Batman, the character, has been around for eighty years since his first appearance in Detective Comics #27. Over that time, he has been in a number of different media, including serials, television, animation, film, and games. The character has been portrayed in a number of ways for 80 years, allowing for a Batman for everyone’s tastes.
Cutting to the chase, one of the more recent adaptations is also a spin-off. The LEGO Batman Movie features the Batman from The LEGO Movie, itself also an adaptation. The LEGO Movie is also a hard movie to follow up on, having not only been entertaining and thought provoking, but also a cinematic way to play with LEGO. Batman in The LEGO movie was both a parody and a kid’s view of the character, dark, gritty, and very, very serious. Will Arnett played the character straight, despite the absurdity, much like Leslie Nielsen in Airplane and Adam West in the 1966 Batman TV series.
The LEGO Movie well enough to garner a sequel and Batman was popular enough to get a spin-off. This time, set in LEGO Gotham, the movie features Batman and characters associated with him. Emmett, Wildstyle, and Unikitty aren’t around; this isn’t their movie. Instead, LEGO Batman has Will Arnett, Michael Cera as Dick Greyson, Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon, Ralph Fiennes as Alfred Pennyworth, and Zack Galifianakis as the Joker. Even the minor characters were voiced by an impressive cast, including Mariah Carey and Billy Dee Williams as Two Face.
LEGO Batman opens with black, like all important movies, followed by the type of music that makes studio execs and parents nervous. Batman even narrates that, then provides a quote that becomes important to the main theme of the movie.
The big opening features the Joker with every villain from Batman’s rogues gallery planting a bomb underneath Gotham City that, if it explodes, would send the city into the endless void beneath the city. The Joker offers Gotham a deal – provide the mayor and Batman, the city goes unexploded. As time ticks down, the mayor arrives, but there’s no sign of Batman, worrying the Joker. However, the master of disguise that Batman is has already arrived, in the form of the mayor. Batman breaks out a new song and proceeds to defeat the A-list, B-list, C-list, and D-list villains, leaving the Joker for last.
All the Joker wanted was for Batman to acknowledge him as his greatest enemy. Batman steadfastly refuses, calling Superman his greatest enemy and saying he needs no one and the Joker means nothing to him. The Joker does get away as Batman dives to defuse the bomb and saves the city once again.
Later that night, Bruce Wayne arrives at James Gordon’s retirement party. Gordon is stepping down as Police Commissioner, allowing his daughter, Barbara, take over the role. Barbara is a graduate of Harvard for Police and has cleaned up cities like Bludhaven through physical abilities and spreadsheets. It’s love at first sight for Bruce, who is so smitten he accidentally adopts Dick Greyson without realizing it. Barbara, though, hasa plan to clean up crime that doesn’t involve Batman.
Joker, meanwhile, enacts his latest plan to get Batman to admit he’s the greatest enemy. All he needs is the Phantom Zone ray. The plan is somewhat convoluted as he surrenders not just himself but every Bat-villain into Barbara’s custody, sending all of the villains to Arkham Asylum. Batman and Barbara both know that the Joker is up to something, but Batman believes the best place to keep him is in the Phantom Zone.
After a theft where Batman uses Dick, now using Robin as a code name, as an expendable minion, steals the projector from Superman”s Fortress of Solitude. Breaking into Arkham is a little more difficult than expected, but Batman sends the Joker to the Phantom Zone. Barbara takes the opportunity to lock Batman and Robin away.
In the Phantom Zone, the Joker gathers several LEGO versions of filmdom’s villains – Sauron, Voldemort, King Kong, Dracula, Godzilla, even “British robots” that like to yell “EXTERMINATE!” With this lot, the Joker will force Batman to admit that they need each other.
The movie is a character study of Batman, using every incarnation of him, comic, cartoon, and film. LEGO Batman makes references to events from the Christopher Nolan movies, the Tim Burton movies, and the Leslie H. Martinson movie. The character is recognizable and covers similar ground, but takes a deeper look into what becoming a loner does to him. LEGO Batman is driven by two things, a desire to keep others feeling what he did when his parents were shot and a desire to not go through those emotions again. It’s when he is forced to confront what he has become that he realizes that he can’t protect his friends, and he needs them.
The LEGO Batman Movie has its “kid playing LEGO” moments, following the style of The LEGO Movie. Many of the sound effects are just the voice actors providing them, such as, “Pew pew pew!” At the same time, the movie has depth that many of the Batman movies don’t get into, such as the effects of fighting crime while dressed as a bat. LEGO Batman isn’t a parody but a pastiche of all previous incarnations, but while treating the plot like an amusement, the psychology of Batman isn’t there for comedy. His motives are examined, his ego and bravado a shield.
Despite, or maybe because of, its origins, The LEGO Batman movie may be the best representation of the character on film. The character, despite being a toy, has depth, as does the Joker. They both have a need that Batman manages to deny for both, and only when he can break past the denial can the city be saved.
Didn’t expect to have a news round up so soon after the last one, but several major announcements came out over the past two weeks too good to sit on. Let’s get to them.
Showtime announces Twin Peaks to return in 2016.
David Lynch is involved through Lynch/Frost Productions. No word on whether the new series is a reboot or a continuation, but will be a limited series, with nine episodes. The big problem with the original series was that the network wanted more even after the mystery was solved. The nine episode limited series will let Lynch tell the story he wants.
Ghostbusters reboot confirmed.
This isn’t the sequel Dan Aykroyd has been pushing for. Paul Reig, director of Bridesmaids and The Heat, will be working on a gender-flipped reboot. Joining Reig is writer Katie Dippold, who has worked on Parks and Recreation and The Heat. Will it work? Depends on audience reception, really. The original Ghostbusters was second only to Beverly Hills Cop in terms of popularity in 1984 and both movies took advantage of music videos to get noticed.
LeCarré’s The Night Manager being turned into a limited BBC series.
John LeCarré’s spy thriller will star Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston in the BBC adaptation. No word on who the actors will play yet.
Lost Sherlock Holmes film turned out to be misclassified.
A 1916 silent film adaptation of Holmes thought lost turned out to be mis-filed by Cinematique Français decades ago. This isn’t the 1914 A Study in Scarlet that the BFI was looking for, as reported last month, but an American film made in Chicago by William Gillette. The BFI is excited over the find. A Study in Scarlet is still being sought.
Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy being adapted.
The three books in the trilogy, Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars, will be adapted for SpikeTV by Vince Geradis, a co-executive producer of A Game of Thrones. Robinson will be on board as consultant.
World Wide Dredd.
A seven-part Judge Dredd web series has been announced by Adi Shankar, producer of 2012’s Dredd. Shankar has been working on a project featuring the Dark Judges. The news follows the Day of Dredd campaign to get a sequel to the 2012 movies done.
The LEGO Movie spin-off announced.
LEGO Batman will be getting his own movie. Will Arnett will return to voice LEGO Batman while Chris McKay, animation supervisor for The LEGO Movie will be the director. Release date is expected to be 2017. I am now wondering how well LEGO Batman will fare compared to Superman vs Batman, and would not be surprised if the LEGO version did better.
Tie-ins are a difficult area to judge. At what point does a work stop being merchandising and start being a work of its own? I have reviewed some tie-in works, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic because of its impact on the Internet and the Richard Castle Nikki Heat novels because of the meta nature of the books. While I have reviewed movies based on toys – G.I. Joe – The Rise of Cobra and Battleship – I haven’t touched any of the animated works. The cartoons came about after the easing of US Federal Communications Commission regulations restricting toy- and game-based series in the 80s. While several cartoons from the era were memorable, including Transformers and Jem and the Holograms, most were just there for merchandising.
Last month, The LEGO Movie opened. A CGI animated action movie, The LEGO Movie was based on LEGO, the construction bricks created in 1949 and refined in 1958. Given that the company wasn’t directly behind the creation of the movie, I felt that The LEGO Movie was an adaptation.
Since the film is still in theatres, I’ll try to keep the summary as spoiler-free as possible. The plot has Emmett, a Minifig, find the Piece of Resistance that makes him the Special that can stop Lord Business from using his secret weapon to destroy all of the different worlds. Unfortunately, Emmett isn’t all that special, but WyldStyle, who was looking for the Piece of Resistance, is there to help him in the fight against Lord Business. Along the way, Emmett and Wyldstyle get help from Batman to get to Cloud Cuckooland to find the Master Builders in hiding.
The movie uses many a bad pun.
The characters are well aware that they are in a LEGO multiverse and most can build items out of the scenery. The CGI makes it hard to tell whether the settings were built physically out of LEGO bricks or if the animators were just that good. The ground, where it isn’t paved by flat-topped bricks, has the classic LEGO brick struts, including the company’s logo. With adaptations, the little details can make or break the work. The eye for detail in The LEGO Movie is amazing. Emmett’s hair has a molding seam. The 80s Spaceman’s helmet has a crack where the piece always got a crack. The Minifigs, for the most part, come from existing sets past and present. The construction scene as the big musical number starts has a Minifig calling for a 1×2 macaroni piece and getting it, just as people playing with LEGO bricks have since, well, 1958.
The LEGO Movie felt like the writers were playing with LEGO while working on the script. Building of items, like a motorcycle from parts in an alley, referenced the LEGO videogames, where players could do just that. The buildings, the vehicles, the animals, the sets, all could be built given enough bricks. Given that LEGO is a toy meant for creating your own designs, the movie showed possibilities and encouraged imagination.
As an adaptation, The LEGO Movie worked. Emmett lived in a LEGO world and acted knowing he was a LEGO minifig. All the bits came together and screamed “LEGO!” as the movie progressed while still allowing the story to unfold. The story itself could not be told without the LEGO bricks.
Next week, the nature of tie-in media and adaptations.