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Non-Review Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

“I have aged phenomenally,” Bruce Wayne confesses about half-an-hour into The LEGO Batman Movie.

He is not wrong. The LEGO Batman Movie is in many ways an overt celebration of the legacy of the Caped Crusader, the pop culture icon who remains one of the most recognisable figures in the world. Repeatedly over the course of the film, character reference Batman’s rich history, from the Joker’s confession that they have known each other for “seventy-eight years” or Alfred’s reference to “that weird [phase] in 1966” or even Barbara Gordon’s slideshow presentation that goes back to the cover of Detective Comics #27 and the forties film serial.

Holding it all together...

Holding it all together…

The framework of The LEGO Batman Movie allows the characters and the script to comment upon the Batman mythology. The script is crammed with references from the length and breadth of the character’s publication history, from “Bat shark repellent!” to particular costume styles to minor villains to musical cues to fourth-wall-breaking references to other media that has inspired various interpretations of the Caped Crusader. This allows The LEGO Batman Movie to be explicitly about Batman in a way that few Batman stories can be.

As such, The LEGO Batman Movie offers a very broad summary of the Batman mythology and characters, surveying decades of printed and screen material to reduce Batman to his most simply and essential qualities. The LEGO Batman Movie offers a very compelling portrait of Batman as a man so traumatised by loss that he never allowed himself to grow up, while somehow subconsciously cultivating a family around himself. For all the character’s lauded darkness, The LEGO Batman Movie celebrates the hope at the heart of that mythology.

Welcome to his man-cave.

Welcome to his man-cave.

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My 12 for ’14: The Lego Movie and Everything is Awesome…

With 2014 coming to a close, we’re counting down our top twelve films of the year. Check back daily for the latest featured film.

The very idea of The Lego Movie invites cynicism.

It is the latest in the long line of toy-to-film adaptations that includes such auspicious cinematic magics Transformers and Battleship. More than that, it is a film about a toy that has found particular success licensing existing properties – so it would be very easy to turn The Lego Movie into a collection of recognisable characters having generic adventures while selling their toys to an eager young audience. In a market where studios like Pixar had raised the bar for family-friendly animation, The Lego Movie seemed like it could be cringe-worthy.

thelegomovie

Instead, The Lego Movie is one of the most purely enjoyable movies of 2014. It is a film that appeals to all children, no matter their age. From seven to seventy, The Lego Movie is constructed with such energy and enthusiasm that it is impossible to resist. Even the most hardened cynic and most ruthless pessimism will struggle not to smile at certain points as The Lego Movie marches to its own wryly and playfully subversive beat. The amount of charm on display here should win over everybody.

The Lego Movie is still a feature-length advertisement for a world-renowned brand, but it manages to capture the fun and the excitement of that brand in a way that will feel familiar to those viewers who do remember playing with blocks; no matter how long ago.

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Batman – Full Circle (Review/Retrospective)

23rd July is Batman Day, celebrating the character’s 75th anniversary. To celebrate, this July we’re taking a look at some new and classic Batman (and Batman related) stories. Check back daily for the latest review.

In a way, Mike W. Barr and Alan Davies’ Full Circle feels a bit like Steve Englehart and Marshall Roger’s Dark Detective. It’s a cap to a run on the character, something of a forerunner to DC’s recent “Retroactive” initiative, reteaming classic creators on a particular character in an attempt to recapture past glories. Like Dark Detective, Full Circle doesn’t quite work. It’s a direct sequel to Barr’s Year Two – albeit with recurring gags and characters thrown in from the rest of his Detective Comics run – and it seems to exist solely to make sure the reader understood what Barr was doing with Year Two.

Given that Year Two was hardly the most subtle of comics, Full Circle occasionally runs the risk of bludgeoning the reader into submission.

It's a Boy Wonder he doesn't get killed...

It’s a Boy Wonder he doesn’t get killed…

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Non-Review Review: The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie is – as one might expect – a wonderfully well-constructed family film. Following a construction worker repeatedly described as “normal” or “average” – but, one colleague hastens to add, “not normal like us” – named Emmet, the movie is structured as a conventional “special one” narrative. However, veteran directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller stir things up just enough to keep it interesting.

With a wry sense of humour and an acute awareness of the clichés of a typical “hero’s journey” narrative, Lord and Miller have actually managed to tap into the core essence of Lego – if a massive multi-platform brand name empire can be distilled to a “core essence.” It’s a story about the magic of playing with toys and the necessity of throwing away the instructions every once in a while.

The ensemble fits together perfectly...

The ensemble fits together perfectly…

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The X-Files – The Erlenmeyer Flask (Review)

When you think about it, The X-Files conspiracy mythology is just a fancy way of dressing up generational “daddy issues.” Both Mulder and Scully have problems with their fathers, and it plays into the show’s wider themes. The X-Files is, appropriately enough, a show that helps define what is known as “Generation X”, the generation born following the post war baby boom, as the afterglow from America’s ascent to global superpower began to wear off. Existing in the wake of the Cold War, in a unipolar world, The X-Files was a vehicle for introspection.

One of the recurring themes of the show, and one that has come up quite a bit in the first season, is the weight of history bearing down on the current generation. Living in the shadow of Watergate, dealing with the revelation of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments, coping the Vietnam and other skeletons, it’s little wonder that Generation X seemed completely disillusioned with their elders. Jamie Notter argued that “unlike their parents who challenged leaders with an intent to replace them, Generation Xers tend to ignore leaders.”

Christine Henseler would go further, suggesting that there’s something close to righteous anger in the attitude that Generation X holds to its parents, holding “a world view” that “is based on change, on the need to combat corruption, dictatorships, abuse, AIDS.” The Erlenmeyer Flask seems the perfect place to end this season then, pushing all this uncertainty to the fore and killing the series’ much-loved father figure.

Bodies of proof...

Bodies of proof…

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Batman: The Dark Knight Archives, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

I figured, what with Christopher Nolan releasing the final part of his Batman trilogy this month, it might be worth going back and taking a look at the early days of the Dark Knight. DC have done a rather wonderful job collecting classic material featuring their iconic heroes as part of their “Archives” line, a line that seemed to have died last year, but I am very glad to see undergoing a resurgence. The idea is that each archive edition collects roughly a year’s worth of classic comics. The premium format pays for the restoration of the material, with DC then making it available in more cost-effective packaging, like their paperback “Chronicles” line that collects every appearance in order, or their “Omnibus” line, which collects larger chunks.

Batman: The Dark Knight Archives, Vol. 1 doesn’t collect Batman’s very first appearance in Detective Comics. However, it does collect the first four quarterly publications of his self-titled Batman comic book in 1940, each collecting several stories of Batman’s crusade against crime.

Batman Begins in six panels…

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