'The Lego Batman Movie': Proof a good 'Justice League' can happen

Commentary: If director Zack Snyder's having a hard time making his DC movie universe more fun, he should take a look at how this Lego movie pulled it off.

Mike Sorrentino Senior Editor
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Mike Sorrentino
3 min read
Warner Bros. Pictures

Editors' note: Mild spoilers ahead for "The Lego Batman Movie" and other DC superhero films.

"The Lego Batman Movie," which opened Friday, has done something no recent DC superhero movie has pulled off: juggling a giant cast while being a fun film.

Last year's "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" packed in a wide cast of superheroes to set up the forthcoming "Justice League" team-up movie, leaving "Dawn of Justice" sprawling and unfocused. "Lego Batman" does a much better job keeping the focus on the cowl-wearing hero even among a dizzyingly vast cast. Audiences apparently flocked to this approach, with the film reportedly raking in $55.6 million and taking the No. 1 spot at the US box office during its opening weekend.

As director Zack Snyder continues work on his first "Justice League" film, due this year, there are aspects of the brick-built Batman movie I hope can make the jump from Lego to live action.

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Big cast? Don't get bogged down in origin stories

"Lego Batman" opens with an absolutely giant action sequence that showcases nearly every famous Batman villain you can think of. It's a brilliant way to kick off the film, and it quickly brings audiences into the story.

What it barely does, to its benefit, is try to explain who most of the villains are beyond a super-fast introduction. When Bane comes on, he immediately speaks in a voice reminiscent of his depiction in 2012's "The Dark Knight Rises," and that brings a fast familiarity to fans of Batman films. All I learned about Lego Catwoman is that she says "meow" a lot. And that's all anyone needs.

"Dawn of Justice" stalled when it switched focus to Ezra Miller's Barry Allen/Flash, Jason Momoa's Aquaman and Ray Fisher's Cyborg. When "Justice League" officially forms, hopefully we can get the bare minimum of what we need to root for these heroes, and leave the rest of the character development to their standalone movies.

Over in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, who didn't immediately fall in love with Tom Holland's Spider-Man debut during "Captain America: Civil War" -- all without even an ounce of that origin story? It's refreshing to see a film that trusts the audience already knows enough about these iconic heroes.

'The Lego Batman Movie' swings into action

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Why so serious? DC movies can be fun

The live-action DC movie universe so far isn't exactly known for its levity, but hopefully "Lego Batman" can help lighten things up.

The block version of Batman spends much of the film acting like a brooding loner, but he doesn't lose his sense of humor. Watching the hero heat up a lobster dinner and then gear up to watch his favorite romantic films by himself (all while still wearing the cowl) humorously nails the point that he prefers to be alone without making me sad about it.

Similarly, when other Lego superhero characters eventually make their appearance as part of a celebratory gathering, the movie revels in the campiness of having so many costumed figures in one place.

Hopefully the "Justice League" movie will draw on the fun factor of DC's Lego universe along with "The Flash," "Arrow" and "Supergirl" TV shows, which are far less bleak than the movies.

Now, I'm not expecting Ben Affleck's Batman to have words appear in the air when he throws punches, but maybe Henry Cavill's Superman can smile once in a while (when he's inevitably done being dead).

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