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Lego Batman: The Movie: DC Super Heroes Unite (2013)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/21/2013

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/30/2013

As a parent, I'm exposed to a lot of "kid's stuff", whether I like it or not. That being the case, I've seen plenty of commercials for TV shows and movies based on Lego toys. I found this concept odd, because when I was a kid, there were no licensed character Legos -- they were all pretty generic and it was up to the builder's imagination to create the fun. So a movie based on Legos which were based on a certain character seemed very bizarre. Then, I saw Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out and couldn't believe how silly, funny, and subversive it was. I don't think that kids would get half of the jokes in it. So, it was with great interest which I approached Lego Batman: The Movie: DC Super Heroes Unite.

As Lego Batman: The Movie: DC Super Heroes Unite opens, the Man of the Year award is being presented. Bruce Wayne (voiced by Troy Baker) is in attendance, as is Lex Luthor (voiced by Clancy Brown), who is convinced that he's going to win. So, Lex is none too pleased when Wayne's name is called. But, before the trophy can be claimed, The Joker (voiced by Christopher Corey Smith) disrupts the festivities accompanied by The Penguin (voiced by Steve Blum), The Riddler (voiced by Rob Paulsen), Harley Quinn (voiced by Laura Bailey), and Catwoman (voiced by Katherine Von Til). As they being to rob the attendees, Bruce Wayne sneaks away and suddenly, Batman and Robin (voiced by Charlie Schlatter) arrive to save the day. After a chase across the bay, Batman is able to capture The Joker with the assistance of Superman (voiced by Travis Willingham). The villains are all taken to Arkham Asylum and everything seems fine until Lex Luthor, armed with a machine which can dismantle bricks (very deadly in the Lego world) releases everyone from Arkham. While Batman and Robin are chasing the random villains, Luthor and The Joker join forces in an effort to taint the upcoming presidential election.

The first difference which one will notice is that while Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out was a little over 20 minutes long, Lego Batman: The Movie: DC Super Heroes Unite is 71 minutes in length. This means that the creative team essentially had the space of a feature film with which to play. (Based on a demo of the video game of the same name, Lego Batman: The Movie: DC Super Heroes Unite follows the game's story, even using some of the same cut-scene animations from the game.) This means that they have time to develop the story and the characters, as well as an opportunity to dazzle us with the Lego-based animation.

In what (based on the two projects I've seen) is Lego's MO, Lego Batman: The Movie: DC Super Heroes Unite works on two levels. For younger viewers or those who are looking for simple fun, the movie presents a nice amount of action and it does its best to work in as many familiar DC Comics characters as possible. The movie rarely slows down to catch its breath, as Batman and Robin constantly find themselves in some predicament or being forced to chase some some bad guys. This never gets overly serious, but I can see how some younger children may find the third act's Joker robot to be creepy.

The piece (no pun intended) also features some things which are fun for older viewers and for DC fans. I was surprised to see that they used a very dark version of Batman here. He's quiet, anti-social, fearless, and hates asking for help. The scene in which Batman must ask Superman is priceless. And then we have Robin. For some reason, the Robin here is careless, clumsy, and somewhat dim-witted. This leads to some funny moments, but it's also kind of weird. There are sight gags aplenty here and the exchanges between Batman and Robin are funny. My favorite joke has to do with John Williams' theme from Superman: The Movie. (It must be great to do a project for Warner Bros. and have access to decades of movie rights and various characters. Just look at how the opening credits mirrors that of the 1989 Batman film.)

Those who find the DC Comics characters to be sacred and only like sober portrayals of them most likely won't find much to like in Lego Batman: The Movie: DC Super Heroes Unite. But, if you are in the mood for a feature-length animated movie which takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the characters while also staying true to their roots, then this is for you. It's got good action and some very funny moments, and a few things which could only exist in the Lego universe.

Lego Batman: The Movie: DC Super Heroes Unite makes changing clothes look very easy on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 16 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source materials. The colors look good, most notably greens and reds. The image is a tad dark, but that may be misleading, as most of the action takes place at night. The depth is very good, giving this a quasi-3D look and the level of detail is very good, allowing us to see the aspects of the bricks. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. For an animated project like this, this is a robust track. The stereo effects are well done, showing good separation. The surround sound effects really come to life in the action scenes, and they are very detailed at times. The subwoofer joins the action with the explosions and the destruction caused by the Joker-Bot.

The Lego Batman: The Movie: DC Super Heroes Unite Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. "Building Batman" (15 minutes) has stop-motion animator Garrett Barati showing a group of kids how to make a short Lego Batman movie. "Lego Batman Jumps Into Action" (38 seconds) is an animated Lego short...which is really a commercial. "Winning Shorts from the Lego DC Universe Super Heroes Video Contest" contains five short films which feature various DC characters and some pretty good animation. Finally, we have two bonus television episodes from Batman: The Brave and the Bold and one episode from Teen Titans.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.