Movie

The hero we’ve all been waiting for is actually a piece of plastic

It’s a battle nearly as old  and overplayed as good versus evil: Marvel Comics vs. DC Comics. Each company has its respective tent pole characters that the creators beat to death with countless film, television, comic, video game and toy adaptations. By now there’s more than 65 Marvel and DC movies spanning half a century, and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

2017 will see the release of DC’s “Wonder Woman” and “Justice League,” whereas Marvel will be throwing its usual blockbuster punches with “Logan,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

Complain about the overkill of endless comic book films, I dare you. The reality is these interwoven “cinematic universes” are nearly surefire breadwinners for studios because of already-established characters, the nearly infinite source material, and the lucrative room for licensing deals. Comic book movies are an example of capitalism at its finest. Money first, originality and art second.

That’s not to say they’re not good films. A large factor in why Marvel keeps churning out movies is because of the high critical acclaim they’ve received as well. And Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was proof that you could go from George Clooney making a fool of himself in spandex — what, you don’t remember “Batman & Robin”? — to Christian Bale battling inner and outer demons in the realest Gotham ever seen.

But still, as mentioned previously, these are sure-bet properties, and audiences are starting to pick up on the cyclical nature of the genre. We as moviegoers deserve better. We need a hero to save us from the endless onslaught of corporate studio greed. A hero who’s maybe a little less annoying and more family-friendly than Deadpool. A hero who has a heart of gold, or actually, plastic. We need Lego Batman.

If that doesn’t quite sound like it should work, you’re right. It shouldn’t. When the original “The Lego Movie” came out in 2014, critics and audiences were flabbergasted that a movie about toys was actually thoughtful and hilarious — most likely due to “Transformers” post-traumatic stress disorder. It featured a motley crew of Lego toys on a quest to save the world from rules and adult order, and a fan favorite was the dark, brooding little black and yellow Batman voiced brilliantly by Will Arnett.

Logically, as comic books and capitalism so decree, there was to be spinoffs and sequels and toy deals for The Lego movie.  And next week sees the release of “The Lego Batman Movie,” the first major motion picture release following the original “The Lego Movie.”  But what makes this addition to the comic book lineup so special isn’t that it’s taken form in the shape of your favorite childhood toy, but that it’s such a fresh, fun take on a basically overdone genre.

The character of Batman is arguably one of the best-lived names in the comic book world.He’s been kicking butt since Adam West portrayed him in the most campy form ever back in the 1960s.  But, fast forward to his current revival, a lifeless cyborg-esque Ben Affleck, and fans aren’t exactly in love with the Bat lately. The DC Universe, in an attempt to both keep up with and differentiate itself from its Marvel counterpart, has been spitting out uber-serious films that haven’t been on the critical or commercial level that Marvel has. And then, in an attempt to lighten the mood, they released “Suicide Squad” last summer. I won’t even go into what a disgrace and pain that was.

Enter the Lego-fied version of Bruce Wayne. Helmed by director Chris McKay, a veteran writer from Adult Swim’s animated sketch show “Robot Chicken,” and produced by the duo who wrote and directed the “Jump Street” reboots, “Lego Batman” is looking to be the funniest Batman ever. The wry and irreverent humor that kids and adults loved in “The Lego Movie” is sure to be present this time around, especially when McKay and company are known for self-aware humor. Lookout for a “Batman versus Superman” jab and references to the never-ending cycle of remaking comic movies.

In a sea of live-action, realistic comic movies, “The Lego Batman Movie” already stands out as both a nod to source material and a light-hearted jab at what comic book movies have evolved into.

Lilly Stuecklen is a junior television, radio and film major. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. She can be reached on Twitter @Stuecks or by email at lsstueck@syr.edu.

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