Lego Batman: The Movie - DC Super Heroes Unite (2013)
The powers of evil versus friendship.
I have a confession to make - this isn't the movie I meant to have for this week. I shouldn't be apologizing, as it's really Netflix DVD fault for labeling this simply as "Lego Batman: The Movie" and making me think I was getting the new Lego Batman movie and actually not. Oh well, a movie is a movie and we got some opinions to get to. I can't tell if this is as good as the first or not, but let's see if it can at least keep the charm of the Lego movies - or perhaps be more akin to stepping on one of the dreaded plastic squares.
The plot here is as elaborate as one would really expect from a Lego Batman movie I didn't even know existed. We have some villains, and they have a nefarious plot, and Batman needs to beat them back into prison. Of course, the flip here is the crossing of beams - we immediately start off with some Batman and Superman facing off against Lex Luthor. There's some villainous teaming up - with some double crossing, and some slight plot twists here and there. You can really look at this thing as plot light for all intents and purposes - and not just because I'm summing it up, but rather that's about the depth of thought you are required to put into it.
Of course, most the runtime is shenanigans. Some of these shenanigans are kid-grade humor, such as Robin sneaking up on and scaring Catwoman up a tree. Other bits are referential easter eggs of sorts - such as the shark stare down pictured below, or the opening basically being a recreation of some of the older Batman live action movies. There's familiar locations in Lego form - such as the Arkham Asylum - and some other bits that might not be as familiar but expected - such as the Wayne Tower. There's also the familiar Batman rogues gallery - with of course the addition of Lex as one of the main villains.
Animation quality is pretty decent, and to be honest I wouldn't expect anything else. Even from a Lego movie I didn't know existed, the very nature of Lego gives quite a bit of freedom to animators without making it hard to not look like utter rubbish. The details you would expect from a Lego figure or vehicle are all there, including some that tie into jokes later on - like swapping hair or the ability to take apart a vehicle and build something else. Everything moves fluidly, and even some little minor details I wouldn't expect show up - such as the reflection of Batman's mouth on the bottom of his mask's nose piece.
Acting is decent quality as well. The voices all feel rather fitting, even if some of the actions are gamed up quite a bit. Robin in particular ends up being the butt of a joke quite a few times, and ends up doing a lot of expressing through "body language" of the little CG plastic fella. For being as simple as the models are, the little Lego figures can be quite expressive - and that certainly helps keep a lot of the movie more entertaining than it otherwise would. Things are pretty solid in this department.
Audio in general is pretty good. We've got plenty of theme songs from yesteryear - some of which worked in more as easter eggs rather than actual use as themes. There isn't anything quite as catchy as "Everything is Awesome" and L.B.'s singing is completely missing from this movie - as is any real musical number of sorts. I'm not particularly complaining, what with my penchant for enjoying non-musicals, but that's that at any rate.
There's actually quite a few characters in this - ranging from the aforementioned villains all the way to most the Justice League as well (even though they are in it for quite a short period of time in the long run). The main interactions are largely the Joker and Luthor, and between the trio of Batman, Robin, and Superman. Robin largely comes off almost like a Charlie Brown character. Chickens, for whatever reason, show up a lot and frequently get turned into drum legs. Not entirely sure what's up with that, but it totally seems to be a running gag of some sort.
Overall, I find this movie somewhat mediocre - and I feel it probably is reflected in this review. It's so much easier to do something like this when it's either really bad or really good - when things stand out like blazing stars. In this case, there isn't anything in here terrible - effects, voice acting, and flow all seem fine. Jokes are hit or miss, as with anytime jokes show up, but the general mood of the movie is enjoyable. The plot is mostly shallow, even if it attempts at some twists and turns. I'd largely wager a rental on this before a purchase, but I also don't know how much of this is impacted by having not seen the original Lego Batman movie.