Monday, March 14, 2016

LEGO 'Justice League: Cosmic Clash' movie review

"And you sure don't have faith in your colleagues, either. It's hard to call a guy like that a friend." 
— Green Lantern to Batman 

The latest "LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes" animated movie, "Justice League: Cosmic Clash," is as silly and eye-rolling as ever. But then again, that's the point.

By now Batman is proud to be a full-fledged member of the Justice League. The tightly wound hero in fact is the de-facto leader of the roster which includes Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern and Cyborg.

As with the other LEGO movies, there's a lesson to be learned: That Batman can't just be a member of the team and distance himself from his "work colleagues," he has to connect with them as friends. This lesson plays upon the premise of this LEGO Universe — that Batman takes himself too seriously and the other Justice League members are nincompoops.

So if you're a Batman fan and can handle a wink-wink, nudge-nudge way of approaching the DC Universe, it's no problem.

Early in the movie, look for blink-and-you'll-miss-them-cameos of Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter.

This should be no surprise as G.A. is the star of the always excellent live-action "Arrow" series (now in its fourth season on The CW) and Martian Manhunter, who is on "Supergirl" (wrapping up the last five new episodes of its first season on CBS) in the guise of Hank Henshaw.

In what's a more obvious tie-in to DC's live-action TV universe, the time-traveling Vandal Savage, who is captured by Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter in modern times, also encounters Batman during a prehistoric sequence. Savage is the big baddie in "DC's Legends of Tomorrow," which is based on time travel. And while "Legends" has some fine moments, it generally has struggled to find its storytelling legs. (For a full breakdown of my nearly mid-season thoughts on all the superhero series on TV, go here.)

But DC and its parent company, Warner Bros., aren't done with their none-too-subtle TV tie-ins.

While Batman and The Flash go back in time to find Superman — using a speed-based time machine built around the Batmobile, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, Cyborg recruits Supergirl help him defeat Braniac's robots until the entire Justice League is back together.

The most interesting DC characters which are introduced are three remaining members of the Legion of Super Heroes. Batman meets them when he goes to a dystopian future to bring Superman, who is under Brainiac's control, back to the present day.

And as any DC fan might have guessed by now, there's a Batman-Superman showdown — an allusion to the pair's tension and confrontation in the live-action "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" film which comes out in less than two weeks.

Supergirl's occasional rhyming cheerleading chants are legitimately worth a chuckle. The rest of "Cosmic Clash" — with Brainiac's shrink rays and way too many tie-ins to live-action DC projects — is groan-worthy.

Or worth slapping your head, complete with the subsequent face-wipe. Or all three!

It's obvious the "LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes" creative team wasn't going for laughs, but rather cheap DC tie-ins. Even given the understanding that 1) these movies are supposed to be silly, 2) they're made for young children and 3) Batman is the main character, "Cosmic Clash" falls short. Even your kids likely will find this outing disappointing.

Ultimately, "Cosmic Clash" is worth renting if you have small kids, but it's not worth shelling out the bucks to own it — even if you're a completist who is young at heart.

If you need your fix of DC silliness, stick with "Teen Titans Go!," which is always good for a lot of laughs. And even better life lessons. Grade: C

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