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Tag: Lego

Editorials

Why LEGO Batman is the Into The Spider-Verse of Batman Films

August 8, 2019
LEGO-Batman-Spider-Verse

Despite receiving excellent reviews upon its release “The Lego Batman Movie” has largely been forgotten about when it comes to Batman films. With most of the recent discussions being about the upcoming “The Batman” starring Robert Pattinson, “Justice League” and the fabled “Snyder Cut” or even some of the excellent fan films. Lego Batman has vanished from pop culture quicker than the Dark Knight himself can.

Meanwhile “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse” is regarded as one of the best in the genre, not only winning an Oscar, but also acknowledging that the character of Spider-Man can have many different interpretations, but that all are equally Spider-Man (or Spider-Woman/Ham etc) something that most Batman media tends to shy away from. Except for Lego Batman.

A Hero Can Be Anyone

Batman has had several different live-action incarnations over the years (WB/DC 1943- 2016)

Batman has been around for 80 years (and aged phenomenally) and has been adapted countless times, with each version of the character having some differences but still being Batman, despite the film versions often having no reservations about killing (which is a whole other debate). Many of these are reactions to the previous version. For example, the Adam West ’66 show and Clooney’s “Batman & Robin” are infamously campy takes, while the ’89s Micheal Keaton and Bale’s “Batman Begins” are much darker and serious in tone. “Batman Begins” did this with such success that nearly every other film had to be “dark and gritty” as well.

The same is true of Spider-Man, and “Into the Spider-Verse” celebrates these different versions of the character by bringing them all together. It has a few laughs at their expense, but it doesn’t shy away from those aspects of the character, it celebrates them. Just like Lego Batman does. It acknowledges that the dark and gritty Batman and the goofy camp Batman is all still Batman.

Why Do We Fall?

This could easily be Batman and Robin if you drew some pointy ears and capes (Sony Pictures Animation, 2018)

There are some other surface similarities between the two films as well. Both are animated and feature a veteran hero (Batman/Peter B. Parker) begrudgingly mentoring a younger character (Robin/Miles) along with a female version (Batgirl/Spider-Gwen). As well as someone back at base to offer advice and gadgets (Alfred/ Aunt May). Both feature arcs where the younger character must prove themselves to their peers and both feature creative twists on classic villains.

On a thematic level, they both deal with the idea of loneliness and pushing people away. Batman pushes people away due to the loss of his parents, while Peter initially pushes Miles away and volunteers to sacrifice himself due to his fear of having children. Despite their wacky premise, they both tell very relatable, human stories, like some of the best comic books.

A Watchful Protector

The Lego Batman Movie perfectly captures the dark and gritty world of Batman V Superman `(WB, DC, 2017)

While both films take artistic liberties with their setting (Gotham City being made out of LEGO) the city our heroes protect is as much a character as the actual characters themselves. Lego Gotham City is a mash-up of the gothic Tim Burton designs and the modern Nolan city, while each Spider-Person comes from their own distinct version of New York City.

There are tons of easter eggs and references for the hardcore fans to appreciate in these films, such as the various selections of costumes, to vehicles and callbacks to previous films, like the Shark Repellant Bat Spray. These films work as standalone and someone with a passing knowledge of the character can enjoy them, but the more a viewer knows of the history and adventures of the hero, the more there is to pick up on and enjoy.

Despite some people considering animation as “just for kids”, Into the Spider-Verse and Lego Batman are for the fans, regardless of age, while the older viewers will likely get more out of the experience, as they will appreciate the little details. There is often a debate about which Batman is the best, and while Lego Batman is rarely at the top of favourites lists, it’s underrated and understands Batman in a way that many live-action interpretations don’t. Even if Lego Batman hasn’t had the influence of “The Dark Knight”, Batman doesn’t kill, which is more than most films can say, and for some Bat-fans, that’s the most important factor.

Also Read: 5 Batman Fan Films available to watch on YouTube.

Reviews

Review: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

February 26, 2019

Five years and several spinoffs after the surprise hit of the Lego Movie we finally have an official sequel. So its time to see if the Lego Movie 2 can prove people wrong a second time. Can the sequel live up to the standard set by the original? Can everything truly be awesome again? Well take a seat on your double-decker couch and come with me on this journey to find out.

The story

Five years after the defeat of Lord Business, the Lego world is at war with the inhabitants of the Systar system. A race of Duplo aliens who are bright, colourful and worst of all covered in glitter. Their constant battles with the Lego world force the residents to become hardened and grittier, except of course for Emmet (Chris Pratt), who is still his old peaceful and lovable self. When General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) kidnaps his friends to attend a ceremony hosted by Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), Emmet must journey to the Systar system with the help of Rex Dangervest (Chris Pratt again) and his Raptor helpers to save them. But what is Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi’s plan? Do his friends really need saving? And what is happening to the beings whose minds control this universe?

What did I like?

It was always going to be difficult to make a sequel to The Lego Movie. The first movie was a well-told self-contained narrative that, despite its flaws, managed to be the best version of what it wanted to be. A smart, funny and sometimes poignant ode to childhood innocence and its value in the modern world. Since then the spinoffs largely traded charm for brand recognition and heaping’s of self-reference, so things looked bad for the sequel. As original directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller are only writing this time and with the final twist of the first movie it makes it difficult to view this story in the same way as we did before. But with all those points against it, Lego Movie 2 manages to be a decent sequel.

One of the movies best points is that it continues with the thread that the first movie left us with. Now that we know this universe is an extension of children’s minds, the film focuses specifically on issues relating to children interacting among themselves in a way that feels like it’s written by children rather than adults. The blunt and overblown character names, the visualizations of girlhood and boyhood culture and the way the characters act feel very real as extensions of the child characters. Unlike the first one, it’s clear that this film is aimed more at a child audience than a family one. But the film captures a child’s mindset well and keeps the thematic meat of the story easy for kids to understand without talking down to them. Eventually resolving with a good moral lesson that nicely ties the Lego characters story to the real world.

The film also continues to be hilarious and thoughtful with its characters. All the older characters get their time to shine, Will Arnett’s Batman continues to be the standout, and some are updated in interesting ways. Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), having learned to accept Emmet’s world view in the first movie, must learn to accept who she is and how that makes her special. Emmet is sent on an unexpected journey where he learns what it means to be “strong” and Batman must learn to let go of his self-imposed loneliness in order to be happy. Just like before the voice actors strike the perfect balance between serious and self-parody, making the jokes funnier. And all the new characters bring a new perspective or flavour of humour to the table, Rex Dangervests’ chatty Raptors being my favourite addition.

The movie continues the Lego tradition of being a technical marvel. The animation is incredible, and the colour scheme is a feast for the eyes. Also, the music is just as catchy as ever, the lead song (Catchy Song), even plays up this angle for laughs. Musical numbers are even included along with the new songs to ensure that boredom is impossible. Overall a very entertaining experience.

What did I not like?

While the film is good, there is nothing about it that has the same wow factor as the first. It feels like a classic case of sequelitis. The second film goes bigger with its scale, music and message but ironically it feels like less is at stake than the first film. Mostly this is due to a lack of focus. Rather than focusing on Emmet as the centrepiece and letting the other characters grow around him, we focus on several characters at once. This means that we lose the impact that comes from spending time developing a single character. The bigger set pieces, musical numbers, and live action segments just feel like a diluted experience from the first film; their sparse use in the first film made them feel impactful, but now they feel overdone.

Along with that, the characters, despite being fun and interestingly updated seem inconsistent or ill-fitting to this story. Wyldstyle fits as the film is a call for acceptance of feminine culture, but other characters feel out of place. Batman’s learning to accept people is the same arc he went through in the Lego Batman movie. Making his addition feel obligatory rather than organic. Emmet’s arc of becoming tougher also feels out of character. In the previous film, he saw a world-ending conflict where one of his friends died but he kept his innocence, only fighting others briefly to get to Lord Business. It feels bizarre that he begins considering toxic masculine bravado as a way forward. And the other returning characters just seem to be here for callbacks and references, which is disappointing considering how well these characters suited the previous film’s narrative.

Finally, the movie has many inconsistencies that minorly compromise the film. For example, the inhabitants of the Systar system act differently from scene to scene. Some display a teenage level of development and others act like babies which doesn’t sync up with how the sister character acts in the real world. The film also tries to wrong-foot the audience by passing off the conflict as the brother’s fault. But Emmet tries to make peace with the Systar system at the beginning, but they open hostilities through their threatening behaviour. And the obviously deceptive way the Systar characters act throughout the movie only serves to setup the twist. But, upon second watch the Systar characters suspect behaviour feels pointless. And only there to force conflict. These inconsistencies may feel minor, but they add up. Eventually serving as a reminder of how much better the first movie worked as a whole.

Verdict

Despite my complaints Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is not a bad movie. It keeps up the original’s standard for sound and animation. The characters are still incredibly funny, and there is a refreshing moral that is communicated to its child audience in a way that treats them like adults. The only problem is that being a sequel it is impossible to avoid comparisons to its predecessor. And under that light the movie just falls short. The inconsistencies of this movie remind you how much care and attention was given to the first film. The characters are being made to fit the narrative rather than the narrative being made to fit them and no matter how big or lavish the musical numbers and set pieces, they never equal the simple charm of “everything is awesome”.

Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

The Lego Movie 2 Trailer (Warner Bros.)

Read our review of the original Lego Movie

Reviews

Retro Review: The Lego Movie

February 21, 2019

February Half Term is here so it’s time to enjoy some family time at the cinema. With The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part looking to storm the box office this half term, lets first take a look back at the original movie. Which proved all naysayers wrong and went on to become a box office smash and spawn a franchise of Lego spinoff movies. But half a decade later, does the first movie still hold up?

The story

Emmet (Chris Pratt) is a normal, generic Lego construction worker, happily going through his life conforming to the will of big businesses. But when he follows resistance fighter and master builder Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) off the beaten track he ends up fused with the legendary “piece of resistance”. This apparently means that he is the legendary “special”, prophesized to bring down Lord Business (Will Ferrell) and bring peace to the universe. The only problem is Emmet really isn’t special. He is not creative, does not possess the skills of a master builder (people who can build anything from everyday materials) and doesn’t wish to get involved. Never the less he is pursued by Lord Business.

While on the run Emmet must work with many colourful characters to find a way to stop Lord Business from freezing the world forever with his superweapon, The Kraggle. Can Emmet defeat the enemy with nothing to work with his but his everyday knowledge and fondness for double-decker couches?

What did I like?

The Lego Movie’s success really did come out of nowhere. Upon release, everyone thought it would just be another cash grab. With a celebrity voice cast collecting a paycheque. An inconsequential story and brand recognition placed above creativity. But the Lego Movie dashed all of those presumptions.

Firstly, the film looks amazing. The colour scheme is vibrant and full of variety making it an absolute joy to look at. The film also shows great affection for the Lego fanbase by having many of the characters move at a lower frame rate to give the illusion of stop motion animation, similar to Lego online videos. Which elicits plenty of affectionate charm and admiration for its creativity, backed up by gorgeously flowing animation.

Then there’s the sound. The voice cast is uniformly terrific. Everyone brings perfect comedic timing to their roles, Will Arnett’s Batman and Morgan Freemans Vitruvius being particular highlights. Each character’s voice suits and parodies their archetypes simultaneously. For example, Will Arnett’s send-up of Christian Bale’s Batman voice is made funnier through his self-aware smugness. So, the well-written jokes have extra layers to unpack through their delivery and timing. The sound design is also fantastic. The score is also beautiful, often adding an OTT silliness to the proceedings. Great thought is also put into sound details such as how walking, construction and fights sound in this Lego world. And all capped off with “Everything is Awesome”. A song that ridicules and celebrates corporate pop music in a way that ensures you’ll never forget it.

As well as looking and sounding amazing, The Lego Movie’s characters are all unique, funny and offer something to the story. Emmet makes for an easily likeable protagonist, being the only down to earth person who just wants to be nice. Wyldstyle, despite her hostile introduction, shows herself to be a strong person who takes Emmet’s self-lessness to heart and unites the world. And the supporting cast all offer different flavours of critique on “adult” perspectives or showcase the joy of childhood wonder. And the story offers different things to different generations. The simple nature of the story makes it easy for children to follow and the satire easily engages the adult viewers. And by the end, despite the cynical nature of some of the jokes, it brings both audiences together. Showing that sometimes we need to let go of adulthood for a while and be children again.

And that is the ultimate key to why The Lego Movie works so well. It blends adult craftsmanship and satire with childlike joy and enthusiasm in a way that feels complementary rather than derogatory to the overall experience. Ultimately showing that despite our cynical nature, we all have the potential to be special in our own way.

What I do not like?

However, amongst the achievements of this film there are a few missteps. The biggest problem being the way it represents women. There are only two prominent female roles in the film. Unikitty is repressed and Wyldstyle has penis envy. The twist does explain these choices and the characters never feel insulting or malicious. However their roles are still unflattering.

Lastly, some of the humour is a little too reliant on self-awareness or referencing popular culture. Though not a terrible source for jokes, most are even executed really well, their occasional overuse becomes tiresome. At some points, it even becomes alienating to people trying to become absorbed in the world and the story. The constant fourth wall breaking draws into question how invested we should be in characters who have no regard for the narrative. Though these moments are usually well delivered and spaced out enough to not be a huge issue.

Verdict 

While occasionally too self-aware, lacking a decent female insight and an overreliance on reference humour, The Lego Movie is a great family movie that deserves revisiting. It finds unique ways to appeal to both children and adults without feeling overstuffed or disingenuous. It includes a fantastic cast inhabiting interesting and hilarious characters in a beautiful world that clearly had a lot of passion behind it. And every time you return there’s something new to chew on. The Lego Movie is a testament to the power of imagination and storytelling and for me, the best animated film of the decade so far.

Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

The Lego Movie (Trailer)

The Lego Movie is available on DVD and digital stores.