DVD Review - LEGO Batman the Movie: DC Super Heroes Unite

On the DVD's Special Features or Bonus section, there is a brief documentary about a man who creates short films using stop-motion animation of LEGO bricks and characters. In the documentary, he shows a group of children how to take the LEGO toys and animate them. Also on the DVD's Bonus section, there is a 30-second or so example of that kind of stop-motion animation. One of the most popular line of toys is LEGO's version of Star Wars, but another popular line is its version of Batman as well as various characters from DC Universe Comics. The 30-second example is in fact a stop-motion animation of LEGO Batman. In addition, the DVD's Bonus section includes five other short films in stop-motion animation of LEGO Batman, submitted by amateurs as part of a video contest.

Most of those short films are very well done, impressive because of the things that are achieved using the stop-motion technique. Yet, the main feature on this DVD is a LEGO Batman story that incorporates characters from DC Comics but the animators didn't use the stop-motion technique. They instead use CGI animation. While it looks great, it's simply not as impressive, or as funny as the shorts.

The feature is directed by Jon Burton who as far as I know is not related to Tim Burton. This is ironic given that the opening of this feature is the Batman logo made of LEGO, and the logo looks exactly the same as the logo from Tim Burton's Batman. The musical score in this opening and throughout is an exact rip of Danny Elfman's score, not an homage or an interpretation, but an exact rip of Elfman's score from Tim Burton's Batman.

In this feature, Batman fights both Joker who is his iconic villain but Batman also has to battle Lex Luthor who is Superman's iconic villain. This opens the door for Superman to team up with Batman, and everytime Superman enters the story, we hear the score by John Williams from the 1978 Superman movie. Using that score makes sense because that score is more recognizable and signature, plus it was nominated for an Academy Award.

Using Elfman's score, while good, is not as signature. It's only a minor quibble, but the portrayal of Batman and Joker is somewhere in between Burton's interpretation and the 2D animated series, but leaning more toward Burton's campy nature. Therefore, using Elfman's score is not that far afield. The campy nature is probably amplified given the fact that the character and the landscape is all LEGO.

The screenplay by David A. Goodman has a lot of comedy. Starting with the Joker, there is a lot of corny one-liners. Batman's sidekick of Robin also shows up to be more or less the comic relief. He's a little bumbling. Goodman also establishes a great comedic conflict  that runs throughout the feature as a pretty funny reoccurring gag regarding the relationship between Batman and Superman.

Unlike Tim Burton's Batman or even Batman: The Animated Series, this feature embraces the modernity of technology. Whereas Batman: The Animated Series made the setting seem like it was the 1940s or 1950s, this feature has people watching TV shows and getting their news on the Internet. Goodman and Jon Burton also embrace the fact that their landscape is LEGO. The way they do it is through Lex Luthor's new weapon. It takes away the pretense, reinforces the fact that it's a LEGO world and allows the audience to embrace that world too.

What this movie does is lay down some clever foreshadowing, while also commenting on an issue that has popped up on movie and comic book blogs in the wake of the announcement at Comic-Con about the sequel to Man of Steel (2013). What I'm about to say will be possibly a spoiler for this feature as well as a spoiler for The Dark Knight Rises (2012), but in this feature Lex Luthor and Joker team up to take over Metropolis.

Both Batman and Superman team up to stop them, but Luthor and Joker get the upper hand and is on the verge of killing Batman. Joker asks if Batman is dead, who will he play with. Luthor answers that if Batman is dead, Robin will put on the suit and say he's Batman. Joker responds that it's not the same. Given the Comic-Con announcement, people have been wondering who will be cast to play the new Batman, post-Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises. This interplay between Luthor and Joker comments, echoes and mocks the Internet chatter around it.

It also foreshadows how the feature ends and not in the obvious way. I don't know if it happens in the comics, but it does happen in Batman: The Animated Series in the episode entitled "Knight Time." Still, it was very smart.

The DVD's Bonus section also includes three episodes from two recent cartoon series. 'Overdrive' is one episode from the fourth season of Teen Titans in 2005, which is not about Batman at all. Yet, there are also two episodes from Batman: The Brave and the Bold from its third season in 2011. 'Triumvirate of Terror' had the villains of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman swapping foes. For example, Joker fights Wonder Woman. Finally, 'Scorn of the Star Sapphire' has Batman teaming up with Green Lantern in a story  that has the same dilemma as Jean Grey in the X-Men TV series in the episodes titled 'The Dark Phoenix' in its third season in 1994.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for general audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 10 mins.


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