LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite (2013)

2013 #75
Jon Burton | 71 mins | download (HD) | 1.78:1 | USA & UK / English | PG

LEGO Batman The MovieWell. What can I say? Curiosity got the better of me.

It’s weird to think that a generation or two of kids have now grown up with there always being tie-in LEGO. Until about 15 years ago, the toy brick manufacturer did not do licences. For whatever reason that all changed with The Phantom Menace, when sets were released that tied in to both that film and the original trilogy. I doubt it surprised anyone when these were a huge success, and since then pretty much any action figure-friendly franchise has received the LEGO treatment: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, even The Lone Ranger and Prince of Persia!

It was such a success that they got kind of cocky and made a LEGO Star Wars video game. What the hell?! Except it turned out to be massively popular, thanks to its mix of irreverent but informed humour and clever gameplay mechanics that emphasised and utilised the LEGO-ness of the world. After multiple sequels and the concept again branching out to encompass more licenses, this same style made its way to animated TV specials and, ultimately, feature-length animations — of which I believe this is the first.

But it’s also a bit of a cheat. It’s an adaptation of the game LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes — so much so that it takes the game’s cinematic cut scenes and fills in the blanks (i.e. the bits you’d actually be playing in the game) with new animation. This has, understandably, quite irritated those who’ve played the game — it’s just the thing they’ve already seen, only less interactive. For the rest of us, it’s not startlingly obvious where all the gameplay bits would be, but every once in a while a character outlines a set of mission goals right before an action sequence, which slightly gives the game away (ho ho). The side effect is that at times it feels a little like watching someone play a computer game, and that’s rarely fun.

Justice League-OThis wouldn’t matter so much if what was left was entertaining, but it’s a little weak. I’ve seen a couple of the LEGO Star Wars TV specials and found them to be quite fun, but LEGO Batman can’t reach their level. It’s not just that it’s almost four times as long as one of those, it’s that the humour it does contain doesn’t hit home in the same way. It’s often too juvenile, too “that’ll do”, too “I can tell this is supposed to be humorous but it’s just not funny”. I know I started by saying that I just watched this through curiosity, but partly it was that I’d found those Star Wars specials enjoyable enough and thought this would be more of the same with superheroes. It wants to be, but it isn’t.

The top thing that struck me, however, was this: imagine that, instead of Zack Snyder directing Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck in Batman vs. Superman in 2015, we’d instead been treated to Joel Schumacher directing George Clooney and Nicolas Cage in Batman and Superman in 1999. The result, I can’t help but suspect, would have been rather like LEGO Batman: The Movie. And yet, as a 70-minute kid-focused animated confection, it’s gone down a lot better than I suspect my imagined Schumacher opus would have.

I don’t really think it deserves to. In fact, I’d kinda rather see that Schumacher version.

2 out of 5

This review is part of the 100 Films Advent Calendar 2013. Read more here.

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