films is also used at the right time and if you appreciate Superman, you will be glad to know we get the John Williams score music in a couple of places. The Batman Theme from the 60s TV show has been mocked so much in the last fifty years that you might have thought all humor had been milked from it already. You would be wrong and Will Arnett proves that. There are also three or four film clips in the movie taht are not animated and will delight you for the clever way they are used.

All in all, this is a really great movie and a fine way to launch the quality films of the year. We can now move aside the remnants of 2016 films and the forgettable January fodder that fills in the spaces between the awards contenders. Here is a movie that will certainly be well thought of all year long. Let's just hope that the travesty that occurred regarding it's predecessor and the Academy does not repeat itself.  I can't wait to go back and see this again. No doubt there are big chunks of humor buried in the dense backgrounds of every scene that will deserve to be discovered and enjoyed, while all the time we get to relish the stuff we loved the first time through.

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