The LEGO® Movie 2 review

THE LEGO MOVIE 2

Director : Mike Mitchell
Cast : Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Richard Ayoade, Maya Rudolph, Will Ferrell, Jadon Sand, Brooklyn Prince, Noel Fielding
Genre : Animation/Adventure/Fantasy
Run Time : 1 h 47 mins
Opens : 7 February 2019
Rating : PG

It’s been five years since The LEGO® Movie was released, defying expectations by being a movie made to sell toys that was about so much more than just selling toys. In the meantime, the spin-offs The LEGO Batman Movie and The LEGO Ninjago Movie have graced the big screens, but The LEGO Movie 2 has plenty to live up to.

The LEGO Movie ended with Bricksburg being invaded by aliens from the Systar System. Five years later, Bricksburg has become ravaged by repeated alien invasions, and is now the wasteland Apocalypseburg. Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) is still his cheery self, while the other denizens of Apocalypseburg, including Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), Unikitty (Alison Brie) and Metalbeard (Nick Offerman) have become hardened road warriors.

The latest invasion is led by General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz), who captures Lucy, Batman, Unikitty, Metalbeard and Benny the 1980-something Space Guy (Charlie Day). Mayhem takes them back to the shape-shifting alien queen of the Systar System, Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish). Emmet travels to outer space to save his friends, and along the way meets Rex Dangervest (also Pratt), a super-cool spacefaring explorer and crime-fighter who is everything Emmet has ever wanted to be. Lucy suspects that Watevra harbours malice, thinking she has brainwashed the others, but there’s more to this conflict than first appears.

The LEGO Movie was a beautifully-made animated film that explored surprisingly sophisticated ideas, benefitting from the gleeful but good-hearted anarchy that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller bring to their projects. The duo remains onboard as screenwriters for the sequel but pass the director’s chair on to Mike Mitchell. The LEGO Movie 2 is an excellent continuation of the first movie’s plot, delivering a different message from the first film but one that’s also clever and slyly subversive.

The first film ended with the revelation that there was a human world beyond the LEGO world and that the film’s story sprung from the imagination of a young boy named Finn (Jadon Sand). Finn’s sister Bianca (Brooklyn Prince) wants to play with him, with her contribution to Finn’s story represented as an alien invasion. This metatextual knowledge informs the audiences’ interpretation of the story, which comments on gendered toys. Toys are generally marketed to boys one way and to girls another way, and there’s a perception that boys and girls play with toys in different ways.

The LEGO Movie 2 also deals with growing up, taking advantage of the five-year gap between films. The desire to be perceived as tough, cool and well, grown-up is reflected in Emmet’s awe at his newfound ally Rex. Emmet’s cheerful optimism is often taken as naivete; he wishes that he could be tougher and cooler because he thinks that’s what Lucy wants of him. The movie comments on masculinity in an astute way – there are some parallels between Emmet and Hiccup, the protagonist of the How to Train Your Dragon Movies, in that both are not traditionally badass heroes. The LEGO Movie 2 addresses why it’s important that Emmet retains the essence of who he is.

Just like in the first film, there’s the sense of imagination running amok without the movie feeling like a mess. There’s a straightforward narrative trajectory and a twist or two towards the end, but there’s a joke every other minute and the film constantly feels alive. The innumerable pop culture references feel organic rather than mechanically slotted in. The animation by Animal Logic is just as dynamic and eye-catching as in the previous LEGO movies. The photo-realistic CGI animation creates the illusion of stop-motion animation and makes each LEGO brick and element feel tactile.

The returning cast is a joy to hear. From Alison Brie’s mix of innocence and rage as Unikitty to Charlie Day’s unbridled, single-minded enthusiasm as Benny, these are eminently loveable characters. Pratt shines in a dual role, with Rex Dangervest riffing on other Pratt roles including Star-Lord from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Owen Grady from the Jurassic World movies and Joshua Faraday from the Magnificent Seven remake (with a possible nod towards Cowboy Ninja Viking, still in development).

Lucy’s character is shaded in a little more, with the indication that her cool, rebellious exterior is an affectation. Will Arnett’s portrayal of Batman as a self-obsessed loner continues to be amusing, with Batman’s own complex figuring heavily into the plot of this film.

Tiffany Haddish is a hot commodity in the movie business after the success of Girls Trip, lending plenty of personality to Watevra, a mercurial force of nature. Stephanie Beatriz voicing a LEGO character is especially rich because she got her signature eyebrow scar from tripping on a LEGO brick at age 10.

The LEGO Movie 2 hits the sweet spot of being a family film that isn’t condescending to kids and isn’t pandering to adults. There’s something for everybody, and it doesn’t feel forced. There’s surprising poignancy to the message at its heart, but it’s also consistently funny and lively. Because it’s a sequel, it doesn’t have the explosive freshness of the first film, but it’s a satisfying and intelligent follow-up that has plenty to offer.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

The Lego Batman Movie

For F*** Magazine

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE

Director : Chris McKay
Cast : (Voice Cast) Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Jenny Slate, Mariah Carey, Billy Dee Williams
Genre : Action/Animation
Run Time : 1h 45min
Opens : 9 February 2017
Rating : PG

the-lego-batman-movie-posterHe puts the ‘bat’ in ‘brickbat’ and serves as a stumbling block to Gotham City’s evildoers: he is Lego Batman (Arnett). When the Joker (Galifianakis) leads a collection of Batman’s rogues gallery in an assault on Gotham, Batman is confident that he alone can take them on. Police Commissioner Jim Gordon (Elizondo), whose primary job has been activating the Bat-signal to summon Batman, retires. Replacing Gordon is his daughter Barbara (Dawson), who calls attention to Batman’s inefficacy in keeping Gotham’s streets crime-free, much to Batman’s chagrin. Alfred Pennyworth (Fiennes), loyal butler to Batman/Bruce Wayne, sees Batman’s self-aggrandizement as a façade. After accidentally adopting orphan Dick Grayson (Cera), Bruce must learn that relying on others in the face of overwhelming odds isn’t a sign of weakness, eventually teaming up with Robin/Dick Grayson, Alfred and Batgirl/Barbara Gordon to face an other-worldly threat.

the-lego-batman-movie-batman-robin-alfred-and-barbara-in-the-scuttler-cockpit

The Lego Batman Movie is a spin-off of 2014’s The Lego Movie, and is directed by Chris McKay, who served as an animation co-director on The Lego Movie. McKay has also directed multiple episodes of Robot Chicken, the stop-motion sketch comedy series which lampoons comics, cartoons and other aspects of geek culture. The Lego Batman Movie is reminiscent of Robot Chicken in its style of humour, which is heavily reference-based, albeit more kid-friendly than Robot Chicken. There are shout-outs to elements both well-known and obscure of the DC Comics universe and beyond, which are rewarding to spot. However, since this is based on a line of toys and primarily made to sell toys, there are moments when it’s evident that The Lego Batman Movie struggles to strike a balance between appealing to geeks and appealing to children.

the-lego-batman-movie-batman-1

The animation by Animal Logic Studios is done in the same style as The Lego Movie, which emulates stop-motion animation using computer graphics. Each frame bursts with lovingly-rendered detail and the film is consistently eye-catching, if not quite as creatively designed as The Lego Movie. This version of the Batcave is delightfully outlandish, packed with needlessly extravagant machinery and containing a ludicrous number of vehicles with a ‘Bat’ prefix in their names. Of the various and sundry modes of transportation utilised by the Dark Knight in this movie, something called ‘the Scuttler’ is the most interesting. It’s a mecha that walks on four stilt-like legs and expresses emotion with dog-like ears which can droop to indicate sadness.

the-lego-batman-movie-batman-in-costume-chamber

There is a Batman for all seasons, and part of the character’s longevity is his malleability. The Lego Batman Movie does a fine job of gently poking fun at various incarnations of the Caped Crusader, from the 1966 TV show to the 1989 film to the recent Batman v Superman. At times, it’s evident that this wants to be Deadpool for Juniors, the film begins with Batman breaking the fourth wall and providing voiceover as the opening logos roll. Arnett’s performance, impeccable in its timing and just the right pitch of gruff, suits the tone of the film to a tee. Fiennes’ drolly prim and proper Alfred serves as a wonderful complement.

the-lego-batman-movie-joker

Galifianakis’ turn as the Joker is passable, but is far from the high bar set by Mark Hamill, whose indelible vocal performance as the Clown Prince of Crime has made him the definitive voice of the Joker in many fans’ eyes (make that ears). The film addresses the psychosexual nature of Joker and Batman’s mutual obsession with the other, which Batman vehemently denies. Jenny Slate’s Harley Quinn is a slight disappointment, largely lacking the character’s signature Brooklyn accent.

the-lego-batman-movie-bane-clayface-and-other-villains

While Batman’s rogues gallery is generally agreed on as being the most dynamic in all of comics, these villains don’t make too much of an impact in The Lego Batman Movie. Sure, the film crams a lot of them in, but the likes of Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), Poison Ivy (Riki Lindhome), Clayface (Kate Miccuci), Mr. Freeze and anyone who isn’t the Joker seem relegated to the background. It is fun to see D-listers like Condiment King and Kite-Man onscreen. Bane (Doug Benson) speaks in the same accent Tom Hardy affected for The Dark Knight Rises, even more amusing given how Bane was quoted in a certain inaugural address.

the-lego-batman-movie-robins-cape-in-batmans-face

One of the funniest aspects of the story is how Bruce Wayne adopts Dick Grayson completely by accident. The interpretation of Dick as a wide-eyed, bespectacled dork is a departure from the source material, but Cera’s inherent awkwardness as a performer suits this version fine. This reviewer enjoyed the changes made to the Barbara Gordon character, who is introduced as her father’s successor as Police Commissioner long before she dons the Batgirl costume. Batman has romantic designs on Batgirl – this is a pairing which many fans understandably find icky, and was a major factor in the backlash against the animated film The Killing Joke. Thankfully, Barbara does not reciprocate Bruce’s advances. The stunt casting of Mariah Carey as Mayor MacCaskill is completely unnecessary – but perhaps this can be viewed as akin to the celebrity cast on the ’66 Batman TV show.

the-lego-batman-movie-speedwagon

The Lego Batman Movie’s final act does involve a giant portal opening up in the sky, unleashing destruction that the townsfolk must scurry away from. There are some surprises as to who or what emerges from said portal, but even given that, it’s easy to tune out during the climactic battle. There’s an overreliance on incongruous pop ditties and not all the jokes land, but things are funny and frenetic enough to propel The Lego Batman Movie forward.

Summary: The Lego Batman movie prizes reference-based humour over plot, but even if it doesn’t use the Lego Batman world to its full comic potential, it’s an entertaining time.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

 

Skywalkin’ – Top 10 Movie Astronauts

As published in Issue #58 of F*** Magazine

Text: 
SKYWALKIN’
Top 10 Movie Astronauts
By Jedd Jong
This month, Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway will embark on a voyage to infinity and beyond in Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic Interstellar. One of the stock answers to the question “so, what do you want to be when you grow up?” has, for a long time, been “astronaut”. The depiction of brave men and women breaking past the confines of our planet certainly has a role to play in upholding the glamour, mystique, adventure and yes, danger of becoming an astronaut. Hop aboard the lunar lander, the orbiter or, if it comes to that, the escape pod as F*** takes a look at ten such characters, including a couple based directly on real-life astronauts.
FRANK CORVIN (CLINT EASTWOOD) FROM SPACE COWBOYS

A good while before the Expendables blasted their way onto movie screens, Clint Eastwood brought us a troupe of badass grandpas in Space Cowboys. Directed by Eastwood and also starring Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and the late James Garner, Space Cowboys tells of a group of former U.S. Air Force test pilots who were unceremoniously denied their chance to go into space. Over 40 years later, Frank Corvin (Eastwood) and his pals finally get a shot at fulfilling their astronaut ambitions when they turn out to be the only ones capable of repairing an outdated Soviet satellite carrying a deadly payload and in danger of crashing into earth. Something of an archetypical Eastwood character, Corvin is tough, heroic and looks out for his friends but has an anti-authoritarian streak. The Frank Corvin character was 69 years old, the same age Eastwood was at the time of filming. Eastwood jokingly nicknamed the film “Geezer Power” and while he pilots helicopters in real life, he’s never really wanted to go into space, saying in an interview “to me, that’s claustrophobic as hell”.
SAM BELL (SAM ROCKWELL) FROM MOON

In this highly-acclaimed low-budget sci-fi flick, the directorial debut of Duncan Jones, we see “astronaut” treated as more of a blue-collar type job than one of exciting exploration. It is 2035 and Lunar Industries has tapped into the energy market by mining the fuel alternative helium-3 from the surface of the moon. The operations of the mining facility Sarang are managed by lone astronaut Sam Bell (Rockwell), nearing the completion of his three year contract as the only human being on the Sarang, with just the artificial intelligence GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) for company. Sam uncovers a troubling conspiracy and aims to expose the corporation’s questionable practices. Of being the only actor physically onscreen throughout the whole movie, Rockwell said “it was a daunting acting challenge; it was a very, very intimidating idea. So it took a while to get my head around it.” Jones and co-writer Nathan Parker wrote the film specifically for Rockwell and many believed that the actor was snubbed when he was not a Best Actor nominee at that year’s Oscars.
KRIS KELVIN (DONATAS BANIONIS) FROM SOLARIS

Based on Stanisław Lem’s 1961 science fiction novel of the same name, Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 film Solaris is considered by film scholars to be one of the most important sci-fi movies ever made. It had earlier been adapted as a TV film in 1968, but this is the version that made a mark. Like many of the best science fiction films, Solaris used its fantastical setting as a backdrop for the exploration of complex, intimate psychological issues. Psychologist Kris Kelvin (Banionis) is sent to a space station orbiting the remote oceanic planet Solaris to perform an evaluation. The scientific mission based aboard the space station has stalled; the three astronauts each suffering emotionally. Upon arriving on the space station, none of the crew members cooperate with or even greet Kelvin. Kelvin later encounters a most mysterious occurrence: the reappearance of his deceased wife Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk), who had committed suicide some years ago. Is this a hallucination or something more sinister? The uniqueness of Solaris and of its treatment of Kris Kelvin’s predicament can be attributed to Tarkovsky’s attitude going in. “I don’t like science fiction, or rather the genre SF is based on,” he said flatly. “All those games with technology, various futurological tricks and inventions which are always somehow artificial. But I’m interested in problems I can extract from fantasy. Man and his problems, his world, his anxieties. Ordinary life is also full of the fantastic. Life itself is a fantastic phenomenon.” The 2002 remake of Solaris, directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney as Chris Kelvin, proved divisive.
BENNY THE 1980-SOMETHING SPACE GUY (CHARLIE DAY) FROM THE LEGO MOVIE


 “SPACESHIP! Spaceship spaceship spaceship spaceship SPACESHIP!” Sure, it’s no “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, but perhaps Benny the 1980-something Space Guy’s limited vocabulary is part of his charm. In The LEGO Movie, Benny’s obsession with spaceships rivals that of Cookie Monster’s obsession with cookies. However, this single-mindedness also brings with it unendingly cheerful optimism. The character of Benny is one of the biggest ways in which the film’s directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller showcase their geeky love for LEGO. The blue spaceman LEGO minifigure was first released in the 1984 set “Space Dart” (set #6824). The Classic Space line of LEGO sets is beloved among collectors and the many kids who grew up with the building toys during that era. Authentic details, such as the faded Classic Space logo, the bite marks and the exact spot in which Benny’s helmet is cracked, add to how he really seems like a holdover from the 80s, especially next to the newer licensed minifigures in the film. The first minifigure to be designed intentionally broken, Benny’s imperfection is a great example of the Japanese design philosophy of Wabi-sabi; the spacefaring minifig wouldn’t have been as endearing (and as nostalgic) had he been all polished and shiny.
BUZZ LIGHTYEAR (TIM ALLEN) FROM TOY STORY 1, 2 and 3

His catchphrase was alluded to in the introductory paragraph of this list and when it comes to animated astronauts, even Benny has to admit that Buzz is boss. In the first Toy Story film, Buzz Lightyear is Andy’s fancy new toy, whom the cowboy Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) views as competition. Buzz is unaware that he is but a plastic plaything and fully believes he is a space ranger. An elaborate back-story was devised for the character, which is explored in the animated series Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (Patrick Warburton voices this incarnation). Director John Lasseter was inspired by Apollo-era astronauts in coming up with the design and Buzz was named after real-life astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon. Aldrin posed with a Buzz Lightyear action figure at a parade in Disney World. Via that very action figure, the Buzz Lightyear character became an “actual” astronaut – the toy was launched into space aboard the space shuttle Discovery in May 2008, spent a period of time as a “resident” of the International Space Station and returned to Earth 467 days later in August 2009. That figure is now on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
RYAN STONE (SANDRA BULLOCK) FROM GRAVITY


One of the most talked-about films of the 2013 awards season was Alfonso Cuarón’s sci-fi thriller film Gravity, lauded for the stunning realism with which outer space was depicted. With Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as the only two actors to physically appear on-screen, much of the film’s breathtaking environment was created with groundbreaking digital effects work. Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer and mission specialist on her maiden space voyage, alongside seasoned astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney). Bullock initially had her misgivings about Gravity, saying “we had no idea if it would be successful. You’d explain that it was an avant-garde, existential film on loss and survival in space and everyone would be like: ‘OK …’ It didn’t sound like a film people would be drawn to.” Despite these doubts, she threw herself headlong into the making of the film, strung or strapped into a lightbox that mimicked the frustrating loneliness of Stone’s plight. She was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her effort. Bullock stated in an interview with Collider that it was encouraging to see a lead female character like Ryan Stone feature in a sci-fi film. “Making this character female was hugely brave, but also it gives you so many different levels of angst and worry,” she said. “There are situations that you can build around it that I don’t think an audience has experienced just yet.”
GEORGE TAYLOR (CHARLTON HESTON) FROM PLANET OF THE APES

Pierre Boulle’s 1963 French novel La Planète des Singes has spawned a massive franchise that is still going strong today, with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes released earlier this year. The Planet of the Apes series first gained traction with the 1968 film starring the legendary Charlton Heston as George Taylor. Taylor is awakened from deep hibernation after a 2006-year-long voyage when his spacecraft crash-lands on a mysterious planet. Of course, this planet turns out to be earth of the far-future, taken over by intelligent, human-like apes. The chimpanzees Zira and Cornelius are the only apes who vouch for Taylor, who is enslaved and tortured by the others. Heston delivers the iconic line “get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” and also memorably crumbles to his knees crying “you maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!” during that infamous ending reveal. Heston said that the Taylor character reflected his own views on mankind and that he was drawn to “the irony of a man so misanthropic that he almost welcomes the chance to escape entirely from the world finding himself then cast in a situation where he is spokesman for his whole species and forced to defend their qualities and abilities.” Heston reluctantly reprised his role in Beneath the Planet of the Apes and had a cameo (as the ape Zaius) in Tim Burton’s 2001 remake.
JIM LOVELL (TOM HANKS) FROM APOLLO 13



Few lines embody the stomach-churning realisation that something has gone horribly awry than “Houston, we have a problem”. The line Lovell uttered in real-life was actually “Houston, we’ve had a problem” – but hey, give this movie credit for all the aspects it got right. Ron Howard’s 1995 film depicts the troubled Apollo 13 lunar mission and was based upon the book Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, written by the real-life Jim Lovell with author Jeffrey Kluger. The 1970 NASA mission was jeopardised when an explosion caused the craft to lose most of its oxygen supply and electricity, necessitating the abortion of the mission and turning what was to be a trip to the moon into a desperate struggle to make it home. The real-life Lovell’s initial pick to play him was Kevin Costner, but Costner was not considered by Ron Howard, who offered the part to John Travolta. Eventually, it was Tom Hanks who got the part of Lovell. The zero-gravity scenes were filmed in the infamous “vomit comet”, a NASA airplane that would fly in parabolic arcs to grant a brief period of weightlessness to the occupants. We bet Hanks was the recipient of no shortage of “ground control to Major Tom” jokes on the set.
JOHN GLENN (ED HARRIS) FROM THE RIGHT STUFF


Also portraying a real-life Apollo-era astronaut was Ed Harris, playing John Glenn in The Right Stuff. Director Philip Kaufman’s 192 minute-long historical film chronicles the journey of the “Mercury Seven”, Navy, Marine and Air Force test pilots who were instrumental in the formation of the American space program. The real-life John Glenn is a pretty extraordinary human being: as a United States Marine Corp pilot during the Second World War, he flew 59 combat missions in the South Pacific. In 1958, after rigorous trials, he became one of the “Mercury Seven. Four years later, Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. He served as Senator for the State of Ohio and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. Long after the events depicted in The Right Stuff, in 1998, Glenn became the oldest person to go into space at 77 years old. Harris auditioned for the part twice because he felt his first audition wasn’t good enough. Harris later played NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz in Apollo 13 and his minor voice role as Mission Control in Gravity was a nod to those two films.
DAVID BOWMAN (KEIR DULLEA) FROM 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

Stanley Kubrick’s ambitious, hugely influential 1968 film, based on Arthur C. Clarke’s story, still holds up today as a shining example of the heights of sci-fi filmmaking, despite it already being 13 years since the year 2001. The film’s opening sequence takes place in prehistoric times with apelike early hominids fascinated by a large solid black rectangular block called the “monolith”. We then leap ahead 4 million years, the bulk of the movie taking place aboard the spacecraft Discovery One, bound for Jupiter. Dr. David Bowman (Dullea) and Dr. Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) have to deal with the ship’s on-board A.I., HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain) who is becoming self-aware and dangerous. The film’s widely-debated ending has Bowman transcending existence itself, reborn as the “Star Child”. In an interview with Rip It Up, Dullea reflected upon his experience working on the monumental film, saying “I’m honoured to have been involved in Space Odyssey. I mean, I’ve made 25 feature films [and done lots of theatre and TV as well], give or take, and while I couldn’t say that it was the most demanding acting role I’ve had, what was most fascinating about it was getting into Kubrick’s mind – or maybe I should say him getting into my mind!” And how does Duella feel about being known primarily for being the “Dave” referred to in the line “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that”? “If I’m remembered for one movie only, then what a film to choose!”