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Directors: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher & Bob Logan
Release date:
September 22, 2017
Rating: ★★
Review:

One of the biggest feature animation surprises of 2014 was ‘The Lego Movie’. On paper this joint venture between Warner Animation and the famous toy company from Denmark should have been something terrible. After all, it was based on an existing toy line, a recipe for disaster. But the opposite happened and ‘The Lego Movie’ turned out to be one of the funniest, most sophisticated, and deepest animation film of the 21st century. The film was followed in 2017 by the equally funny ‘The Lego Batman Movie’, deepening the title character as he appeared in ‘The Lego Movie’. Warner Animation and Lego were clearly on a roll.

Or were they? Appearing in the very same year as ‘The Lego Batman Movie’, ‘The Lego Ninjago Movie’ uses several of the ingredients of the previous films, but with a remarkably disappointing result. True, there are some good gags, especially those referring to the characters being made of Lego, but more often such gags feel like they have been done before, and better. Even worse, compared to the two earlier films, both the story, the world and the characters are very weakly developed. Apparently, the film was based on a long-lasting television series, but the film hardly betrays that fact. Instead, the movie feels as only half-baked, and assembled too quickly for its own good.

The problems of ‘The Lego Ninjago Movie’ are legion. The film uses elements of both wuxia and mecha films, but can’t satisfy lovers of either genre, as the film makers do very little with these elements. The whole setting of Lloyd being both the leader of the Ninjago squad and the son of Garmadon, the very nemesis they continually combat, is preposterous to start with. That these Ninjago warriors are also some teenager friends at a high school (even though one is a robot) only adds to the implausibility. So does the fact that Garmadon has four hands. The plot gets particularly silly when ‘the monster’ arrives, but when the Ninjago squad goes on a quest in a forest, the film seriously starts to drag. The son-dad relationship becomes a tried and tiresome cliché, and halfway one realizes he doesn’t care for these characters, at all. And then the overlong finale must start, yet…

On the top side the film starts with Jackie Chan, who is always pleasant to watch, even though he’s completely wasted in this film. And the textures of the Lego elements are surprisingly good, rendering them very tactile, indeed. Moreover, the film makes some surprising and rather silly choices in its use of pop music. But it should be clear that none of this can rescue a sloppy, lazy film that seriously lacks the heart and attention given to the first two Lego movies.

Watch the trailer for ‘The Lego Ninjago Movie’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Lego Ninjago Movie’ is available on Blu-Ray and DVD

Director: Chris McKay
Release date:
January 29, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

After the successful and surprisingly intelligent ‘The Lego Movie’ it was only natural for Warner Bros. to make another Lego themed movie. This time they took the character of Batman, who also co-stars ‘The Lego Movie’ and made the dark knight the star of a very funny sequel.

Compared to ‘The Lego Movie’, ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ is less deep and less layered, and the film wears its family theme on its sleeve, but like ‘The Lego Movie’ this sequel is really, really funny. The film makers play with all the batman tropes, and never take the superhero too seriously. In that respect, the film immediately starts off greatly, with Batman himself commenting on the opening titles. Another hilarious scene arrives a little bit later when we watch Batman waiting for the microwave.

Batman is a superhero, but pretty much a loser, as well. In fact, during most of the film, Batman is an ass, more of a self-centered, egotistic obligate loner than the usual tormented superhero. The Joker, too, is not just a supervillain, but one who longs for a special love-hate relationship with his foe. The film also introduces Robin and kickass female character Barbara Gordon (who’ll later turn into Batgirl). Part of the success of all these characters and how they are presented lies in the great voice acting. Especially, Will Arnett is a treat as the over-serious, pompous, self-important gravelling voice of Batman himself. Zach Galifianakis is a surprisingly emotional Joker, while Michael Cera shines as the overenthusiastic, geeky Robin. Rosario Dawson gives us a strong Barbara Gordon, and Ralph Fiennes a worthy Alfred, Batman’s butler.

Apart from the family theme, the plot revolves around the Joker letting all supervillains free from the Phantom Zone (a prison inside another dimension, borrowed from the Superman world). Because the film makers could browse the complete Warner Bros. catalogue, the villains include King Kong, the Wicked Witch from the West, Sauron, Voldemort, the Gremlins, the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, Agent Smith from ‘The Matrix’, and the Dalek from Dr. Who. Like Batman none of these villains are treated with respect. For example, the Dalek are introduced as “British Robots! (ask your nerd friends)”.

Being a Lego movie, the character animation is pretty jumpy, while some of the special effects are done in Lego, too (flames, lava). But both the world building, the textures, the lighting and camera movements are top notch, and together with Lorne Balfe’s epic score contribute to the action part of the movie. The result is a deft combination of exciting adrenaline-rich action and plain silliness. In any case, the film moves at a reckless speed, pouring gags over the audience almost non-stop, while retaining the family theme at heart. Even if it’s not as good as ‘The Lego Movie’ was, this is a fun film all the way. In fact, I prefer ‘The Lego Batman’ over the all too dark and serious recent Batman movies any time.

Watch the trailer for the ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Lego Batman Movie’ is available on Blu-Ray and DVD

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