The Lego Batman Movie – Review

After 2016’s flurry of superhero films, this year promises to keep up the trend. Before the world feels burnt out with them, Warner Bros. hand over their prime property to The Lego franchise. Before we get more of the Ben Affleck Dark Knight, we get Will Arnett’s light-hearted brick version.

Criticism Marvel fanboys aim at their DC counterparts is they are too serious and dark, that comic books should be fun. It’ll be interesting to see how they deal with The Lego Batman Movie. Sure, it’s not a canon entry. It’s aimed at the kids’ market (some would say, this is Marvel’s core audience) but if you need the exact opposite of “serious and dark” then this is it.

Like the best of modern animation movies – looking at you Toy Story – there’s action for the kids and jokes for the parents. Lego Batman pleases the children with explosive action sequences, Lego being used and reshaped to create unique outcomes, and behaviour they can relate to. When The Joker fires his weapon, he makes little shooting sounds just like kids playing with Lego need to do.

The Lego Gotham City does feel authentic. You can tell what world we’re in. All the rogues are here too, proving that a good film can survive with an overflow of enemies. It’s clear from the start the movie’s makers are willing to point fun at the source material, and at first, having nearly every conceivable Batman villain on screen seems like a quick pun. But they stick around and The Joker manages to recruit even more bad guys.

Thanks to the Lego tie in, anyone that can be made from the little bricks appears. Even the Daleks show up, although never referenced by name.

The main story is how Batman is too withdrawn and refuses help. Cue Robin and new Commissioner and soon to be Batgirl, Barbara Gordon. Alongside this is how he breaks The Joker’s heart by denying him the title of main villain. He says he fights around, that there isn’t an “us.” It’s great humour that will probably fly over the heads of younger members of the audience.

To make Batman appreciate him, Joker hands himself – and all the villains in Gotham – over to new Commissioner Gordon. Batman, easily manipulated by his nemesis, doesn’t sit tight and starts a sequence of events that sees Joker release all the baddies from Superman’s Phantom Zone.

Suddenly Gotham needs Batman again but he can’t do it alone.

Usually kiddies’ films like this are big on the moral message and speed up the slower adult scenes. Here, even though the ideas it’s trying to tell are plainly obvious, they blend into the background. Early on the plot building will lose some younger viewers. Even when having fun, Batman has to be moody.

The Easter eggs, often in the form of one-liners, come thick and fast, and clearly are designed for older ears. The fun is bright and outlandish, satisfying the kids. The flashy sequences aren’t to cover any deficiencies in the cast either.

Ralph Fiennes does a great turn as Alfred, Michael Cera is back to form as Robin, and it’s a compliment to say you won’t realise (although, you will now) Rosario Dawson plays Barbara Gordon. Even the cameos go to big names.

It doesn’t pull on heartstrings like some animation movies nor is it a film made just for children. It’s not perfect but it works well and Bat-fans and kids alike will enjoy it.

7/10

Suicide Squad – Review

The post Superman battling Batman instalment into the DC Expanded Universe follows a Black Ops team assembled using the Dark Knight’s captured foes. In real terms it’s another throw of the dice for Warner Bros. after the critics slammed Zack Snyder’s last entry. So, are they the worst good guys ever? Or the best bad guys? Or bad worst bad good guys?

Director and writer David Ayer’s film focuses on the idea that now the world has seen Superman, the terror threat can’t be controlled by standard armies. The character Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is the voice for this point and the mean woman that will do anything to ensure her pet project is given the government green light.

That project is of course, what we know as, Suicide Squad. Six bad guys, some of whom display unique abilities, that can face unnatural enemies and if they fail, the government can deny any involvement.

To ensure she gets her way, Waller scares the living daylights out of the decision makers by using the Enchantress to give a graphic display of her powers.

Suspension of belief part one, folks. The Enchantress is an ancient spirit that had been trapped in an idol. Cara Delevingne’s Jane Moone accidently broke it on an exhibition and has since been possessed. Waller controls the sorceress by prodding her heart (somehow mummified and still intact).

Magic and sorcery isn’t the thing you need to suspend belief with here, it’s the idea Waller thinks a being that can travel thousands of miles and back in the blink of an eye could be kept under lock and key. But hey, we needed a tool for the main villain to appear, right?

In the least surprising turn of events, Enchantress does a runner and then gets her brother’s idol open . . . and away we go.

Enter Rebooted Robocop Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag. Bad ass special forces guy in charge of Task Force X (Suicide Squad), oh, and June Moone’s lover. Because everyone loves to make out with witches.

It’s a pretty easy set-up, and it flows pretty well. Other critics have slammed it for being convoluted. This really isn’t the case. The backstories for each of the main characters offer enough insight without dragging the main plot down and the action scenes couldn’t be simpler. It isn’t too dark nor is it humourless.

Its main flaw is how easy it is to watch. Unlike other DC projects it strips away the deeper issues and just plays out like any easy viewing action film should.

The elephant in the room is The Joker, or the lack thereof. Jared Leto has the thankless task of being the first guy after Heath Ledger to assume the role. He does a sterling job of reinventing the Clown Prince of Crime. This is a mobster style criminal. You get the impression he’s had more turf wars than attempts to destroy the world.

His fleeting appearance makes sense; too much of a good thing and this film would have been derailed. Ayers had to stay on point with a simple Suicide Squad movie.

The Joker’s squeeze, Harley Quinn, steals the show. Margot Robbie is mesmerising and one hopes we see a solo Joker film just to get more of her. Without her colour, the ensemble of villains would lack cement of vibrancy, then, and only then, this film would have been a mess.

Harley Quinn

The other characters range from Will Smith’s Deadshot. In many respects, the human side of the flick but it’s hard to not see it as Will Smith just being Will Smith. He’s caught because Batman confronted Deadshot while he was walking with his daughter.

Which requires a quick suspension of belief once again.

All the baddies Batman catches in flashbacks, baddies we’re lead to believe are the most dangerous on earth, are all caught as if they never attended Day 1 of baddie school, lesson 1, avoid easy capture.

Jai Courtney plays Captain Boomerang and is only here to provide comic relief. He may well be the least fleshed out character, aside from Slipknot.

Lost’s Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje performs as Killer Croc. He’s unidentifiable beneath all the makeup but somehow manages to get enough spirit over and commands attention when on the screen. You probably won’t see him appear as a villain on film but as a member of the squad, he works.

After Harley Quinn, the main props go to Jay Hernandez’s El Diablo. A reluctant participant due to the harm his powers have inflicted on those he loves. He can literally make fire and his backstory feels relevant rather than added for the sake of it.

DC went in big with this movie, from marketing and the future of the shared universe. It doesn’t deserve the negative press but Suicide Squad isn’t the feel good fix it should have been. It trumps most Marvel films out there but it seems DC are being judged by different standards.

Marvel get away with brains-out-live-action-cartoons. DC have made a better one of those but still get slated.

It lacks the depth Batman v Superman offered and the easy fun Star Trek Beyond served up, but it isn’t bad.

The Suicide Squad are the best trying bad guys out there.

7/10

 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Review

Finally, the gloves are off and we get the big showdown. Not the fight between Supes and The Bat. This is the start of DC v Marvel. And the early reaction hasn’t been good for Kent or Wayne.

The problem affecting Batman v Superman is this exterior pressure. Because the Marvel movies have been such a success everyone expects all superhero films to follow this formula. Well, this movie doesn’t. It follows the Zack Snyder method.

So if you’re reading this wondering whether Batman v Superman is for you, just ask yourself: Did you enjoy Man of Steel and Watchmen? If you did, you’ll love this. If you didn’t, then wait for other productions in the DC Extended Universe (not made by Snyder) before jumping in.

Personally, I don’t mind at bit of Snyder action. To put this into context, and give an idea of where this movie sits, it surpasses Man of Steel in terms of ambition but isn’t as tightly told overall. It is better than Avengers: Age of Ultron and the two Iron Man sequels. So the Marvel fanboys taunting DC should get their own house in order first.

The movie gives us a good Batman. Yes, Batfleck actually works. All that fan hatred has been channelled in a fitting angst. His plot is well laid out and worthy of its own flick. That’s part of the problem with the film – it’s too crammed.

Bruce Wayne is on a mission to steal info from Lex Luthor in order to locate, what turns out to be, a transport ship. This ties him back into the larger scheme of things. On his way he briefly meets Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) and decides that Superman is a dangerous threat that he intends to take out.

Everyone else has their doubts about the Man of Steel too. Reviews and courts are being convened and he’s not helping matters by swooping to rescue Lois in Africa which results in villagers being gunned down.

Batman is the vigilante in the dark, mostly under the radar except for the tabloid press. Superman is the outlaw causing government debate.

So far so good. All the ingredients are there for a great final act. Instead it kind of all gets lost in the mix. By the credits it feels more of a relief than a jubilant celebration. DC isn’t trying to be “fun” like Marvel but it does lack any trace of humour.

You can make your own though. For example, one of the cops in a scene where Batman is hiding in the corner of an unlit room, sounds exactly like Alexander Knox from 1989’s Batman. He was barrel of laughs (honest).

Or during the preview of Cyborg (a character that will form part of the Justice League) you see that the scientist handling his human remains and the technology that attaches to him is none other than Terminator 2’s Miles Dyson. We all know how well that ends when he meddles with cyborgs.

Mixed reviews aside, Batman v Superman is on course to make a ton of money. The safe bet is Warner Bros. will hope Suicide Squad gets strong feedback and they can carry on with their phase one plans.

They should include a Batman film, sharpish. And maybe leave Superman in the dark place he finds himself. He’s about as popular as Zack Snyder right now.

Score: 7/10