Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Lego Batman Movie

Year 9, Day 182 - 7/1/17 - Movie #2,676

BEFORE: This is how I'm flipping my chain around - less than a week ago I realized that I could make this the last film watched before Comic-Con, and that made some bit of sense.  It's right on theme, I could watch this the night before getting on the plane, and get in the right mind-set.  But then  I went through some more cast-lists (I've got to learn to stop being so thorough...) and found that if I linked to this one now, I could work in something on Monday for July 4.  (I know, Monday is July 3, but really, it's the best I could do.)

So now Jemaine Clement carries over from "The BFG" for his third animated film in a row, and I've still got my same path to my San Diego trip, just in a different order.  Now in order to watch this here, I had to buy it On Demand for $3.99, but that's OK.  I could have seen this in a theater when it was released in February, but I passed - so I saved about 11 or 12 dollars this way.  I'm still up on the deal, I think.

So let's kick off July, and the four-day weekend, with a superhero film.  This is what summer's all about, right?

FOLLOW-UP TO: "The Lego Movie" (Movie #2,096)

THE PLOT: Bruce Wayne must deal with the usual suspects as they plan to rule Gotham City, while discovering he has accidentally adopted a teenage orphan who wishes to become his sidekick.

AFTER: I wish I could say that this captured the spirit of "The Lego Movie", taking a couple key characters from that film, expanding on their stories and moving forward with that same manic energy.  You know, where worlds collide but everything is still awesome.  There's definitely some kind of energy here, but it shoots in every direction at once, there's not the same heart.  Of course, the films have different directors, Chris Miller and Phil Lord only produced this film - I last spoke with Chris in 2015 at Comic-Con (he was a intern at one of the animation studios I work for, about 14 years ago) and I didn't get much time to connect with him.  (It's been sort of fun for the last two years to say I knew someone before they became a director of a "Star Wars" film, and even though I've been kicking myself for not begging the guy for a job, now that Miller and Lord have been fired from the young Han Solo movie, maybe I made the right choice...).

So there's no "everyman" Everett Brickowski here, instead we have Batman as the central character, and with a Batman film you just never know if you're going to get the brooding Batman (Bale) or the silly Batman (Adam West) or the nurturing parent Batman (Clooney) or the deep-throated dickish "I know more than you" billionaire (Affleck).  This film figures, why not give the audience all of the above?  Which means he's going to be constantly pinging from one emotion to the next, and it's going to be difficult to get a read on him.  But then again, I'm not sure this was a characterization choice, or just a lack of direction, and therefore a default decision to go in all directions at once.

Batman's lack of social skills are parodied here (remember, Batman is the real guy and Bruce Wayne is the disguise, or some say...) and this leads to the Justice League having an anniversary party at Superman's Fortress of Solitude without even inviting him.  I mean, he'd only drag the party down - but as a story element, since Batman needed to go to the Fortress anyway, to get the Phantom Zone projector, why not have him invited, and then use the invitation to get what he needed?  (Just sayin'...)

It's possible that Batman's longest "relationship" is with the Joker, and that's a fact that's parodied here too, with the Clown Prince of Crime acting like a jilted lover when Batman won't acknowledge him as one of his greatest foes.  And so Joker uses Batman's whole rogues gallery (and he does have one of the best...) from Bane and Catwoman right on down to, umm, Calendar Man and Condiment King (wait, what?). But it might be all a trick so that Joker can get in touch with the villains from other franchises, like King Kong, Godzilla, Voldemort and Sauron to form an All-Star Gang.  But still, the only thing that this group of masterminds can think to do is to destroy Lego Gotham.  Think bigger, guys!

Meanwhile, sad sack (but eternal optimist) Dick Grayson is "accidentally" adopted by Bruce Wayne, and both Wayne and Batman have trouble letting people in to their lives, because of what happened to his parents.  I get that, but I thought Batman adopted Robin to distract his opponents, basically using him as a human shield.  My bad, I guess.  Oh, and Commissioner Gordon retires, to be replaced by his daughter, Barbara - because that's how you hire police commissioners in the Lego world, I guess. We know she's going to become Batgirl at some point, so why sidetrack her into the police department?

There are tons of funny references, to everything like the old 1960's Batman and his use of shark repellent spray, to the doorbell at the Fortress of Solitude sounding like the John Williams theme music from the 1978 "Superman" film, but the story's a bit of a jumbled mess.  (Where was the Justice League, for example, when the city needed to be put back together - were they still at that party?). So while this film should have been a slam-dunk, in the end it was mostly a bunch of random noise - or possibly I just wasn't in the proper mind-set for something this madcap.

Also starring the voices of Will Arnett (last heard in "The Lego Movie"), Michael Cera (last heard in "Sausage Party"), Rosario Dawson (last seen in "Eagle Eye"), Ralph Fiennes (last seen in "Hail, Caesar!"), Zach Galifiankakis (last seen in "What Happens in Vegas"), Jenny Slate (last heard in "Zootopia"), Hector Elizondo (last seen in "Mother's Day"), Channing Tatum (last seen in "Don Jon"), Jonah Hill (also last seen in "Hail, Caesar!"), Ellie Kemper (last seen in "Sex Tape"), Eddie Izzard (last seen in "Lost Christmas"), Seth Green (last seen in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"), with vocal cameos from Jason Mantzoukas (last seen in "How to Be Single"), Doug Benson, Conan O'Brien (last heard in "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Pt. 2"), Billy Dee Williams (last seen in "The Conversation"), Zoe Kravitz (last seen in "Mad Max: Fury Road"), Kate Micucci (last heard in "Nerdland"), Riki Lindholme (ditto), Adam Devine (last heard in "Ice Age: Collision Course"), Mariah Carey, Laura Kightlinger (last seen in "Down With Love"), Brent Musburger (last seen in "The Main Event"), Ralph Garman (also last seen in "Eagle Eye"), Chris Hardwick and Richard Cheese (last heard in "Superman/Batman: Public Enemies") and stock footage of Tom Cruise (last seen in "Edge of Tomorrow") and Renee Zellweger (last seen in "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason").

RATING: 6 out of 10 Daleks

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