The Zookeeper’s Wife

There are many tales of World War 2 bravery which have provided much dramatic fuel for cinema since it ended in 1945. Many have been harrowing accounts of atrocities and evil done in the name of nationalism. There have been others which have been uplifting amongst the horror with the best of humanity seen through the worst. Derived from Diane Ackerman’s non-fiction book, ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ is a generally interesting story of defiance against the might of scurrilous oppression.

Dr Jan Zabinksi (Johan Heidenbergh) and his wife Antonina (Jessica Chastain) are the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo. When Poland is invaded by the Nazis in 1939, their world falls apart. Witnessing their Jewish friends in the Warsaw ghetto go through hell, they decide to act. Jan and Antonina strive to save as many as possible by using their zoo as a hiding place for the desperate and persecuted. With the German army ever present, the constant danger they face leaves their lives hanging in eternal peril.

Any film set during World War 2 has to overcome the obstacle of making it unique. Literally countless stories have been told about the conflict so that we feel we know it all. ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ feels very familiar with Jan and Antonina resisting against tyranny. Their determination to protect friends and strangers was admirable with the threat of death ever present. Niki Caro directs these scenes with the right balance of foreboding atmosphere and optimism.

Where the story falters slightly is not having the courage of its convictions. The script feels very ‘safe’, as if it’s scared to go too much into the realms of the darkness surrounding its characters. This lack of bravery dilutes the emotional intensity with some characters’ actions feeling unconvincing. You don’t feel as drawn into the movie as you should despite good performances. The notion of pure evil and how trust is abused is effectively conveyed as those involved cope with the horrors faced.

Not as memorable as it could have been, ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ is a rather routine affair. Little of the eternal darkness of the surrounds is truly felt with a screenplay pulling its punches. War is still hell no matter the script’s quality with the real-life bravery of those standing up to injustice one that should always be applauded.

Rating out of 10: 6

The Lego Batman Movie

The director of the 1997 film ‘Batman & Robin’ once called it ‘toyetic’. He meant it was purely a vehicle to sell more toys and related merchandise. He was right about that notorious mis-fire and he would be with ‘The Lego Batman Movie’. Basically a long Lego commercial, it can’t be anything but ‘toyetic’. Almost as if its makers poured boxes of Lego onto the screen and see what came out, it’s silly but fun. With a new generation embracing the yellow block of plastic, the film’s success won’t hurt sales anytime soon.

Bruce Wayne/Batman (Will Arnett) is having a bad day. Even though he’s the cool dark knight protecting the streets of Gotham City, he wishes his usual hoard of villains would disappear. The Joker (Zach Galifianakis), The Riddler (Conan O’Brien), Two-Face (Billy Dee Williams) and others are making his life miserable. Added to the mix is young orphan Dick Grayson/Robin (Michael Cera) who wants to become Batman’s side-kick. Something has to give as Batman aims to eliminate his rogue’s gallery as they hatch their most audacious plan yet.

‘The Lego Batman Movie’ sets out to be an entertaining mish-mash of the Batman mythology. From the campy 1960’s TV series to the latest dark and brooding version, it’s all here. They are lovingly skewered along with general superhero conventions. The makers of ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ know it won’t win any awards and succeed in generating ongoing fun. It doesn’t hurt having some messages about working with others and asking for help. These are blended well amongst the colourfully cartoonish mayhem.

‘The Lego Batman Movie’ certainly is colourful as it comes alive like a glittering rainbow. All of Batman’s enemies are present and correct and voiced by an enthusiastic cast. That it also has an actual story-line is a credit to the care taken in creating something imaginative than just having a pile of noise and action. The film moves briskly with the myriad of in-jokes coming thick and fast. It also proves you don’t have to be dark and sombre to be noteworthy with Batman finally letting loose after decades of moody outings.

Although ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ is a gratuitous plug for toys, it is a good film in its own right. The animation is great, the characters are engaging and the script is consistently entertaining. This is an all-ages movie anyone can see without any talking down to the audience. Batman has never been more amusing with Lego shining along with Batman’s sleek Batmobile.

Rating out of 10: 7