I recently slammed the achingly buffoonish LEGO Star Wars Blu-ray while lamenting that LEGO would have been much better served by farming out its production to the studio behind their licensed videogames, Traveller’s Tales. Lo and behold, my prayers have been answered in their latest release, as LEGO Batman: The Movie -DC Super Heroes Unite was directly produced by Traveller’s Tales and is directly related to their hit videogame from last year, LEGO Batman 2.
As gamers know, the LEGO Batman 2 videogame introduced a massive open world Gotham City populated with not just Batman acolytes and foes, but fellow Justice League members and baddies as well. That intricately crafted open world is put to excellent use in the movie, as it serves as the setting for the entire film. After investing dozens of hours in the game, I felt like I was right at home in the film and overjoyed to revisit areas such as the Batcave, Arkham Asylum, and Wayne Manor. Some may gripe about the wholesale recycling of assets from the game as repurposed set dressing for the film, but make no mistake, the footage in the film appears to be entirely new, and those recycled CG assets shine like never before in full prerendered HD Blu-ray presentation.
The story is also lifted directly from the game, but offers a completely different and more rewarding narrative experience as it fills in gaps in the game’s plot and vastly expands the character interactions, such as Batman’s distaste for the too-perfect Superman and the bromance between Lex Luthor and the Joker. That’s not to say the story is a classic work of fiction, but it’s a more than serviceable vehicle to cram in a satisfyingly huge assortment of DC characters. Those characters are voiced by a competent if not well-known roster of actors, with Joker in particular sounding very close to Mark Hamill’s definitive rendition.
The film finds Batman and Robin facing off against the deadly combination of Lex Luthor and the Joker as they attempt to unleash a secret weapon that could destroy them all. Lex is running for President of the U.S., but also secretly attempting to defeat Superman with a cache of kryptonite. Joker builds a gigantic robot that the dastardly duo use to wreak havoc on Gotham, leading Batman to call in the rest of the Justice League to face off against them. The story is fairly serious, but leaves ample room for light-hearted sight gags and character interactions that never let us forget the film is truly just a giant LEGO sandbox. Traveller’s Tales continues their lengthy unbroken track record of effectively utilizing the LEGO license and has crafted a completely entertaining and family-friendly film.
At 71 minutes in length, the film really is a film, not just a quickie episode-length curiosity like the LEGO Star Wars project. Sadly, the Blu-ray fails to include any bonus features about the film’s production, but there are a handful of oddities present including a LEGO Batman stop-motion short, winning fan-made stop-motion shorts from a LEGO DC video contest, and three bonus cartoons from the DC comics vault. I’m not really clear why they opted to include stop-motion shorts since the film is completely CG, unless there was some aim to fuel the imagination of viewers about the possibility of using their own LEGO bricks to craft homebrew entertainment.The Blu-ray package also includes a DVD, an Ultraviolet digital download code, and most importantly, an exclusive Clark Kent/Superman LEGO minifigure.