Tag Archives: The Joker

The Lego Batman Movie

The Lego Batman Movie posterWhile the initial idea of The Lego Movie was, at first, somewhat of an odd one, the final product was one of the highlights of recent family cinema so it wasn’t surprising when a sequel was announced fairly swiftly.

The fact that this sequel would be The Lego Batman Movie, focussing on the Lego version of the DC superhero, a highlight of The Lego Movie but ultimately a bit part, just added to the surprises around the franchise.

Opening with Batman foiling one of The Joker’s schemes to destroy Gotham, all the tropes of Batman are quickly established, but added to this is the knowing, post-modern humour that made this Batman such a highlight of the previous film.

The first chunk of the film relies heavily on this and, while the action, animation and characters are well done it’s the reference heavy humour that is its strong suit.

Lego Batman and Robin

Lego Batman and Robin

After this of course a plot is required to fill out the rest of the movie and really this is the film’s weakest element. It tries to balance a further nefarious plan from The Joker with a focus on Batman’s ever-present loneliness including the introduction of a new cinematic Robin, but all with a suitably lighthearted tone (this certainly isn’t Ben Affleck’s dark and brooding version of the character from Batman Vs Superman).

While it’s still fun the slightly forced plot causes the middle section to drag a bit and it is more predictable, both in terms of story and jokes, than it could have been.

The final act brings the same feel as the first back, closing things on a high point with nods to all the previous screen versions of Batman, including the often overlooked 1960s Adam West incarnation, along with guest appearances from pretty much every villainous character Lego have licence to use from Daleks to Voldemort and way beyond.

The Lego Joker

The Lego Joker

As a whole the voice cast are very good with Will Arnett’s Batman being an excellent standout. However, while Zach Galifianakis does a good turn as Joker, it’s hard to escape the fact he simply isn’t Mark Hamill who has been the most consistently effective versions of the character, vocally at least.

While it doesn’t quite live up to The Lego Movie, I’m not sure how it could as that film’s inventiveness is of course being replicated here to some degree, The Lego Batman Movie is none-the-less great fun with enough to appeal to all the family on various levels and with enough surprises to, mostly, keep it going along very well if not quite being the standout many had hoped for.

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Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad posterAround 18 years or so ago the perception of comic book/superhero movies changed, seemingly forever, from slightly naff, campy b-movies to genuine blockbuster contenders thanks to the likes of Bryan Singer’s X-Men and Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man leading into Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and the ongoing (now somewhat inconsistent) Marvel Cinematic Universe behemoth.

Now, with Suicide Squad – the latest instalment in DC Comics’ attempt to set up their own ongoing series like Marvel’s, following Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice – director David Ayer (of End of Watch and Fury fame) and the various shadowy studio figures behind him, seem fairly intent on taking us back to the superhero movies of the mid-90s.

Describing the actual plot of Suicide Squad is a challenge, but in broad strokes it deals with the formation of a new super team that, rather than being made up of heroes, is made up (mostly) of second level villains and, in its better moments, deals with them coming together and working together.

In it’s not so good moments the story follows them as they face off against an ancient evil force, supposedly with the ability to destroy the world, embodied by two rather un-inspired, at least partially CG creatures.

The Suicide Squad

The Suicide Squad

The first stumble the film makes is in trying to be an origin story for a number of characters. This is very inconsistent as Deadshot (Will Smith) gets about three versions of his origin story while Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) gets a very short montage.

Certainly this shows their relative places in the movie, but it feels imbalanced and the lack of exposure for a few becomes problematic as they have relatively pivotal moments later on.

Along with these we get the loose origin of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) threaded throughout, providing as much an introduction to her as to her ‘Puddin’, ‘Mr J.’ – Jared Leto’s new take on Batman arch-nemesis The Joker – during which the duo proceed to steal the show. Though Smith gives them a run for the their money.

It is these characters that are the film’s highlight – while the dialogue is fairly awful, the charisma of the performances and the essence of the characters that has made them favourites in the comic for, in some cases, decades, shines through.

The Joker (Leto)

The Joker (Leto)

Robbie is exactly the kind of demented fun that was promised, though I agree some of the more gratuitous camera angles smack a little too much of Michael Bay’s framing of Megan Fox, but aside from that she provides the nearest thing this film manages to emotional weight through her fabulously deranged relationship with ‘The Clown Prince of Crime’.

Smith’s Deadshot is far from the stone cold killer assassin he is built up to be as he provides some more emotion through his relationship with his daughter that plays as a pivotal motivation throughout, even if I couldn’t help but feel this kind of good guy/bad guy balancing act was added in to get a ‘name star’ such as Smith to play the part.

As is obligatory I should give a few opinions on Leto’s Joker… as he only appears relatively briefly its hard to have a full view but I liked what I saw with the modern ‘gangsta’ style echoing past versions who echoed gangster styles of their time – particularly Jack Nicholson’s version and the original comic book version.

Harley Quinn (Robbie)

Harley Quinn (Robbie)

Aside from that the relationship between him and Harley added a new dimension to the character and led to one of the film’s most striking images during a flashback involving the two and I can’t wait to see a more fully fledged version of the character, hopefully squaring off against Affleck’s Batman who was such a highlight of ‘BVS:DOJ’.

The rest of Suicide Squad unfortunately can’t escape feeling like it’s stuck in the mid-90s. A slightly poorly realised, special effects based, big bad with a fairly non-specific plan to destroy/rule the world is the epitome of this leading to a hugely unsatisfying denouement while being reminiscent of Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and Russell Mulchay’s The Shadow.

Added to this is the fact that once again it has far from succeeded in establishing the DC comics universe on-screen in any meaningful way with a tone so different from the two previous films that, other than the presence of Affleck’s Bat and a couple of flashbacks, this could have been an entirely stand alone piece.

Enchantress (Cara Delevingne)

Enchantress (Cara Delevingne)

All that said I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have fun, certainly some could have been trimmed from the first third to up the pace and the apparent main villain was at once too much and too little, but as a fan of the aforementioned Batman Forever and The Shadow I couldn’t help but enjoy Suicide Squad on a similar level to them.

So, really it’s not a ‘good film’ but I still had a good time… make of that what you will, and I can’t wait to see more of The Joker and Harley Quinn.

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The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1

Dark Knight Returns coverIn the wake of the success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy of Batman movies DC Comics have begun to release a series of animated versions of some of the most revered and influential stories in their canon.

First, appropriately enough, was Batman: Year One, Frank Miller’s mid-80s take on the origin of the character, which informed quite a lot both Tim Burton’s run of Bat-movies and Batman Begins.

They have followed this up with another of Miller’s 80s tales, The Dark Knight Returns which, along side Year One, set the standard for the Batman that took us through the 90s and up to today with his darker and more psychologically troubled tale.

This animated movie cover the first half of the story as an older Bruce Wayne dons the cape and cowl again to “come out of retirement” as Gotham heads into another crime wave.

Dark Knight Returns 1In terms of the style of the film it combines elements of the Miller’s own artwork with some rejuvenated aspects of the 1990s Batman: The Animated Series to create something that is visually striking and still clearly a part of the ongoing DC animated universe.

This style looks superb and really does feel like lifting the comics off the page, but that idea is also where the major problem with this film comes in.

While, as a fan, I appreciate the dedication that has gone into sticking to the comics feel in this film it has fallen into a trap that comic book adaptations often do, in that it has stuck too close to the source in many ways. If nothing else this highlights the differences between the different media of film and comic books.

Dark Knight Returns 2So what we are left with is a great looking retelling of Frank Miller’s tale, but one that feels slightly slow and stilted as it tries to lift images directly from the book and fit them into the animation.

The voice acting in the film is generally of a high standard though doesn’t quite reach some previous incarnations, specifically again The Animated Series, but the producers have found good matches for an older Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon – though I still don’t think anyone has bettered Mark Hamill’s voice for The Joker which is sadly missing here.

Overall part one of The Dark Knight Returns is an interesting film for fans but isn’t something that I would expect to be of much interest beyond that and, for anyone coming to this from Nolan’s version of The Bat, it will be a completely different world.

Extra features

The Blu-ray edition of The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1 comes with a few decent extras.

First there is the throw away previews of the next installment of the story, and a Batman/Superman crossover tale, that really serve little purpose other than to see a few elements of pre-production from the films.

Two FaceThe more interesting things come in the form of two episodes of Batman: The Animated Series telling the story of Two-Face which really show that the series, essentially aimed at kids on its initial release, kept quite a lot of the darkness that was added to the comics in the late 80s and this exploration of Harvey Dent’s dual identity is a prime example of this.

The other interesting extra is a documentary about Bob Kane, the man behind Batman, which gives an interesting glimpse into the life of Kane and how he wanted to be Bruce Wayne and Batman and it seems became a caricature of himself, and seeing Stan Lee talking about this is fascinating as well as it seems that part of Lee is trying to be Kane as much as Kane was trying to be Wayne.

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