The Lego Batman Movie Review

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Spoilers may follow

When I saw Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, I was glad to see a recent Batman movie that wasn’t afraid to embrace the silliness of a man going out to fight crime in a bat costume or poke a little fun at the darker iterations of the character. Well, The Lego Batman Movie is another such movie, only more so.

The Batman here (Will Arnett) may be a vicious, violent loner, but he also plays rock music when battling his foes, and watches Jerry Maguire in his spare time. He may prefer to work alone, but then he accidentally adopts a young orphan Richard Grayson (Michael Cera) who idolises both Batman and Bruce Wayne, and the new police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) wants Batman to work closer with the Gotham PD. As much as Batman hates it, teamwork is necessary to defeat the evil plans of the Joker (Zach Galifianakis).

Okay, so the story of a grumpy buzzkill learning the importance of friends isn’t exactly breaking new ground when it comes to animated features (nor even Lego Batman; the Lego Batman 2 game had a similar lesson for Batman to learn). It even comes off a bit like a reverse Despicable Me, given at one point Batman uses his newly-adopted ward to seize a ray gun for him. And let’s face it, given the amount of characters and vehicles that appear in this movie, they might as well have slapped a “Now available at all good toy stores” sticker onto every one of them.

However, none of that matters. It’s a big fat toy ad, but it’s a fun big fat toy ad.

There’s a true love of Batman and his world on display here – pretty much all the live-action Batman movies get Lego recreations in a montage, Joker’s previous plans are said to include two boats and a parade float, and Billy Dee Williams finally gets to play Harvey Dent as Two-Face here (though he sadly doesn’t appear much). The world and characters may be made of Lego, but the film is very visually impressive and has some nice character designs; my favourite design is that of the Joker, with his skull-patterned tie and waistcoat and razor-sharp teeth. Robin could have easily been annoying, but he manages to be funny and likeable, and this film probably has one of the best versions of Alfred and Batgirl in Batman media.

Kids will love the humour and action setpieces, especially the Joker’s big plan, which I won’t spoil here. I’ll just say it perfectly captures what a child thinks when playing with his toys. There’s also a lot of adults to like here too, from the nods to previous Batman adaptations to the enjoyable voice acting. It’s the perfect film for little and big kids alike.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders Review

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May include spoilers

With a lot of Batman-related media of recent years being dark and serious in tone with a dark and serious Batman – the Chris Nolan movies, the Arkham games, Batman v Superman – it’s easy to forget the Dark Knight has seen brighter adaptations. Let’s face it, the 1966 Batman TV series is campy, but it’s still hilarious and enjoyable to watch even today. Therefore, an animated movie based on the show, with Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar reprising their respective roles as Batman, Robin and Catwoman, is more than welcome in this day and age, something to give us a break from the brooding Batman.

Joker (Jeff Bergman), Penguin (William Salvers), Riddler (Wally Wingert, reprising the role from the aforementioned Arkham games) and Catwoman reunite to seize a ray gun capable of duplicating anything, and Batman and Robin, as usual, have to stop them. There’s just one thing complicating matters – Catwoman has given Batman a serum that turns him evil, and using the ray, the now-criminal Batman uses clones of himself to take over Gotham City. This leaves Robin no choice but to team up with Catwoman in hopes of curing his old partner.

All the hallmarks of the 60’s TV show are here; Batman lectures Robin on the dangers of jaywalking, they scale the wall of a building, deathtraps and battles with onomatopoeia galore. It pays homage to other Batman media as well; not only is the intro a slew of classic comic covers with the movie’s versions of the characters, but the brainwashed Batman is a cute poke at the darker renditions of the character, even quoting the 1989 Batman movie and The Dark Knight Returns. Catwoman also makes fun of the ending of The Dark Knight Rises, but these pokes never feel mean-spirited. This is not asking to replace the more serious Batman but rather to co-exist with him.

What also makes the movie a joy to watch is its visuals; the animation is smooth and vibrant and the characters look pretty close to how they looked on the show (though Commissioner Gordon looks more like he does in the comics than he did on the show). It’s bright and colourful and eye-catching with even some nice details in the background, like the outfit Batman wore in his very first comics appearance in the Batcave. The final battle atop a blimp boasts some exquisite lighting. The voice acting is also top-notch, with West being as hilariously over-serious as he was in the live-action show, and is an utter hoot to listen to while evil. Ward and Newmar are great and Bergman, Salvers and Wingert do good impressions of Romero, Meredith and Gorshin.

It isn’t on the level of say, The Dark Knight, but it isn’t meant to be. Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is a tonne of fun with plenty of laughs and should be extremely enjoyable for Batman fans young and old. Hopefully the upcoming sequel will be as entertaining, but how can it not, when it has William Shatner playing Two-Face?

Suicide Squad Review

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This review may include spoilers

The villain is always a more interesting character than the hero. Loki was a more engaging figure than Thor, and, be he played by Romero, Nicholson or Ledger, the Joker has a history of upstaging Batman. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense for DC to make a film where its villains are the protagonists; their villains, especially those from Batman’s rogues gallery, have always been more fascinating than Marvel’s. Suicide Squad, however, doesn’t really live up to its potential.

The arrival and death of Superman has had a big impact on the DC Universe. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has decided to assemble a task force in case “the next Superman” threatens humanity. Members of this task force include but are not limited to the world’s greatest hitman Deadshot (Will Smith, psychiatrist-turned-criminal-clown Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and the supernatural Enchantress (Cara Delevingne). When Enchantress turns rogue and threatens to plunge the world into darkness, the rest of the Squad must stop her plan from coming to fruition. While all this is happening, the Joker (Jared Leto) wants Harley to come back to him.

Suicide Squad attempts to inject some variety into the DC cinematic universe, which has been shown as rather lugubrious so far. Suicide Squad, however, boasts that it’s more fun and wacky, with taglines like “Worst Heroes Ever”. It reminds of the animated movie Megamind, which, starring a supervillain, promised “the superhero movie will never be the same”, and, let’s face it, Suicide Squad isn’t really that much more mature than that film.

Before the film came out, elements like the look for Leto’s Joker were criticized for trying too hard, and the final film doesn’t have as much personality as it thinks it does. It may have flashy colours when the character’s biographies are shown, and have a lot of licensed songs in the soundtrack, but it’s just another “rag-tag group foil a big evil baddie” with no real twists or additions. Half of the characters you’ll forget were even in the movie.

Out of all the Squad members, the ones that get the most screentime are Deadshot and Harley, and they, thankfully, are played well. Robbie especially seems to be having a lot of fun as Joker’s girlfriend, so the film is worth a watch for her alone. One of the more interesting elements of the film is the flashbacks between her and the Joker (and really, her story could have made a pretty good film on its own). Davis is another fine performance, fittingly commanding and tough-as-nails. Sadly, one of the best performances in this film comes from Affleck as Batman, and he only makes a couple of cameos (but in those cameos, he seemed more the traditional Batman than he did in Batman v Superman). Leto isn’t as bad as some dreaded he would be, but he doesn’t actually appear very often, and isn’t as good as either Romero, Nicholson or Ledger.

But that’s really the problem with the film. It’s about the supervillains of DC, yet the supervillains of DC have been done so much better before on cinema. If you’re expecting something as memorable as Hardy’s Bane or Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, you’re going to be disappointed.