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Review: “LEGO Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom” – Building Up the Franchise

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LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes - Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom

LEGO® DC Comics Super Heroes – Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom!The ostentatiously long title to LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes – Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom hides a pretty simple story that uses LEGO mini-figures to mix and matches a lot of familiar plot elements. The LEGO superhero movies have been fine fun, tweaking the genre as they mostly color inside the lines, and Attack of the Legion of Doom is no exception. This latest movie is still enjoyable enough, but I find it skews a bit more juvenile than the Batman Be-Leaguered and Bizarro League movies.

At the start of Attack of the Legion of Doom, the newly formed Justice League is on top of the world, handily defeating any evil-doers that challenge them and earning the adulation of the world. Their success spurs the supervillains Lex Luthor, Sinestro, and Black Manta to form a supergroup of their own: the sinister Legion of Doom, gathering the worst that the DC universe has to offer. Their first order of business is to break into the secretive “Area 52” military base to liberate a mysterious alien being held captive there. This alien is key to Luthor’s plan to discredit the Justice League, which will then allow the Legion to conquer the world. Meanwhile, the youngest Leaguer Cyborg is having a crisis of confidence, as a few battlefield setbacks convince him (and even some of the other Leaguers) that he’s not up to par.

All three of these plots will be familiar to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of superhero stories, and Attack of the Legion of Doom doesn’t innovate very much in bringing them all together under one umbrella. While I expect the younger kids in the target audience will be enthralled by the story, this is very much more of a “how are we getting there?” movie for old-time superhero fans. There are a few surprising twists (mostly centering on that mysterious alien in Area 52, who I’m trying to avoid spoiling even though his identity is revealed by almost all the marketing materials), but things play out as you’d expect for the most part. This is a bit surprising considering the explicit evocation of the classic Challenge of the Superfriends series at the beginning; one of the best things about that vintage show was its propulsive storytelling creativity that often crossed into incoherence (which is a polite way to say it kept coming up with new and objectively creative plot twists whether they made sense or not). Attack of the Legion of Doom plays it safer, which is a perfectly valid choice but one which also seems like it’s not playing to the LEGO franchise’s strengths. While Be-Leaguered had fun playing with its LEGO set and Bizarro League was anchored by the weirdly touching relationship between Superman and Bizarro, Attack of the Legion of Doom just feels like another superhero story.

LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes - Justice League: Attack of the Legion of DoomWhile all the LEGO DC superhero movies have skewed to younger audiences, this is the first one that felt juvenile. The LEGO versions of Batman and the League have always had great fun playing around with expectations, retaining the characters’ essential characteristics while making them accessible to younger audiences and goofing around with the fact that they’re LEGO mini-figures in a LEGO world. The LEGO Batman and Be-Leaguered movies had a nutty inventiveness that would regularly exploit a world made of LEGO bricks, either by using them to craft creative solutions to problems or by building amusing structures out of them. Those things still happen in Attack of the Legion of Doom, but not as often until the big climactic battle in the last third. The older movies had to exist in a LEGO world, but this one could be translated easily into a traditionally animated Super Friends episode or JLA Adventures movie. To be fair, once the movie cuts loose in that last third, it’s almost exactly what I walked in hoping for, as Cyborg reveals what he’s been working on in the background throughout the movie and it’s totally, hilariously gonzo crazy. I also found much of the comedy falling flat in this movie. The jokes are entertaining in principle and often made me smile, but they don’t have the audacity or the inventiveness of the earlier movies. The best example is in Sinestro’s persistent harping on one gag in the last third of the movie, which soon strips it of any humor it might have had.

These are all nitpicks, though. If Attack of the Legion of Doom is old wine in new bottles, it’s still a fine vintage. Animation and voiceover work is all quite satisfactory, but I do need to single out Khary Payton’s Cyborg again. I marveled at how he could put a slightly different spin on Cyborg in Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem than in any other performance of the character, and he repeats the trick here. Being the junior member of the League puts him at a distinctly different place than he is in any iteration of Teen Titans or Batman Unlimited, where he’s treated more as a peer. This Cyborg reflects the character’s anxiety at standing next to the world’s greatest heroes, and Khary Payton’s performance carries that off beautifully.

The LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes – Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom Blu-ray is a fine presentation of the movie, which also packs a nice DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack. It’s not quite as potent as the one that came with Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem, but the movie doesn’t require it to be. Other than trailers, the only bonus feature is a 20-minute featurette on sound design that shines a spotlight on the foley artists and the specific challenges that this movie presented. The featurette is unexpectedly engrossing and covers a very wide variety of topics, including the origins of the word “foley” and the numerous tricks used to get just the right sound effects to bring a movie to life. The combo pack also includes a DVD and an UltraViolet digital code.

The movie reveals early that Darkseid is the secret backer of Lex Luthor, motivated by a desire for revenge from his defeat at the end of Bizarro League. It’s a genre convention that superhero movies always set up their own sequels, and this movie is no different, as Darkseid concludes the movie with an ominous threat. Despite my quibbles with this film, it provides enough grand fun in the end to keep me looking forward to a new installment.

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Last pup of a dying planet, a young German Shepherd is rocketed to Earth, where he is bombarded by cosmic gamma rays emitted by a radioactive spider. Crash-landing in the forgotten land of Hubba Hubba, he is discovered by the Who-You-Callin'-Ancient One and his lovely wife Pookie. Instilled with their traditional American values, he spends his young adulthood roaming the globe, learning all the secrets of Comic-Fu. Donning battle armor fashioned from spilled chemicals splashed by lightning, he becomes the Sensational Shield of Sequential Art ACE THE BATHOUND! Look, it sounds a lot better than the truth. Born in Brooklyn, moved to Queens at 3 and then New Jersey at 10. Throughout high school, college, grad school, and gainful employment, two things have remained constant: 1) I am a colossal nerd, and 2) I have spent far too much time reading comics, and then reading and writing about them. Currently working as a financial programmer in New York City, while continuing to discover all the wonderful little surprises (and expenses) of owning your a home in the suburbs. Shares the above with a beautiful, wonderful, and incredibly understanding wife named Frances (who, thankfully, participates in most of my silly hobbies) and a large furry dog named Brownie (who, sadly, does not). Comics, toys, Apple Macintosh computers, video games, and eBay