Film Review: The Lego Batman Movie

I was a massive fan of The Lego Movie and one of the many good things about it was the treatment of Batman (Will Arnett), who they transformed into a cocky, self absorbed show off. When it was announced that he’d be getting a solo run out, it instantly joined the list of movies I was looking forward to and yesterday MWF and I went along with a friend to check it out.

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The film kicks off with the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) leading a team of Gotham’s villains in a daring attempt to seize control of the city by threatening with a gigantic bomb. Unfortunately for the Clown Prince of Crime, Batman arrives just in time and makes short work of his associates. As the duo face off the Joker is hurt to discover that Batman doesn’t regard him as special or his archenemy, announcing he doesn’t care.

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Tears of a Clown

Batman saves the day and all is good, however, it is revealed that when he returns to Wayne Manor he is lonely and bored. His trusty butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) is concerned that he has no life beyond Batman, but he refuses to acknowledge this. Bruce—0s0A\\\ attends the retirement party of Jim Gordon, where his replacement is to be announced. The replacement is Jim’s daughter, Barbara (Rosario Dawson), who Bruce is attracted to. Distracted by Barbara’s beauty Bruce agrees to adopt nerdy orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera).

Barbara announces a bold new plan for Gotham and her desire for Batman to work with the police, and highlighting that despite his efforts Gotham is still the worst city for crime. Joker and Co. attack but Joker then surrenders, much to the suspicion of Batman and Barbara. Joker and the other villains are imprisoned, and the city celebrates.

With nothing to do Batman is bored and sad, resisting Alfred’s urging to spend time with Dick and act as his father figure. Batman continues to spy on Joker and decides that the only way to be safe is to send Joker to the Phantom Zone, where the universe’s worst villains are imprisoned. Recruiting Dick as his sidekick, and giving him an old colourful costume the duo steal a device to send people to the Phantom Zone from Superman (Channing Tatum), who Batman discovers is throwing a party for all the superheroes that he was not invited to.

They send Joker to the Phantom Zone, but Barbara imprisons them. Unfortunately, this has played into the Joker’s plans and he breaks out with several other villains to get revenge on Batman and Gotham.

Batman reluctantly agrees to allow Barbara, Dick and Alfred to help him, but can they triumph and can he resist his urge to go it alone? And will he be able to admit to himself that his insistence on working alone comes from his fear of losing people again?

This is an incredibly daft and fun movie which works because of the central character, with Batman continuing to be a swaggering, boastful jerk who has to face up to his failings and feelings. It’s a big twist on the traditional way the Dark Knight is portrayed and the egomaniac is hugely entertaining, especially when he is repeatedly outwitted or out of his depth.

This happens often with Barbara who is a clever, confident woman who has his number from the jump and provides sensible advice he routinely ignores. As the movie unfolds he is forced to accept that teamwork is key and slowly acknowledges the help the others provide him with.

The other supporting players work well, especially the irritatingly cheery Dick Grayson who slowly breaks down Batman’s stern exterior.

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The Dynamic Duo

The storyline of the Joker’s rejection and his relationship with Batman is quite well done, playing it as almost a warped romance, with Joker believing it was a deeper connection and Batman brushing it off saying that he “likes to fight around”. The Joker’s plan is pretty clever and allows a whole host of cameos from different villains in the final act, with King Kong, Voldemort, Daleks, Gremlins and the Wicked Witch of the West among others.

The action is fact paced and largely comical, with characters making the sounds of the guns they use and the Lego world allowing for inventive chaos. Batman, as a master builder, continues to build massive, crazy contraptions and visually it is stunning.

It’s also a delight for geeks as it’s rammed with little gags and references. The beginning and end poke fun at the seriousness of some superhero movies, and there are nods to the many different incarnations of the characters (including a brief clip of Adam West in action). The Joker’s posse includes a host of Gotham’s villains including lesser, dafter enemies and there are nods to the comic book conventions, especially how inept the Gotham police are and one hostage’s relaxed response to being confronted by the Joker. It’s quite clever and funny, but I did wonder how well it would play for kids as a lot of it is very ironic and pokes fun at the character and the world.

Plot wise it’s quite straight forward, and the issues of teamwork, family and Batman accepting help from others and letting people in hardly groundbreaking. It’s not quite as good as The Lego Movie in terms of sheer manic energy, but it’s still a very solid comedy adventure and keeps moving at a decent pace. But it feels like this is a good place to leave the block Batman, as any more would overplay the joke.

Verdict: Consistently funny and loaded with injokes, this is an extremely entertaining movie. Daft in places it, it works well as a fast paced romp. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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Top 10 Films of 2014

My favourite movies of the year, in order.

10. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug/The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Peter Jackson brings his Middle Earth series to an end with two strong, engaging and entertaining fantasy epics. The decision to split a slim book in three may seem more commercial than artistic, but to his credit Jackson pulls it off with only a few short sections that drag. Full reviews here and here.

9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Chris Evans returns as the star spangled Avenger and does a cracking job as a man having to deal with his past and a changing world. In the age of drone warfare it addressed some key questions and at times was more conspiracy theory than superhero action flick. Great support from Samuel L Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and Anthony Mackie and further proof of just how well Marvel have gone from page to screen. Full review.

8. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

I know some folks were disappointed, and it lacks the action and intensity of the first two installments but I dug it immensely, especially Jennifer Lawrence’s performance and the bravery of actually giving Katniss’ PTSD time on screen rather than galloping through to the action, which will definitely come in the final movie. Full review.

Tough, but damaged: Lawrence as Katniss.

Tough, but damaged: Lawrence as Katniss.

7. 22 Jump Street

A surprising comedy sequel that manages to be just as funny as the original, thanks in part to great chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, and a scene stealing performance from Ice Cube. Full review.

Ice Cube on scene-stealing form

Ice Cube on scene-stealing form

6. X-Men: Days of Future Past

The best X-movie yet?

Time travelling superheroics allow two generations of heroes to be shown and features fantastic performances and a solid, engaging plot. Full review.

5. Gone Girl

David Fincher delivers a gripping, twisted thriller that’s a little schlocky in places but benefits from solid performances from Ben Affleck and a seriously creepy Rosamund Pike. Full Review.

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4. Chef

Jon Favreau delivers a sweet, charming movie about family, friendship and the simple things in life. It boasts a cracking soundtrack, but don’t watch it on an empty stomach as the food porn is strong. Full review.

3. Frozen

Okay, so we’re all getting a little sick of “Let It Go” now, but this is still a solid, top drawer Disney flick with some fantastic songs, brilliant gags and a captivating fairytale plot. One of the best in recent years and bound to be one that lives on. Full review.

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2. The Lego Movie

A cracking animated movie with wonderful voice casting, brilliant gags and a really dynamic, exciting look and feel to it. Also, “Everything Is Awesome” is the only thing that can challenge “Let It Go” for earwig of the year. Full review.

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1. Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel gambled by making a movie about unfamiliar characters on the other side of their cinematic universe but it paid off in one of their best movies yet. Featuring a fantastic band of misfits as the heroes this wasn’t just a sci-fi action adventure but one of the funniest films in years. Chris Pratt excelled as the roguish Star-Lord, but he had fantastic support from the rest of the cast.

Pratt in action as Quill

Pratt in action as Quill

Loved it in the cinema and loved it just as much on DVD. A belter of a movie, and already eagerly awaiting the sequel. An easy winner of my favourite film of the year. Review here.

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Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: The Lego Movie

I actually saw this a while ago and planned to review it sooner, but it kept getting pushed back for different reasons, but I wanted to get the review in before the end of 2014 and the yearly Top 10 movies list.

There have been a couple of games based on toys and most have been lacklustre (I enjoyed the first Transformers movie, but the sequels were woeful and Battleship was just terrible), luckily there’s this movie to stand as the best example of the genre. It’s quite fitting that a movie based on Lego, a toy all about creativity and possibilities should provide a movie that crackles with imagination.

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The basic plot of a regular Joe having to realize their potential is standard fare, but it’s where the movie goes with it that shows genuine imagination, wit and ambition.

The movie follows Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), a cheerful, dim-witted Lego man who lives a normal day-to-day life following the instructions that he’s provided with and never really thinking for himself. All seems good for Emmet, but one night he gets sucked into a rebel plan who don’t like that President Business (Will Ferrell), plans to use a weapon called the Kragle to stop the Lego world being different and inventive.

Emmet

Emmet

Emmet touches the “Piece of Resistance” a brick that grants the owner, the prophesied “the Special”, the power to stop the Kragle. The Piece was hunted by Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), an ass-kicking master builder who works for Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), who made the prophecy.

Wyldstyle kicking ass

Wyldstyle kicking ass

Wyldstyle is frustrated by Emmet’s stupidity and lack of imagination, and they doubt whether he is actually the Special. Aided by Wyldstyle’s boyfriend, Batman (Will Arnett) they travel across different Lego worlds and try to figure out how they can stop Lord Business from his evil plan, building to a climactic showdown.

I totally dug this movie, which is jam packed with wonderful graphics and a wealth of gags throughout. It’s a kids movie that truly works on two levels, with younger viewers loving the story and the visuals, but lots of jokes that might go over their head, the best example of this being the decision to have Will Arnett’s Batman being a bit of a douche, and the scene where he plays his band’s demo is a delight.

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The voice cast across the board are fantastic, especially Chris Pratt as the clueless Emmet, with this and Guardians of the Galaxy this year, and Jursassic World coming soon, Pratt seems to have arrived in a big way, and here he is on sensational form, with his vocal skills really bringing Emmet to life.

Morgan Freeman does his usual voice of wisdom thing as Vitruvius, and they have fun with this, especially when he makes his opening prophecy.

Freeman as Vitruvius

Freeman as Vitruvius

The movie makes little jokes about Lego’s history, with cameos from Lego’s Star Wars line and the plot having a slight dig at those Lego fans who just build once and keep them pristine, thanks to the live action section (also featuring Will Ferrell). The live action sequence is a bit cliche, but by that time the movie had built up such a feeling of good will in me I went for it.

From the start to the finish I was utterly charmed and it had me chuckling consistently, especially at daft gags like Liam Neeson’s split personality character Bad Cop/Good Cop. It’s a cheerful, vibrant and engaging movie that will work for all ages and is an utter gem.

Bad Cop/Good Cop

Bad Cop/Good Cop

One word of warning though, the cheesy song “Everything Is Awesome” from the movie will lodge in your head for a long time after, and recur frequently.

Verdict: An utter delight of a movie, filled to the brim with quality gags and strong vocal performances. It’s a fast based, fun and inventive movie and easily one of the better animated movies of recent years. Delightful. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.