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There probably aren’t too many fictional places more useless than Arkham Asylum. It’s one half prison and one half psychiatric hospital for Batman’s foes, but have any of them ever stayed jailed or gotten better there?
With its recurring rash of breakouts and total ineffectiveness in treating supervillains such as the Joker, Two-Face, and the Riddler, the place may as well not even have walls. Kind of like… the new Lego Arkham Asylum.
Coinciding with the recent release of The Lego Batman Movie, itself a quasi-sequel to the hit Lego Movie (2014), the Lego Arkham Asylum set finally brings the least successful criminal institution in comic-dom to the plastic brick world. And like most Lego building playsets, its backside is indeed wall-free, all the better to see the wackiness going on inside.
At 1,628 pieces and $149, Lego Arkham is the biggest and most expensive set in the new Batman movie lineup. It’s a fun and intricate build that holds special appeal to minifigure collectors.
It comes with a whopping dozen characters, including Batman himself and his sidekick Robin—the googly-eyed, Michael Cera-voiced version from the movie, complete with Phantom Zone gun—plus Barbara Gordon, two police officers, and orderly Aaron Cash.
Comic book fans will appreciate the fact that Cash has a hook for a hand, a nod to an altercation where Killer Croc had his digits for a snack. Strangely, there’s no Croc minifigure included.
On the villain side, there is Dr. Harleen Quinzel—prior to her transformation into Harley Quinn—plus her beau the Joker, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Catwoman, and the Riddler. All of these bad guys have appeared in previous Batman sets in various incarnations, but here they’re decked out in orange correctional suits.
And just to drive that point home, there’s also a bench press for the inmates to use. Because no prison is complete without a gym.
Lego Arkham is thus pretty much a full house. Its nicely detailed facade fronts a host of cells and guard rooms, a lab and even a cafeteria and laundry. In the middle of it all, just behind the main entrance, is an X-ray scanner chamber that new admissions must go through.
Rounding out the set is a generic police cruiser and a tall guard tower. Blindfolds for the cops and guards are not included, which means the inevitable breakouts will have to happen right under their noses, as they should.
The Asylum’s highlight is its detailed facade, which comes in two side sections that attach to the central building. The building has some nice gothic architectural touches, such as the buttresses and spires that adorn the roof.
It’s a pretty straightforward set with few surprises—what you see is what you get. It seems to be more in tune with Lego’s regular DC lineup, as opposed to tied to the Batman movie. As a send-up of the Caped Crusader, the movie itself plays hard for laughs, but Lego Arkham Asylum is surprisingly devoid of comedic touches.
There’s a lot of potential material here to be parodied—such as the facility’s obvious uselessness—but strangely, neither the movie nor the Lego set really go there.
Lego Arkham Asylum is thus a good pick-up for die-hard Batman fans, but it’s something of a missed comedic opportunity.
Peter Nowak is a technology reporter whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail and the CBC. He was the 2009 recipient of the Excellence in Science and Technology Reporting award from the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance. Nowak lives in Toronto and is the author of two books, including Humans 3.0: The Upgrading of the Species.