The Lego Batman Movie

This Review includes SPOILERS.

  • Title: The Lego Batman Movie
  • Director: Chris McKay
  • Date:  2017
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre:  Animation, Action, Fantasy
  • Cast: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Siri, Conan O’Brien, Billy Dee Williams, Eddie Izzard, Channing Tatum, Mariah Carey
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray

“Black. All important movies start with a black screen. And music – edgy, scary music, that would make a parent or studio executive nervous. And logos, really long and dramatic logos.” – Batman

“Whoa. Let me tell you something, J-bird. Batman doesn’t do ‘ships.” – Batman
“What?” – Joker
“As in ‘relationships’. There is no ‘us’. Batman and Joker are not a thing. I don’t need you. I don’t need anyone. You mean nothing to me. No one does.” – Batman

“Sir, if you don’t mind my saying, I’m a little concerned. I’ve seen you go through similar phases in 2016, and 2012, and 2008, and 2005, and 1997, and 1995, and 1992, and 1989, and that weird one in 1966. Do you want to talk about how you are feeling right now?” – Alfred
“I don’t talk about feelings, Alfred. I don’t have any. I’ve never seen one. I’m a night-stalking, crime-fighting vigilante, and a heavy metal rapping machine.” – Bruce Wayne

The Lego Batman Movie is one of the best Batman movies ever made because it gets to the core of the Batman character, and it revolves around both as a plot point and as the emotional core of the movie the fatal flaw in Batman’s character. The film is also a ton of fun, funny, packed with action, full of references to every previous version of Batman and quite a lot else besides, and one of those movies that one can enjoy over and over again. The Lego Batman Movie is funny and colorful but it is not a parody of Batman, something that also makes it a great Batman film.

The film opens with “McGuffin Airlines” flying over Gotham City in a plane loaded with a ton of weapons and bombs. Joker attacks the plane, and plants bombs that will blow-up an energy plant causing Gotham City to fall into an endless abyss. The attack itself resembles the opening of The Dark Knight Rises, while Bane’s later plan results in something akin to the No Man’s Land storyline from the comics. But Joker also, in a conversation with Batman, references the two boats from The Dark Knight and the “parade with Prince music” from Tim Burton’s Batman. In other words, within a few minutes, this movie is acknowledging its predecessors. Joker also isn’t working alone, he has a number of B-grade Batman villains, all of whom did appear in the comics at some point, and Harley Quinn helping him. Yet when Batman catches Joker he has to let him go – so he can stop the bomb Joker and his gang planted earlier. It’s when Batman catches then releases Joker that we get their conversation with Joker insisting he is Batman’s Greatest Enemy and Batman insisting he doesn’t do ‘ships with anyone.

Once he releases Joker, stops the bomb and celebrates his win, Bruce heads home. He changes into a comfy robe, eats a meal made by Alfred and heated-up in the microwave, and then watches a sad, romantic movie in his home theater. He is very alone. Bruce stands before the picture of himself with his parents at the theater and asks if they would be proud of him. At this point, Alfred arrives. Alfred is worried about Bruce, stating he’s gone through these stages before. But Bruce insists he doesn’t talk about feelings. Alfred then reminds Bruce he’s to attend a gala retirement party for Police Commissioner James Gordon. Bruce objects, but finally reluctantly agrees.

At the party, he meets Dick Grayson but doesn’t really pay much attention to the young orphan, as he also sees Barbara Gordon and has one of those “love at first sight” moments. Barbara is the new police commissioner, having already cleaned-up Gotham’s “sister-city” of Blüdhaven (and graduated from “Harvard for Police”). Barbara’s plan for Gotham? It takes a village, not a Batman, to truly reduce and eliminate crime. But Barbara also wants there to be a partnership between the police and Batman. Bruce isn’t having the no Batman idea, though he’s intrigued by Barbara. Still, Bruce, being distracted at the time, agrees to adopt young Dick Grayson, as we find out later.

Joker hangs out with Harley Quinn and his B-grade villain friends, plus a few well-known ones like Bane, Clayface, and Scarecrow. He sees a TV interview with Superman, where he’s talking about banishing Zod to the Phantom Zone. The Joker gets an idea and he and the other villains attack Gordon’s party. But once chased back outside, they all surrender. Every one of them, including Joker. Batman is confused – without crime, what is he to do? Barbara and her police department organize arresting everyone and taking them to the prison.

Batman then gets the idea of using the Phantom Zone projector to send Joker to the Phantom Zone. But when he returns to the Batcave he finds a parental lock on his computer. Alfred, who is reading, Setting Limits for Your Out-of-Control Child, tells Bruce he must raise Dick, whom he adopted last week at the orphanage. Alfred shows clear affection for Dick already and tells Bruce that he and Dick have a lot in common. But Bruce cruelly tells Alfred he “knows nothing about raising a surrogate son”. So Alfred lets Dick into the Batcave. In what becomes a running joke, Dick says, “Wow, Batman lives in Bruce Wayne’s basement?” Bruce points out that Bruce lives in Batman’s attic. But with the parental lock released, Batman makes a plan to steal Superman’s Phantom Zone projector, and he takes Dick along because he’s perfect for getting through the death traps protecting the projector that Batman himself would never be able to negotiate alone.

They arrive at the Fortress of Solitude, Batman tells Dick that all superheroes are brooding, serious people who need a quiet place of reflection and solitude, then rings the doorbell – which plays the theme to Richard Donner’s Superman film. Superman sticks his head out of the crack of the door and reluctantly lets Batman in. There is literally a party going on. The entire extended Justice League is there, celebrating the 73rd anniversary of the Justice League. Superman pretends Batman’s invitation was lost in the mail. While Batman encounters the Flash, Superman, Wonder Woman, and many others in the League and gives instructions to Dick Grayson over a communicator, Dick negotiates a series of intricate death traps and successfully borrows the Phantom Zone projector. Then he and Batman leave the Fortress of Solitude for Gotham.

Batman and Dick attempt to sneak the projector into the prison and Batman, after getting caught, manages to obtain the Phantom Zone projector and use it on Joker. Barbara, very disappointed in Batman, arrests him and Dick for what they did. Meanwhile, Joker ends up in the Phantom Zone, is greeted by Phyllis the brick, and starts to prepare a long speech to the villains in the Zone about getting out to wreak havoc. The villains don’t even let him finish his speech, before agreeing. The villains include: Daleks, Sauron, Voldemort, the Wicked Witch of the West, a shark, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, those guys from The Matrix, King Kong, Medusa, Godzilla, etc. Joker releases them all after Harley Quinn gets Joker out.

The villains and Joker attack Wayne Manor and they take over the Batcave (he also assumes Bruce Wayne is Batman’s roommate).

Barbara releases Batman and Robin, and the three work together with Alfred. At Arkham, the B-class villains who are still incarcerated offer help to Batman, Robin, Barbara, and Alfred (in a 60s Batman outfit). This allows Batman to remark on the “stupidity” of the idea of getting criminals together to fight criminals. Joker turns Wayne Manor/Island into “Joker Island”.

Batman, Alfred, Robin, and Barbara are squeezed into the Batwing, but one by one their engines fail. Batman goes to the outside of the plane to fix the engines and is joined by Dick and Alfred. Flying monkeys attack and Dick falls off the plane and through the sky. Batman barely rescues him, but Alfred falls. Bruce is really upset and freaking out when Barbara flies the Batwing and rescues Alfred. Batman realizes he would have lost Alfred without Barbara and the four begin to work together. They defeat Sauron, and Godzilla leaves. The Batwing lands. But when Robin takes a picture of everyone together to celebrate, Batman looks at it and is reminded of the picture of himself with his parents when he is younger. He tricks everyone else into getting into the Scuddler and sends them off to get burritos on the edge of town. Now he is doing this to protect them, but at the same time, his friends don’t want to be “protected” they want to help. Once more, Batman wants to work alone.

Batman arrives at “Joker Island” and confronts Joker, who again brings up their “relationship”, including a heartfelt, “I hate you”, before sending Batman to the Phantom Zone. In the Phantom Zone, he meets Phyllis (the brick) who thinks he’s a villain. There’s a series of flashbacks, showing Batman in his worse light, hurting others. He agrees that if Phyllis releases him for 24 hours, he will bring back all the villains. Phyllis agrees – and emphasizes that Batman must return all the villains.

Batman gets back just in time to rescue Alfred, Barbara, and Dick – but they are all angry at him for sending them away in the first place. Batman admits he was afraid and even says he’s sorry (barely). He then shows the Babs-signal, as well as signals for Robin and Alfred to Barbara and everyone. They agree to work together again and even go to Arkham to release all the B-villains to get them to help in rounding up the villains from the Phantom Zone as well as Joker.

There’s a massive, complex, fight scene between the Gotham family and the Evil Army. At one point, Batman tells Robin, “Okay Robin, together we’re going to punch these guys so hard words describing the impact are going to spontaneously materialize out of thin air!”, which they do, in true 60s-Batman style. Voldemort is sent to the Phantom Zone. Other bad guys are sent to the Phantom Zone. Robin actually uses the shark repellant which came up earlier (another 60s reference as well). But the bombs that Joker and his evil gang have placed around Gotham City go off and, as mentioned earlier the city is cut off and heading for the abyss.

The only way to save Gotham is to “stick together using [their] heads”, they build a bridge. Batman admits his connection to Joker to save Gotham and they stick together creating a bridge. With a click, everything comes together. Citizen bridges, um, bridge the other gaps, and again with a click – Gotham is saved. Batman tells Joker, with a sunset behind them, “I hate you, Joker.”

Batman gets ready to go to the Phantom Zone. He lets Dick call him Dad and, and reveals he is Bruce Wayne. Bruce talks about what he’s learned. Bruce and Dick even hug. But when Bruce tries to send himself to the Phantom Zone he hits a wall and bounces back. Phyllis points out that Batman has changed for the better. The movie ends with a white screen (and a montage of Bruce with his new family).

The Lego Batman Movie is a great film. Yes, it’s funny and smart and references all the previous Batman films. Yes, the idea of Batman and company fighting famous movie (and television) villains from Voldemort to “British Robots” as the Daleks are called is amusing. But what makes the movie re-watchable is that it tells a very moving story. That story is of a man, finally, facing his demons and moving on. It’s a story of a man putting aside his loneliness and creating a new family. Dick Grayson is central to this story. And in the comics, Dick was introduced for three main reasons. First, narrative necessity – giving Batman a partner gives him someone to talk to, this improves the story because it becomes reliant on dialogue instead of the main character’s monologue. As well as someone to talk to, a sidekick, partner, or companion also gives the main character someone to worry about and rescue when they get in trouble, this, in turn, humanizes the main character. Second, Robin was a lighter character. After Robin was introduced in 1940, Batman introduced his famous “no kill” rule, and Robin’s Joie de Vire lightened up the Batman comic books considerably. Finally, Robin as a young character was meant to give the children reading the Batman books a character they could identify with who was their own age. In many ways, by introducing Robin, The Lego Batman Movie is the first time we’ve seen this transition in Batman on the screen. Yes, we don’t see the dark, brooding, willing to kill, stalker vigilante of circa 1938 Batman or solo adventures like Dark Victory, but by constantly referencing the entire Batman canon, The Lego Batman Movie is using a shorthand that both trusts the audience hasn’t been living in a cave for the last ten or twenty years and that they know who the Dark Knight is or was. Additionally, the film itself shows you the lonely, desperate for approval Bruce Wayne in the scenes in his mansion where he heats up the dinner Alfred made in the microwave and watches sad movies – alone.

Needless to say, The Lego Batman Movie, is one of the best Batman films ever made and I highly recommend it. And, there is a considerable about of action and humor too. It’s not grim. It just gets to the core of just who Bruce Wayne and Batman is, alongside his Bat-family of Alfred, Dick Grayson, and Barbara Gordon.

Recommendation: A must see!
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Advertisements

Gotham Season 4 Review – Spoilers

This review includes spoilers for Gotham Season 4.

  • Series: Gotham
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 4 (Blu-Ray)
  • Cast: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Cory Michael Smith, Camren Bicondova, Morena Baccarin, Alexander Siddig
  • Network:  FOX (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Blu-Ray, Color, Widescreen

Season 4 of Gotham is roughly split into two sections, with the first eleven episodes focused on the villains Professor Pyg and Sofia Falcone (daughter of retired mob boss Carmine Falcone) and the second half bringing back Jerome (the Joker). Along the way, Gotham regulars Penguin, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Selina Kyla, and the Gotham City Sirens of Barbara Kean and Tabitha make regular appearances. Revived by the waters of Slaughter Swamp that was poisoned by the industrial waste of Indian Hill – Butch is now Solomon Grundy. And yes, even R’as al Ghul is back. That sounds like a lot, but this show knows how to give each of their characters time to fully develop their stories.

Professor Pyg is a well-spoken serial killer whom we usually see with a pig’s head covering his face. He starts by killing GCPD police officers and covering their faces with a severed pig’s head. Detective James Gordon, who is promoted to Captain this season, is on the case with some help from Harvey Bullock. When it turns out all the cops that the Pig kills are dirty, things get intense and confronted with evidence that he was also “on the take” Harvey quits the GCPD and opens a bar. Never fear – he’s back by the conclusion of the storyline. But Professor Pyg soon turns his attention on the Narrows – poisoning several of the homeless. He then shows up as a caterer at a fundraiser for an orphanage that Sofia Falcone has recently established. Episode 9, “Let Them Eat Pie” has Professor Pyg first singing, “He (Pyg says, “they”) Had It Coming” from Chicago – then Sweeney Todd style serving the guests’ meat pies made from the Homeless he killed. Pyg also leaves a clue for James Gordon, a quote from Jonathon Swift’s A Modest Proposal. The GCPD arrests Pyg, he escapes, and eventually, James Gordon is forced to kill him when he takes Sofia Falcone “hostage”. It looks like Sofia will use this against Jim (as well as their brief partnership to take down Penguin) but she is also murdered an episode or two later.

I didn’t like Pyg at all – he’s too gross, and his “attack the rich to help the poor” argument might have been more convincing if he hadn’t killed six homeless people to accomplish his “goals”. Plus Professor Pyg is just not a great Batman villain, and Gotham didn’t make him sympathetic as they have other long-term villains. But, all in all, the Professor Pyg storyline is completely wrapped up by episode 10 or 11, and the remainder of the season has a better season-long villain. All the musical and other references in episode 9 were amusing though. (Someone on the show must like Bob Fosse, because not only does Pyg quote Chicago – but Riddler’s full suit is straight out of a Fosse musical – stiff bowler hat, gloves, and even Riddler’s movement emphasizes controlled snappy lines, as is seen in Cabaret, Chicago, and Pippin.)

The season opens with Penguin having come up with an idea to rule the criminal underground in Gotham: Pax Penguina – he literally licenses crime. Penguin even gets the police to allow this by paying them off. Thus Pyg’s initial strikes against “corrupt cops”. Riddler’s frozen body decorates Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge. Jim Gordon, however, thinks the system is ridiculous and sets out to take down Penguin. He even sees Carmine Falcone at his home in Florida (presumably) and makes a bargain with Sofia as the lesser of two evils to take down Penguin. Meanwhile, Lee Thompson has returned to the Narrows – she’s operating a free clinic and working at an underground fight club to pay for it. Riddler is released from his icy prison – but not without problems.

Riddler now has two personalities – his “nice guy” personality (Ed Nygma) falls in love with Lee, whom he meets at the fight club, is meeker, but isn’t as “smart” – he can no longer create elaborate riddles – he can’t even solve simple childhood riddles. The Riddler personality is smart, can do the riddle thing, wears a bottle-green silk suit, bowler hat, and green gloves, and could care less about Lee. The Riddler manipulates Ed to free himself. Ed is also the one who finds Solomon Grundy (formerly Butch Gilzean) shortly after he’s resurrected in Slaughter Swamp. Ed takes Butch to the fight club, Butch beats the current champion and becomes the best fighter. Eventually, Ed, Lee, and Butch take over the club – and later, Lee takes over the Narrows. Unfortunately, Lee has a hard time holding on to the narrows and it goes back and forth between her and others throughout the season. But Ed’s love for Lee is balanced against her desire to have real power in the Narrows so she can actually do some good. At the same time, Riddler is haunting Ed because he wants to become the dominant personality. Oddly enough, with help from Penguin – he succeeds and Riddler’s full personality – cleverness, lack of caring for others, and beautiful bottle-green suit (again, with bowler hat and green leather gloves) is born.

Penguin starts out on top, ruling Gotham’s underworld through his Pax Penguina plan, but soon is involved in a war for territory against three groups of, interestingly enough, all women: Sofia Falcone who wants to rule Gotham like her father did; Lee Thompkins who wants to rule the Narrows for altruistic reasons; and the Gotham City Sirens (Barbara Kean, Tabitha Galavan, and briefly Selina Kyle). Between these various groups, the Pyg, and later developments – Penguin slowly loses his position. Penguin also briefly works with Butch and Riddler.

The first episode also has Bruce Wayne, dressed in black, beating up criminals on Gotham city streets. Lucius Fox gives him a bullet-proof flexible suit (a basic Batsuit, minus cowl) but when Bruce is forced to kill R’as al Ghul with a ceremonial knife at his request – Bruce flips out. His reaction to having to kill someone is to become a rebellious teenager – hanging out with the wrong crowd, drinking, chasing girls, and being a spoiled brat. he even gets himself emancipated and fires Alfred. It takes some time for Bruce to stop this behavior, and deal with his issues (the trauma of having to murder R’as), but when he does – he and Alfred are wonderful together. Selina also helps Bruce face his issues and get back to being himself. So he doesn’t become the Bat yet.

Barbara Kean tries to pick-up the organized crime that Penguin doesn’t control – opening a gun-running and sale organization. She also runs a nightclub where the women don’t have to pay for drinks. Tabby supports her in her goals – and they try to recruit Selina. Barbara, it turns out was revived by R’as al Ghul, using “Lazarus water” (presumably because they couldn’t do a full Lazarus pit sequence). When R’as dies – Barbara becomes the Demon’s Head. It turns out, R’as really should have left an instruction book. At times, Barbara is able to lead the League of Shadows – but at times the League, especially the male members, balk at a female leader. The male League members even bring R’as back, but Barbara and Bruce kill him again. Barbara ends up as the Demon’s Head, understanding her powers, including the way to interpret visions of the future, as she leads a new female-only League of Shadows.

Tabby works with Penguin to get Butch “fixed” by Hugo Strange. It surprisingly enough works once they finally manage to get Butch to Strange. However, as Tabitha and Butch declare their love for each other – Penguin fatally shoots Butch (after calling him a friend) because Butch killed his mother. Then he wounds Tabitha – who goes to Barbara for help (we don’t see the result).

Both Riddler and Lee are wounded at the very end of the season too (yes, they look like they are dying – we can assume not because: comics).

The main villain of the second part of the season though is Jerome and his twin brother, Jeremiah. Everything else – Penguin, Riddler, the Sirens, Bruce, Alfred, Jim Gordon, and Harvey Bullock is spread through the entire season. Jerome is as nutty as before and he orchestrates a breakout at Arkham when Ed Nygma and Oswald Cobblepot are briefly locked up. Jerome uses a radio signal to get people up on rooftops ready to jump at midnight. But if Jim Gordon tries to stop anyone, including Harvey, they will jump immediately. Jim solves the conundrum by having people save each other. He and Jerome confront each other – and Jerome falls to his death. Jerome’s followers stage an attack on GCPD HQ.

But Jerome also threatens his twin brother, Jeremiah. Jeremiah is a brilliant engineer and he develops a self-perpetuating generator (with a little help from Wayne Enterprises). We are given a few hints that Jeremiah isn’t normal either – he lives in an underground bunker with only a female secretary / bodyguard for company, in a scene between Jerome and Jeremiah – Jerome accuses Jeremiah of lying about the horrors Jerome did as a kid, which resulted in Jerome being physically abused and ultimately sent away, while Jeremiah was sent to engineering school. Jerome uses his Joker Gas on Jeremiah which turns his face stark white – and releases his inner demons. Jeremiah is much scarier than Jerome because he’s so cold and calculating. Jerome wanted chaos. Jeremiah has a plan. With the final two episodes entitled “One Bad Day” and “No Man’s Land” long-time fans of the Batman Mythos know what’s coming and aren’t disappointed. Bruce, Jim, Lucius, and Harvey stop the initial explosions of the generators that Jeremiah has rigged to become bombs. But Jeremiah succeeds in blowing-up the bridges leading into Gotham City – leaving the city isolated.

Even though I didn’t like Pyg as a villain, and Jerome is just simple madness and chaos, Jeremiah made for an excellent villain. Adapting the massive “No Man’s Land” storyline is hard and Gotham managed to give it a good start (I can’t wait to see the follow up). As always, the imagery in this show is so good. This season opens with Bruce, very Batman-like on a rooftop with his cloak flowing behind him and a gargoyle in the background. It ends with Gordon shining a light at the clouds from Gotham City PD with Bruce standing nearby as a beacon of hope. In between the development of the other characters is just so well done. I love Penguin and Riddler so much I almost want to see them succeed – even though they are the villains. And the women this season also came into their own, even if they didn’t always meet their goals. I actually, overall, liked Gotham Season 4 very much, and I recommend it. I’m also looking forward to Season 5, which will be the final season.

Read my Gotham Season 1 Review.

Read my Gotham Season 2 Review.

Read my Gotham Season 3 Review.

DC Comics History – Catwoman, Joker, Red Tornado, Robin

dcu:

This Month (Season) in DC History

The Joker and Catwoman were both introduced in 1940 in the first Batman title. The Joker was in two of the books stories. The first one included a killing spree with knives, guns, and, of course, Joker gas. In the 2nd one, Joker was stabbed in the heart and apparently dead but made a recovery in the ambulance. Catwoman, who was just known as “The Cat”, was aboard a yacht disguised as an old woman so that she could steal some jewels. Although Batman did see through her disguise, he didn’t keep her from escaping, sparking the romance between the Bat and the Cat.

What else happened in 1940?

  • Captain Marvel was introduced but not by DC Comics. Fawcett Publications introduced him to rival Superman. The alter-ego of Billy Batson attracted many readers but also attracted DC Lawyers…
  • Red Tornado was introduced but not the android you’re probably familiar with. Inspired by the Green Lantern, Ma Hunkel dressed up in red long underwear and used a cooking pot for a helmet. This working mother fought crime in New York and became very popular.
  • Robin was also introduced in this year, in this month even. We all know the story, a circus boy, who’s parents killed and was taken in by a millionaire. All that happened 73 years ago. You have to admit that Dick looks really good for his age.

Fascinating FACTS!!!!