-While the animated DC adaptation is worth the risk, there’s a reason this horror franchise was dead for so many years.

The LEGO Batman Movie puts DC in an interesting situation. If it is overly successful, everything that their live-action franchise has come to stand for will be cast into doubt. Could you imagine an animated Batman movie drawing more fan success than the real-deal?

After the complete flop of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. has worked with the developers of 2014’s big animated hit The LEGO Movie to make something that’s surprisingly unique, but also have hindered the Batman character beyond what even the Bat-Fleck has done with the property due to bastardizing him for the sake of this children’s movie. The movie has its cake and eats it too in that they capitalize on the appeal of Batman, but also denigrate him for his more unrealistic aspects.

Will Arnett is Batman, a self-obsessed vigilante who has won the hearts of the city, but has not expanded his personal circle in some time, spending all of his time either alone, or with his butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes). However, Batman starts to really realize his faults when the new police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) tells him that the city needs his cooperation, not him just standing alone. This is amplified when he adopts a young orphan named Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) who craves his attention. While Batman struggles with bringing his personal life up to speed, the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) is devising a plan to have Batman acknowledge, once and for all, that he is his greatest enemy, and that he needs the Joker to feel complete.

Parts of The LEGO Batman Movie are very quick and funny, resulting in a tone that is very similar to the first movie, but it does occasionally overdo it on the jokes. Scenes of Batman rapping or aimlessly beat-boxing does grow tiresome and irks the viewer, while some of the sillier elements, like Joker just wanting acknowledgement, work throughout the entire run-time. The biggest drawback to the kids movie formula is that the attempt to shoehorn in too much humor or an emotional lesson does take away from the movie’s environment, so as an adult, seeing Batman in this way is fun for awhile, but you probably won’t love the entire thing.

The jokes that work the best are actually those that make fun of Batman’s various “phases,” and give plenty of good references to the comics for fans of the character. In a way, the superfluous zingers thrown out by Will Arnett are always backed with some dig at his lessor moments in the comic’s history. I like this portrayal, despite the emotional drawbacks that make the movie just slightly too kid-friendly, enough to say that Arnett fits into the Kevin Conroy model of needing inclusion when talking about the best Batmen with fans. I don’t know that any portrayal will ever be Christian Bale, but these animated voices definitely try to make it close between Conroy from the Animated Series and the Arkham games and Arnett of these Lego adaptations.

The animation is still brilliant, and the action ‘scenes’ are special. The way that the Gotham City vision is established is awesome. Don’t go into the film just expecting Batman universe, either, there are some pop culture references and characters that help Warner Bros. use their property to the fullest. I won’t spoil who shows up, but it’s totally worth seeing just for the final scenes, anyway. So, in sum, I can’t overly dock a movie just because the kids’ humor didn’t really land for me. I liked enough of it to still recommend it for adults, and I’m sure the kids will really enjoy it as well.

 

3 stars

The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)

Genre: Family/Animation

Director: Chris McKay (“Robot Chicken,” involvement in The LEGO Movie)

Starring: Will Arnett, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, and Zach Galifianakis

RT Score: 91%

 


 

Call me a complete sucker, but I went into Rings with at least a smidgen of expectation, mainly because of how special the initial film was. Gore Verbinski made a very special American horror movie with his adaptation of 2002’s The Ring and the subsequent sequels have only managed to hurt the legacy that The Ring leaves behind. While horror reboots generally are critical failures, Rings tries to do something new with the material, but only manages to further muddle the confusing plotting and cease to provide any substantial scares.

This time, Samara’s cursed video tape is being investigated by a college professor (Johnny Galecki) who has successfully avoided a tape-related death for some time. Enter our main character Julia (Matilda Lutz) who watches the tape after her boyfriend (Alex Roe) participates in the study led by the professor. Rather than see exactly what the tape always shows, Julia discovers a video within the video that puts her on a whole new expedition for truth, as the normal seven-day framework doesn’t seem to be applying to her.

The biggest compliment to give Rings is that it wonderfully manages to work through the inconsistencies and try to develop new ground in this now well-worn franchise. Some of the newer stuff that occurs is occasionally scary. However, the constant need to put us back into ‘The Ring’ formula takes away from any of the director’s vision. Take the opening scene for example, where we spend the first ten minutes watching characters we’ll never see again die on a plane because “wow, Samara is on a plane.”

Further, there’s just something not as special about having these characters view the cursed video through a smart phone. Perhaps it’s that The Ring hasn’t aged that well, but I also think that the further we delve into the mythology, the LESS it’s going to make sense. The right way to go about this thing would be to just let Samara be evil and do her thing, there’s no reason to, every single movie, find a way that we can establish her being evil as a result of some kind of abuse. First it was her adopted mother, now it was her natural born father, and everyone around her doesn’t show her sympathy because she’s a demonic psychopath. The ‘rebirth’ ending is pretty spooky, but outside of that, there’s really nothing worthwhile in this completely timid and flat sequel/reboot.

 

1.5 stars

Rings (2017)

Genre: Horror

Director: F. Javier Gutierrez (Before the Fall)

Starring: Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Bonnie Morgan

RT Score: 7%

 

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