Lego Batman: A virtual playground for superhero fans
Director Chris McKay’s block-building computer-animated block-buster starring the not-so-Dark Knight arrives on home, ultra high-definition screens to thrill young superhero fans in The Lego Batman Movie (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, rated PG, 105 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $35.99).
An all-star voice-over cast brings to life the tale about a legendary, occasionally tax-paying crime fighter who battles supervillains and loneliness.
After Batman (Will Arnett) once again stops the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) and a cavalcade of enemies from causing mayhem in Gotham City, the Clown Prince of Crime rethinks his strategy and decides to surrender to authorities. His incarceration forces the hero to look for a more permanent way to get rid of his archenemy, requiring a device used by Superman to banish villains to the Phantom Zone.
The Joker uses Batman’s eventual strategic blunder to unleash a master plan that threatens to destroy all of Gotham.
Our caped hero must band together with his new ward Robin (Michael Cera), Batgirl (Rosario Dawson) and Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) to stop the mayhem while learning about the importance of teamwork and family.
The film doesn’t just pop from the screen; it bathes in pop culture throughout with funny dialogue and amusing odes to Batman and movie universes. For example, Barbara Gordon describes Batman as “an unsupervised adult man karate-chopping poor people in a Halloween costume,” and Batman’s password for entering the Batcave is “Iron Man sucks.”
The cast includes Jenny Slate as Harley Quinn, Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face, Channing Tatum as Superman and Jonah Hill as the Green Lantern.
Fans also will savor a look at unusual vehicles stored in the Batcave including the Bat Kayak, the Bat Dune Buggy, the Bat Zeppelin and the Bat Space Shuttle as well as watching the Scuttler (a multistory, Bat-shaped mech walking on its wings) in action.
In addition, appearances by a cavalcade of Batman’s more unusual villains such as Egghead, Bane, Clayface, King Tut and the dreaded Condiment King, combined with walk-ons from evil icons such as Sauron, the Wicked Witch of the East, Count Dracula, Lord Voldemort, Agent Smith and King Kong will make hard-core fans giddy.
The movie now is poignant because of the recent passing of actor Adam West. The animated effort offers many an ode to the liveaction “Batman” television show and film from the 1960s that starred West in the title role.
A few moments include Robin grabbing a can of shark repellent, an image displayed of Batman carrying a giant bomb above his head, Alfred actually wearing the classic TV costume and the team punching guys so hard that, paraphrasing Batman, “words describing their impact spontaneously materialize out of thin air.”
Note: I fondly remember getting to play this film earlier this year via the video game series Lego Dimensions that includes a story pack devoted to “The Lego Batman Movie.”
It gleefully requires building real mini-block figures of Batgirl and Robin and magically porting them into the action via a hub peripheral. This companion adventure for gamers who love the movie will be all-consuming.
4K UHD in action: A computer-generated world built from virtual Lego blocks, piece by piece, really shines under the spotlight of 2160p resolution while greatly benefiting from high dynamic range that makes colors practically scorch the eyes, and dark and light levels more extreme.
The excellent transfer is especially notable during any action scene sporting a near-fluorescent color palette — more specifically, in Batman’s tuxedo dress-up party, a group fight in a body scanner, and a more artsy segment in which the color desaturates from Gotham City and remains only on a depressed Batman’s costume.
Overall, I’d swear that the digital artisans used stop-motion animation to bring Lego mini-block characters to life, ripped from the shelf of a child’s bedroom.