"I'm not the Joker, I'm the Trickster, totally different," Mark Hamill jests as one of his two iconic DC villains. "Would the Joker attack you with cans of snakes?" "Yes, yeah, he probably would," a cop replies.
And that's a great snapshot of LEGO DC Superheroes - Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom. In addition to winning the award for longest title of the year, it also happens to be very funny while remaining action-packed and appropriate for all ages. The movie, which is independent of any LEGO DC videogames or sets, is remarkably self aware (including Hamill pointing out that he's one of his characters, not the other one - while he doesn't voice Joker here, he also voices Sinestro in this film), full of puns, and shows a playfulness that is often forgotten in today's comic book adaptations. Consider this brief swipe at DC's recent New 52 initiate: "This is Area 52" "Don't you mean Area 51?" "The old Area 51 has been shut down. This is the New 52." It just keeps going. And to top the joke off, the characters all get New 52 style makeovers in the midst of the film.
The trademark LEGO humor is there, but with folks like Jim Krieg and Brandon Vietti involved in its creation, it also has a lot of trademark DC Comics moments. These two know these characters from years of more serious animation adaptations, and are able to inject that knowledge in the midst of all the silliness. Deathstroke easily completing an obstacle course that the other villains all struggle with nods to the character's strength in the comics, but being ejected by Lex Luthor using a giant spring on a switch for the laughs.
The movie constantly balances these angles. It often cater to Cyborg, the movie's real star, for laughs. He's voiced by Khary Payton of Teen Titans, one of many veteran voice actors who lend an extra nod of authenticity to the film. Josh Keaton returns as Green Lantern, James Arnold Taylor as the Flash, and more, making it easy for fans of shows like Young Justice and the LEGO DC Comics games to connect to the world. These actors, among the rest of the cast, also happen to be incredibly talented, and all have a history with DC's characters that comes through in their performances.
The storyline itself is fairly standard team-versus-team superhero fare. Lex Luthor pulls together a team of villains to combat the Justice League, but unbeknownst to them he's doing so under the direction of godly villain Darkseid. But it's the character moments, like Batman talking about it being "healthy" to bury your emotions, Superman being naively good, and Cyborg's struggles with his humanity and heroism, that make the film unique and fun. That and the puns; the glorious, outstanding, puns.
If there's a downside to this film, it's that there aren't quite as many direct LEGO moments here as in most LEGO films, and even the games. Hal's constructs aren't all clearly made of LEGO pieces (some are, which is fun, but it just makes it more noticeable when they're not), explosions don't result in pieces flying everywhere, etc. It feels more like LEGO mini figs are just living in a fairly standard 3D animated world. It might be a nitpick, but the constant use of LEGO in every little detail in the other films is what makes them a unique piece of animation. 'Legion of Doom' is a step back from that, and I'd like to see the LEGO brand utilized better in the future.
Overall, Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom, is a worthy addition to the familyblu-ray shelf. The puns and jokes are more likely to make adults/parents laugh than kids in many cases, but there are plenty of other moments to keep kids laughing and interested, between the bombastic (but not very violent, and perfectlycartoonish) fights. Adults have to be pretty big DC Comics and LEGO fans to watch this on their own, but will find plenty to enjoy when watching with younger viewers. Come for the family entertainment, stay for the robo-monkies and the self-aware hilarity. Thanks to these home releases, the upcoming theatrical LEGO Batman movie has a lot to live up to.
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