Lego Batman: A Dark Knight Parody

Lego Batman: A Dark Knight Parody

It’s been quite the turbulent time for Gotham’s finest on the big screen. Batman peak will be seen as the critical and financial success of The Dark Knight. Its sequel divided the new followers from an appreciative core audience. Then came the announcement Ben Affleck would fill the cape and cowl following the wrapping up of Christopher Nolan’s universe. The world groaned.

Movies Reflective joined the calls of dismay (The Dark Knight Relapses) and made its apologies (Batman v Superman: There is a Winner). Batfleck turned out to be a success. His anticipated solo film, directed by the man that made Argo an Oscar winner, promises to balance the dark side of the Bat with the commercial demands of the DC Extended Universe.

So where does that leave The Lego Batman Movie? Surely, it’s just an example of Warner Bros. lending one of their largest properties to a non-threat in order to make money? But with this approach must come a series of prerequisites. If this is the case, director Chris McKay and his eight writers either didn’t read the memo or stretched what was acceptable.

The Lego Batman Movie is a parody disguised as a standard children’s animation film.

It’s is so self-aware, it manages to deconstruct Batman at every level. Nothing is off limits. From Hans Zimmer’s tense action score from The Dark Knight Rises; Bruce Wayne’s backstory; Batman’s real world history; and the typical rules used in a superhero movie.

It pokes fun at all the failings of previous films. Too many villains over saturating the script: usually three bad guys will induce this effect. Lego Batman aims not for double figures, but triple. Bruce Wayne forever moping about and driven to dark places because he saw his parents killed. Lego Batman turns it into a comedy sketch.

Heath Ledger’s Joker summarising the unique relationship his character shared with The Caped Crusader (“I think you and I are destined to do this forever.”) becomes the drive for The Lego Batman Movie. Joker wants Batman to realise they are connected, that they need one another.

It’s great fun for the kids, Lego brick explosions everywhere, but the speed of the one liners indicate they have been written for the experienced Batman fan. And the embrace of the past, including the sixties TV version, goes beyond nostalgia or even paying homage.

If it weren’t for the child-friendly humour and tone, you could compare this to Team America: World Police. It knows what it is imitating so decides to have a good laugh with it.

In many ways, this means Will Arnett isn’t playing Bruce Wayne/Batman, because this isn’t really that character. It’s a shame for Joel Schumacher that the Lego Movie concept didn’t exist in 1997 when he gave the world Batman & Robin. It was his intention then to produce a Batman big screen outing for kids. He failed to impress children and adults alike, killing the franchise in the process.

The Lego Batman Movie shows how it can be done. When it’s clear from the off that all seriousness should be left in the cinema foyer, it doesn’t matter how colourful Gotham City is or how outlandish the story becomes. People can just sit back and enjoy.

With that freedom to do what they want with the property, Lego Batman manages to get a few more satirical scenes in under the radar. There’s a clear dig at Suicide Squad when Batman says getting bad guys to fight bad guys is stupid. And then, with a nod to that movie – and several other superhero flicks – the doomsday weapon of being invaded by another realm enters the fray.

It’s not here to comply with the structure of grown-up superhero films, it’s to point out how preposterous the notion is.

Even the happy ending is tongue-in-cheek. With it, The Dark Knight becomes a light comedy genius. Whether the DC Extended Universe is a success or not (and it hangs in the balance), Warner Bros. can always fall back on a Lego version of events and bring a bit of laughter, and a lot of revenue, into the boardroom.

Lego Batman isn’t the hero you deserve, but it’s the one you need right now.

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T2: Trainspotting Judgement Day

T2: Trainspotting Judgement Day

Let’s face it, Danny Boyle doesn’t make bad movies. Every single one that his name has been attached to has been worthy of your time and deserved any success that came its way. It was his second as director, Trainspotting, that sent him on a roll. Its momentum helped create a career in Hollywood most modern movie makers can’t begin to rival. 2017 is the year he returns to the setting of a timeless piece of cinema.

In a perfect world, my first novel will be adapted by Boyle and Manchester would have its iconic movie (we did grow up on the same streets, so it’s not that far-fetched). It’s the dream choice because Boyle understands the drive of a story, then delivers a visual experience that goes beyond the vision of its creator. Irvine Welsh is a talented author, no doubt, but Trainspotting elevated his novel to heights he couldn’t have envisioned.

That was aided by the John Hodge screenplay and determination of producer Andrew Macdonald. Back in the nineties it was Boyle that had to convince Welsh a movie was a good idea. Years later it is the director in the hot seat calling the shots but it’s warming to know he wanted to make a sequel. It is something he actively sought, waiting merely for the actors to age accordingly.

The stars have aligned (and reassembled) to bring back the core characters from the original. Ewan McGregor’s “Rent Boy” has been missing for twenty years, as expected after stealing £16,000 from madman Begbie. Robert Carlyle was a scene stealer back in the first film (remember that glass chucking moment?) and his new Begbie is just as intense. But back then it was mindless, after twenty years in prison, it’s pure focus.

He escapes, and the lack of police follow-up is something we will just have to accept, and attempts to resume life. It’s here we get some laughs. Trainspotting was a black comedy at times, the laughs here are lighter and directly played for.

Sick Boy, or Simon, is now putting more coke up his nose than Renton put heroin in his arms first time around. He’s trying to run scams and wants to open a brothel to keep his girlfriend happy. Yep, the Edinburgh they inhabit still has its murky sides.

Ewen Bremner’s Spud is the final member of the quartet and plays a larger role than last time. He is still a heroin addict, estranged from his partner and child and is suicidal. The unexpected arrival of Renton gives his life a new direction.

For a time, the movie’s direction, while new, isn’t ground-breaking. It openly reminisces over famous scenes from the original. This trip down memory lane would be pure nostalgia in the hands of any other movie maker, and would be crude self-awareness – not unlike the last series of This Is England – if it weren’t for Boyle’s ability to bottle a mood a make everything feel fresh.

This talent is aided by a cast better equipped to deliver the vision this time around. They have all grown as actors. What the script lacks in depth, they fill out with more meaningful performances.

There was no point trying to replicate Trainspotting, that time has passed, the characters inhabit different bodies. But it would be soulless not to have them look back at key events after being separated for two decades. The soundtrack aides this natural introspection with a hint of familiar themes with new vibes laid over.

There are times the suspension of disbelief is stretched as coincidences and situations appear to drive us to a forced conclusion. That’s a nod to the power of the first film, perhaps there was no real story to tell after that one? But that’s not to say it is poor, far from it. Certain Boyle hallmarks displayed in Trance, and novel use of lighting in the finale, give this film the contemporary nod that separates if from its grimy predecessor.

Easily a four-star film, maybe as it settles it’ll take its place alongside the first. And in a few decades’ time, there’ll be no complaints if Boyle wants to visit these characters again.

Movie of 2016: Room

Movie of 2016: Room

Okay, technically this did get a late 2015 release. However, here in the United Kingdom it was a January film so that’s good enough for me to view it as a movie from 2016. Coupled with its inclusion in this year’s Academy Awards, it has a valid enough reason to be as classed a movie from the last twelve months. But why the best?

After a whole year, to drag a film back from the previous December speaks volumes for its impact. It should be a story that is too grim to place the spotlight on. Even if executed well, it should have been put on a shelf and been everyone’s sad but buried movie. Well, it wasn’t shot, written and performed well – it was almost perfect.

Emma Donoghue took her 2010 novel and turned it into a screenplay before the book’s actual release. It’s a great example of allowing the author to nurture their work to the big screen. The result is clear to see. Profound, in fact. Who else could have added the required layers to the characters from the page?

This may sound strange, the idea of an adaptation adding to the written word, but leading star and Oscar winner for her performance in the film, Brie Larson, explained in an interview it was after seeing the script, and realising her character’s role had greater depth than the Joy portrayed in the book, that she had no doubts about joining the project.

She worked under director Lenny Abrahamson to tell the story of a young woman who had been abducted years before and kept hidden in a small outhouse. It forms the “room” for the first part of the story. Trapped with her is Jack, played by Jacob Tremblay, her five-year-old son, a product of the repeated rapes by her captor.

Jack has never seen beyond the room. His perceptions of the world are from Joy’s teachings, she has told Jack the world is just their space. Everything on the television is make believe. The world has shrunk to the size of that room, to just one another. It’s part coping mechanism, part defensive measure.

Joy ensures Jack is kept locked in the cupboard during the nightly visits from “Old Nick” (their jailor). The author confirmed the naming is a nod to the old Christian term for the devil; Joy and Jack are unaware of his actual name.

After an impromptu meet between “Old Nick” and Jack, Joy decides she needs to get her son out of the room and reveals that a wider world does exist. What follows is nerve-wracking and heart-breaking. It shows the best and worst of humanity in close proximity and quick succession.

It’s no spoiler to say the movie moves on beyond the room, where mother and son have to adapt to a new world.

Larson has already been awarded for her role but she should cut that Oscar in half and send it to Jacob Tremblay. Watching him become familiar with the world while expressing the bond with his mother is something magical.

Before shooting, Lenny Abrahamson got the two actors together on social dates to see if there was a connection that could be caught on camera. He must have felt like he’d hit the jackpot. Tremblay said in an interview he was so friendly with Brie in real life he found he couldn’t shout at her in one scene. That true friendship is the backbone for what comes across as an unbreakable bond.

The world Joy and Jack find themselves in after the room has more traps than before and is a struggle for the pair. The pieces of a broken family, confused relatives, a relentless media, to name a few. But a film that spends so long pulling on heart-strings before breaking them, is also inspiring. The expression of true love overcoming all evil.

From the darkest nature of man, two people of pure goodness emerge.

Usually it’s best to read the novel first then view the film with a critical eye, adding the obvious line: the book’s always better. In this case a complete reversal works: after watching the movie, it’s unfathomable that the written word can prove to be more emotive.

It’s understandable people will draw parallels or conclusions to real-world stories that have similar points but these are always portrayed as horrors in the media. This story shows us the central points between the two victims involved and despite all that they endure, a real feeling of hope becomes the fabric of their tale.

Sometimes, the only thing that a person needs in an entire world is just one person to love them. Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay have expressed this better than anyone has previously managed on film.