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Review: “LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales” Hits Hyperspace; “Capture the Flag” Doesn’t

by on March 8, 2016

Lego Star Wars Droid TalesLEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales appropriates the same irreverent sense of humor of the LEGO video games to retell the stories of the original and prequel trilogy movies, adding in a slight original story as a framing device. Like the video games, LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales eats its cake and has it too by wholly irreverent while maintaining just enough respect to avoid snarkiness. While I don’t think the five episodes on this DVD have very much to offer to people who don’t know anything about Star Wars, the DVD is funny enough to keep the property’s fans entertained. Its parodies and lampshading of the more ridiculous story elements may even entertain people who don’t like the franchise much.

During the clean-up after the victory party on Endor at the end of Return of the Jedi, C-3PO reveals to the human cast that he and R2-D2 have been involved in the saga since the beginning. This leads to the golden droid recounting his adventures to a rapt audience, at least until he starts talking about trade treaties and political machinations. I find LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales‘s retelling of the prequel story to be infinitely more enjoyable than the actual movies, since they skip all the long-winded boring parts, spray laughing gas over the dumber bits, and hit all the important plot points within two episodes’ time. I fully appreciate George Lucas’ sentiment that he wanted to do something different in the prequel movies than in the original trilogy; my problem is that the movies were awful and the political machinations made absolutely no sense.

To be fair, LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales doesn’t spare the original trilogy movies in its last three episodes, pointing out the bits that don’t really make sense and filling in plot holes with ridiculous explanations (like why Chewbacca was left out of the medal ceremony at the end of the first Star Wars movie). All five episodes are held together with a small framing device involving a mysterious hooded stranger who ends up kidnapping R2-D2, sending C-3PO and Admiral Ackbar across the galaxy pursuing them. The framing story takes up more time as the series goes on, and with minor modifications would probably work out just fine as an actual story in the Star Wars universe. The sense of humor may never truly rise above juvenile, but I still laughed a lot more often than not while watching the DVD.

The animation of LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales is a cut above the average cut scene in the video games, with the inherently limited articulation of a LEGO mini-figure working to the advantage of what I suspect was a limited animation budget. Voice work is all solid, with Anthony Daniels and Billy Dee Williams reprising their roles as C-3PO and Lando Calrissian, respectively. None of the other original cast members make an appearance, which is only disappointing when it comes to the cast of Star Wars Rebels, who appear in the right chronological point of the story to cover C-3PO and R2-D2’s guest appearance on that show. However, the vocal performances all capture the charm of the originals, with Michael Daingerfield doing an especially good job channeling Han Solo. Other than trailers, there are no bonus features on the DVD, but the packaging includes three exclusive LEGO Star Wars trading cards.

Capture the FlagThe worst thing about Capture the Flag are the number of times when a pretty good movie peeks out. There is a solid foundation here, but this CGI Spanish import keeps undermining itself with ludicrous or completely unbelievable plot twists. Young Mike Goldwing is from a family of astronauts: his father Scott has spent his career training for a space mission that doesn’t seem to be coming, while his estranged grandfather Frank was one of the original Apollo mission astronauts who got mysteriously scrubbed from his chance to go to the moon. The plot kicks off when rich energy magnate Richard Carson fans “the moon landing was a hoax” conspiracy theory nonsense as part of a plan to claim the moon and its abundant natural resources for his own. To counter Caron’s plan to get to the moon and destroy all the evidence of the moon landings, NASA pulls an old a Saturn V rocket from mothballs in a desperate ploy to get there first, with Scott Goldwing named as mission commander. The surviving Apollo astronauts also sign on as trainers, and in a surprise twist Scott’s trainer turns out to be his father Frank. Before too long, the plot twists end up getting the youngest and oldest Goldwing on the rocket to the moon, accompanied by Mike’s surfing friend Amy, to try and defeat Carson’s plans to strip-mine the moon.

The core story of a family split apart by old wounds is solid, as is the idea that spit and elbow grease can get astronauts back into outer space and on the moon. There are several moments in Capture the Flag that are admirable, but the movie keeps falling back on cliches and truly ridiculous plot twists that are cartoon-ish in a pejorative sense. This unfortunate tendency is probably best encapsulated by Richard Carson himself, who never rises above the level of a grotesque caricature and whose entire plan fails even the most rudimentary smell tests. Unfortunately, his plan to steal “helium-3” from the moon as an inexhaustible power supply (and potent weapon) seems like rocket science (if you’ll pardon the pun) compared to the way Mike, Amy, and Frank get launched into space by accident. I’m probably thinking way, way too hard about this, but you have to consciously ignore all of the basic science and practices of space flight to even begin to believe the second and third acts of the movie. I haven’t even gotten to Mike and Amy’s smart/nerdy/chubby friend and his pet lizard, and how their increasingly implausible inventions play a major part in making sure the last third of the movie works. This kind of stretching of the truth is more plausible in something like LEGO Star Wars because that flavor of science fiction never even tries to give a veneer of scientific plausibility. Capture the Flag is decidedly set in this world, which makes all the scientific stretches and hand-waving much less forgivable.

The animation of Capture the Flag is not bad, with the highlight probably being the sequences when our three heroes are weightless and when they are on the moon. Paramount imported this movie as a bare-bones DVD, with no bonus features to speak of. Normally, I would ding an animation import for failing to include the original language soundtrack, but it turns out that Capture the Flag recorded and animated to the English language soundtrack before localizing for Spain. There’s nothing too overtly horrible about Capture the Flag, but if you’re interested in a solid, moving story about reaching for the stars, I suggest the Freedom anime instead.
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