Tag Archives: batman

Why THE LEGO MOVIE works like magic

Movies based on toys, or cartoons from the ’80s designed to sell toys, tend to suck like Electrolux.

THE LEGO MOVIE is a happy exception to this rule. It’s worth talking about how they accomplished that trick.

They didn’t do it with snazzy special effects and big-name actors. Just about every film based on toys has great CGI explosions and big actors who aren’t so big that they won’t cash a giant check: BATTLESHIP had Liam Neeson, TRANSFORMERS had Megan Fox, G.I. JOE movies have had the Rock and Bruce Willis.

What makes this movie about interlocking bricks any different?

Reason Number 1: The Humility to Make Fun of Yourself

You don’t see the other toy movies doing this. They try hard–too hard–to be serious, and real, and only tangentially related to all the toys they want your kids to buy.

THE LEGO MOVIE has the guts to poke fun at itself, not once or twice, but during the entire film. Relentlessly. Brutally. Hilariously.

Reason Number 2: Subverting and Smashing Conventional Storytelling

This is the real secret. THE LEGO MOVIE picks up typical Hollywood structure by the throat and body slams it to the asphalt.

A normal action movie features a cartoon hero (Schwarzenegger or Stallone, Bruce Lee or Bruce Willis) who’s tough and cool in Act 1 and doesn’t change by Act 3. In fact, this hero doesn’t change, suffer or grow in any of the sequels.

Instead, the writers of this movie picked a hero who’s an Everyman that the prophecy says will become great and powerful, and save the world … except he never really gets those powers, and the prophet (Morgan Freeman!) admits in the end that he made it all up. There is no prophecy.

In parallel, the screenwriters take Batman, who stands in for your typical cool/tough hero, and show that he’s actually a hot mess. Is he still tough and capable? Sure. But you see the real man behind the façade, and it’s funny and insightful.

The villain is where the writers truly nail it.

In a typical action movie, there’s a cartoon villain doing evil things for no apparent reason other than he’s a villain and that’s what they do. Then in the finale, the hero kills the villain in a dramatic one-on-one gunfight, swordfight or fistfight.

Not this time.

The villain in the Lego world is President Business, whose secret identity is Lord Business, and his evil plan is to freeze the Legos into position with his super weapon, the Kragle (Krazy Glue) while the hero is the only one who can stop him with the Piece of Resistance (the cap to the Krazy Glue).

The writers make the bold choice to break POV here, to switch over to the real world for the first time, showing a little boy playing with a city of Legos in the basement. It’s a museum that his father set up, with signs everywhere warning against not touching what has been perfectly constructed based on the exact instructions.

These aren’t toys, his father tells him. They’re interconnecting plastic construction modules.

In real life and the Lego world, the hero doesn’t win by killing the villain, who has the upper hand. There’s no miracle comeback by the good guys.

The Lego hero echoes the language of the little boy and convinces Lord Business / Dad in Real Life that he doesn’t have to do this, that he’s the most amazing and talented person, who could build anything, and that it doesn’t have to be this way.

There’s an acid test for any story, when you’re trying to figure out who’s the hero. Sometimes, it’s not obvious.

In this movie, the person who makes the biggest leap is the villain, who gains insight and makes the decision to reverse course and allow his son (and daughter) to play with what had become a Lego museum, a no-fun zone.

A brave and brilliant choice, and to me, that’s what makes the movie different.

Bonus featurette:

Related posts:

###

Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award and is represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.

Leave a comment

Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday, Fiction, The Big Screen

A montage set to music: The best movies of 2013

Movies are all around us. Kind of like the Force, before George Lucas ruined it with all that claptrap about midichloridians or whatever.

Films live inside your TV, your iPhone, your laptop. They’re sitting on shiny metal disks and even being celebrated in these insanely large and dark stadiums where you pay $12 for popcorn and a Diet Coke that costs 20 cents.

And if you’re anything like me, movies are something magical.

So there’s this professional movie critic, David Ehrlich, a man you’d think only takes joy in ripping apart SMURFS 3: ARE WE THERE YET, PAPA SMURF while praising some black-and-white existential French movie where the hero finally kisses the girl and promptly gets hit by a bus–well, you’d think critics like him wouldn’t create something so joyful and beautiful as this.

Except of course he would. Why does anybody become a movie critic, book reviewer or rock journalist? Because they love nothing more than movies, books and making fun of Axl Rose and Vanilla Ice trying to stage a comeback.

So tell me, peoples of the Series of Tubes: which movies in 2013 make your top three?

Related posts:

###

Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award and is represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.

 

3 Comments

Filed under 3 Tinseltown Tuesday, The Big Screen

THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2 skips right to three villains, which is nuts

So, it’s the second movie in the series that already had three movies in its previous incarnation. So let’s skip the usual insane pattern of having two villains and go straight to three: Electro, the Green Goblin and Rhino. Seriously?

This is getting a smidge ridiculous. Will we see four villains in the third movie and five in the fourth? The original trilogy of Spiderman movies starring Tobey Maguire went like this:

SPIDERMAN: one hero, one villain (Green Goblin, played by Sergeant Elias from PLATOON). Well done.

SPIDERMAN 2: one hero, two villains (Doc Octopus and James Franco, who likes to write novels while going back to college, plays the angry Son of Green Goblin by using all of the acting range of that dude who played Anakin Skywalker).

SPIDERMAN 3: one hero, three villains (Sandman, Venom and grumpy Son of Green Goblin).

THOR also followed this silly formula, with one villain in the first movie (Loki) and two villains in the second (angry pasty space elf plus Loki again).

The first movie that started our current comic-book movie craze, the original Batman directed by Captain Crazypants (love you, man), had one hero (the Batman, by Michael Keaton when he had hairs), one villain (the Joker by that dude from THE SHINING) and Alec Baldwin’s ex-wife No. 2 or whatever as the girl for Batman to kiss.

Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under 3 Tinseltown Tuesday, The Big Screen

Why Hollywood is plagued by The Invincible Hero problem

Now that the Avengers have assembled into a giant machine that prints dollar bills, the X-Men are getting rebooted and Batman/Superman are teaming up to create billions more for an entirely different set of studio executives who live across the street from the Marvel folks, there’s something we need to discuss.

Because there’s a common problem with all of these movies–except for Batman, and we’ll get to that.

The Invincible Hero problem.

I’ve seen all three movies involving Thor and his hammer, and yes, the hammer has some crazy Norse name, and even though I’m a Swede nobody knows how to really pronounce the thing. IT’S A HAMMER.

Those movies are fun, and great, but tell me this: how do you hurt Thor, or kill him?

Because I don’t have a clue.

So there’s hundreds of millions of dollars in CGI explosions happening, and Iron Man grabbing Thor to fly him into trees and a cliff and such, but all amazing special effects that cost more than my house and your house and every dollar we’ll ever make in our lifetime, well, they don’t really move me, because I’m never worried about Thor being injured or killed.

You can throw the man around, blow him up, stab him with Loki’s sneaky dagger, punch him with the Hulk, and none of that really matters. The only proven way to hurt Thor is to remove Natalie Portman from the picture. 

The first Thor movie was better than the sequel because for a good chunk of it Thor didn’t have his powers. He was just a man who could get hurt, lose a fight or even die, and it was his willingness to sacrifice himself and die that made Odin restore his powers.

See, when a hero is invincible, you don’t worry about them. And when you don’t worry about them, you stop caring about bullets and thugs and whatever else the villain is throwing around.

Superman is the worst offender. When you look at heroes on the screen like Wolverine and Captain America, they don’t seem to get hurt, since both guys regenerate and such. But they’re powers aren’t crazy like the boy from Krypton, who can (a) run faster than a speeding bullet, (b) fly, including going into space without needing to breathe, (c) shoot heat rays from his eyes when they’re not (d) busy taking x-rays of your bones, (e) ice anything with frost breath, (f) move so fast he GOES BACK IN TIME and (g) 17 other powers I don’t have time to list.

When you’re so powerful and invincible that tank shells bounce off your skin (Superman, Hulk) or armored suit (Iron Man), it’s hard to ramp things up without jumping the shark. Should we have Hulk get hit by a comet, or throw Superman into a black hole to see what happens? Also, no barber could cut Superman’s hair or trim his beard, right? He’d look like the lost fourth member of ZZ Top.

Batman is a better, more interesting hero because he’s simply a man. You know his bones can break, that the villain can truly hurt or kill him. It matters.

Hollywood could fix this problem, if it cared to, by setting up in each of these bazillion-dollar stories not just how cool the hero is and what amazing things he or she can do.

Tell us, up front in Act 1, what the hero can’t do. Show us a few weaknesses and how they can get hurt or even killed. Because then in Act 2 and 3, we’ll care a lot more about those CGI explosions and bullets as part of the story instead of eye candy that doesn’t really affect the story.

Related posts:

###

Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award and is represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.

17 Comments

Filed under 3 Tinseltown Tuesday, The Big Screen

MAN OF STEEL and the Invincible Hero Problem

As a non-fan of the Superman, I can honestly say this: MAN OF STEEL is far, far better than expected.

It’s like Zack Snyder took the only good parts of PROMETHEUS (cool spaceships and outfits!), stuffed it into a blender with INDEPENDENCE DAY (aliens are coming to blow up the planet!) and added with a dash of Wolverine (hairy shirtless tough guy wanders planet, doing random good deeds).

Russell Crowe is surprisingly awesome in MAN OF STEEL. Who knew?

Russell Crowe is surprisingly awesome in MAN OF STEEL. Who knew?

I mean all that in a good way.

HOWEVER: The world doesn’t need another review of Soupman’s latest reboot. What the world needs is a real discussion of a real problem that Superman and other heroes can’t seem to shake.

They’re invincible. And that, friends, is crazy boring.

Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under 2 Music Video Monday

Honest trailer: THE AVENGERS

 

Oh, this is well-done.

I liked THE AVENGERS and THOR, along with CAPTAIN AMERICA and IRON MAN, though I do agree that IRON MAN 2 was smothered in useless sidekick nonsense.

Favorite line: “Witness the excitement … of Iron Man fixing a spaceship for 20 minutes.”

Related:

Hollywood: Sidekicks do NOT need their own stupid sidekicks

Seven movie clichés that must be NUKED FROM ORBIT

Top 5 reasons Batman crushes the nancypants known as Superman

Why PROMETHEUS was such a Big Movie Mess

The worst movie poster OF ALL TIME

Movie trailer critique: THE AVENGERS and TOTAL RECALL

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under 3 Tinseltown Tuesday, The Big Screen

Here’s how that movie should have ended

You’ve been there: sitting in a dark theater for two hours, with sticky unknown substances on the soles of your shoes and your wallet $23 lighter, and you’re thinking, “If the director and the seven different screenwriters given credit for this movie had spent FIVE MINUTES on the major plot holes in this stinker, it would’ve been a fine movie.”

All true.

This is why the folks at How It Should Have Ended have jobs.

Here are my favorites, and these are movies that I actually love (except for SPIDERMAN 3).

Big honking bonus: A recurring thing is cutting to Batman and Superman, sitting in a cafe while sipping coffee and talking smack about these movies and each other. I like it, I love it, I want some more of it.

How It Should Have Ended: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

How It Should Have Ended: THE DARK KNIGHT

How It Should Have Ended: THE AVENGERS

How It Should Have Ended: SPIDERMAN 3

###

Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

3 Comments

Filed under 3 Tinseltown Tuesday, The Big Screen

Storytelling secrets from a 4-year-old boy pretending to be Batman

There’s a funny little post on reddit that actually gives us (1) a nice laugh and (2) a great little lesson in writing.

Here’s the story:

At the grocery store he’s running around doing superhero moves with a fierce expression and making kind of a spectacle of himself. A lady says, “Hello, young man, what’s your name?”

In a little kids’ version of a growly voice, he says “I’m Batman.”

The lady laughs. “I mean, what’s your real name?”

Again: “I’m BATMAN!”

“No, what’s your actual real name?”

(long pause)

“Bruce Wayne.”

As a father and a fan of Batman, I love this.

As a writer, I see a story in 66 words. How many words could you kill without hurting the story? Not many.

Everything has a purpose.

If you read this silly blog, you know about setups and payoffs, which are essential tools for writers of all sorts, whether you’re a blogger, a journalist, a speechwriter or a novelist finishing a 242,000-word epic about elves with lightsabers riding dragons. (Sidenote: I keep waiting for somebody to actually write this Jedi elf saga as a parody, or send me a link to the actual books, because THEY MUST EXIST.)

This little story has multiple setups that all pay off with the last line. It’s beautifully done and the laugh comes not just from the surprise, but from all those careful setups.

Bonus Video: little kid instructs adult in proper Batman voice

Bonus Photo: The many moods of Batman

the many moods of batman

###

Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

11 Comments

Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday

Top 5 reasons Batman crushes the nancypants known as Superman

Now, I’m not saying that Batman would kick Superman’s keister in a fist-fight. No.

Though there is a hilarious series of posts over on The Correctness where they have Batman, Superman, Wolverine and other super heroes fight to the death, tournament style, each time debating who would win and why. It is amazing. Go read it.

I’m saying something different: that Batman is more far more interesting, cool and entertaining than the man who wears blue and red pajamas.

On to the reasons:

5) Batman movies rule, Superman movies drool

Comic books are a separate shebang, and the comic book nerds dive so deep into the Batman and Superman policy weeds that they Confuse me, because when it comes to the comics, I am a Bear of Little Brain.

Movies are something we all know and love, and it doesn’t take a lifetime of reading back issues of Detective Comics to say that THE DARK KNIGHT is 5,982 times better than all of the various Superman movies combined — plus every Transformer, G.I. Joe and My Little Pony movie ever created. (No, there is not a My Little Pony movie yet. At least I hope not.)

Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under 3 Tinseltown Tuesday, The Big Screen

BATMAN MAYBE by random funny peoples

CALL ME, MAYBE is a simple little summer pop song, something that’s easy to take apart and mess with.

This is my favorite mashup: BATMAN MAYBE.

They get the actors and costumes right. I like it, I love it, I want some more of it.

Just because I can, here are the lyrics:

I rang your Wayne Manor bell
Your secrets I’ll never tell
But things aren’t going so well
Oh yeah and by the way,

This Harvey Dent day is crap
I know that you took the wrap
Its been eight years and no bat
And so I gotta say

Your dread was holding
Smoke bombs you were throwing
Dark Knight, cape was flowin
What the hell you doing lately!?

Hey, when I met you
It was crazy
A Lamborghini
And two hot ladies

You tried to look like
You were happy
But you were batman
And really angry

Hey, when I met you
You were crazy
You drove a Tumbler
Through Gotham City

And all the orphan boys
Tried to haze me
I know you’re batman
So stop being lazy

They say you’re pissing in jars
You got long nails and weird scars
And that you don’t drive your cars
Oh yeah and by the way

I think this cat lady steals,
She’s doing back flips in heels
Acting like its no big deal
And did I mention bane.

His fame is growing
Weird mask muscles showin’
Almost killed Jim Gordon
What you gonna do about it!?

Hey, When I met you
It was crazy
You drove a Tumbler
In Gotham city

It’s hard to walk right
With a bad knee
Go see a doctor
A leg brace maybe

Hey when I met you,
You were crazy
You used a sky hook
To kidnapp Chinese

This Harvey Dent day
It don’t phaze me
We need the batman
So quit being lazy

Before you were the Dark Knight
Gotham was so bad
It was so bad
I mean like so so bad

Before you were the Dark Knight
Gotham was so bad
Now we miss batman
So just be bat bat-man

It’s hard fight crime
From the east wing
So ride your bat pod
And shoot that gun thing

Hey when I met you,
You were crazy
You drove a Tumbler
Through Gotham City

And all The orphan boys
Tried to haze me
I know you’re batman
So stop being lazy

Before this Bane guy steals your cash
Just shave your mustache
shave off your mustache
Just shave off your mustache

Don’t put on the batman mask
With a mustache
Just shave your mustache
There is no bat-man-stache

###

Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

Leave a comment

Filed under 2 Music Video Monday