Not since Justice League Mortal was nearly thrust into production while Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy was in full swing (the former was canceled in the latest stages of pre-production) has there been time when Warner Bros. was set to release two different versions of Batman around the same time. That’s exactly what we'll get next year when Justice League and The Lego Batman Movie both arrive in theaters in 2017.
Both films got very exciting teasers at San Diego Comic Con this year, though admittedly, the live-action Dark Knight got a bit more attention. While the DCEU is poised to continue its live-action dark and gritty saga, The Lego Batman Movie is looking primed to add a bit of fun and levity to Warner Brother’s release slate and the popular image of their DC heroes.
If the previous Lego movie is any indication, we should be in for an imaginative, hilarious treat. For now, here are 15 Things You Need To Know About The Lego Batman Movie!
15 CHRIS MCKAY IS DIRECTING.
Chris McKay was the editor of the original Lego Movie produced by Warner Animation Group. Now he’s been tapped to take the director’s chair for The Lego Batman Movie. If the movie’s trailers are any indication, he’s doing a fine job of continuing the look and the sense of humor for the franchise.
McKay does have plenty of experience with loving parodies of pop culture characters and series. He was the director/editor of Robot Chicken from 2005 to 2011. and he also helmed the Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III hour-long special. Obviously, the Lego movies are aiming for a more general audience than Robot Chicken, but it looks as though the former have been able to find plenty of humor to mine. Not only is there a vast catalog of Batman and superhero movie tropes to send up, but the Lego conceit itself was consistently fun in The Lego Movie as well.
14 ORIGINAL LEGO MOVIE DIRECTORS PHIL LORD AND CHRIS MILLER ARE PRODUCING
Phil Lord and Chris Miller have been quietly making some of your favorite contemporary comedies since the new millennium. The first feature film they directed together was the Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs Movie. And if they could make a darling animated action comedy out of that relatively obscure children’s book, one might have been able to predict the awesome success they would have with such a well-known brand as Lego.
Lord and Miller also directed 21 Jump Street and its sequel with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. Their particular brand of slapstick action comedy was a natural fit for The Lego Movie, and their ongoing string of hits have allowed them to take on several major projects, including work for both Marvel and DC. Their biggest film to date, a Han Solo origin film, is set to hit theaters in 2018. With Lord and Miller staying on as producers for Warner Animation Group’s projects for the planned future, you can expect a lot of the spirit of the original Lego Movie to remain intact.
13 WARNER ANIMATION GROUP IS RUNNING THE SHOW
Let us never forget that Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon division studios gave us such classic series as The Looney Toons and The Animaniacs. The studios have also developed numerous animated films and TV series based on DC characters licensed to Warner Bros., including the classic Batman: The Animated Series.
The latest incarnation of Warner Brothers’ animation division is Warner Animation Group, and their first big screen outing was The Lego Movie. Way to hit the ground running, folks!
Besides more animated Lego adventures, WAG announced in 2015 that they have feature films planned for a whole host of traditionally 2-D animated properties, including Adventure Time, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo, Speedy Gonzales and Bone. If all goes well, WAG could become just as widely-acclaimed and prominent as Dreamworks and Pixar have become today. They’ve also got their first original IP feature animated film coming up in late 2016, called Stork, featuring Andy Samberg, Kelsey Grammer and Jennifer Aniston as some of the voice talent.
12 WILL ARNETT IS REPRISING HIS VOICE ROLE AS BATMAN
Lord and Miller were clearly on to something when they decided to make Batman the most prominent pop culture character in The Lego Movie’s main team of heroes. He’s the only non-original character in Emmet’s crew. Batman may have been the highest profile character Warner Brothers could legally use for this team slot, but there’s no question that the Dark Knight is a genuine pop culture icon anyway.
Will Arnett has had several hammy vocal roles in animated works like Despicable Me, Ratatouille, and Bojack Horseman. He was able to turn that comedic talent into a hilarious skewering of the gravelly, real-art-is-dark aesthetic that Hollywood seems determined to use with the Caped Crusader. The Lego Movie showed us it’s perfectly okay to laugh at how silly that attitude can come across as at times.
It looks as though the Lego Batman Movie is taking that parody to its logical conclusion by having the whole movie subject to humanizing comedy.
11 THERE'S AN IMPRESSIVE SUPPORTING VOICE CAST
Ralph Fiennes has been a bit type cast as a stern, British authority figure, but he’s also had a few goes at comedy and nurturing assistant parts (see: Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, where he upstaged almost everybody as a foppish Concierge at a high end hotel). We got our first tastes of his performance as Alfred in the two most recent trailers for The Lego Batman Movie. His more realistic mannerisms seem to make a great foil to Batman’s antics.
Is there anybody better suited to voice a dweeby fanboy than Michael Cera, who's set to star as Robin? The SDCC trailer makes him seem like what would happen if a young Emmet from the first Lego Movie was given the opportunity to become the Boy Wonder. And so far, it’s looking pretty damn funny! We haven’t seen or heard more than a glimpse of Zack Galifanakis as The Joker, but he’s got plenty comedy experience to bring forth. And we haven't even gotten to our (presumed) leading lady.
10 ROSARIO DAWSON’S BATGIRL ALTER EGO WILL BE BARBARA GORDON
Speaking of, IMDB tells us that the Lego figure character behind the Batgirl mask will be Barbara Gordon. Any Batman fan will tell you that Barbara Gordon is the daughter of Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon, and arguably the most famous alter ego of the distaff counterpart superheroine. Barbara Gordon was actually the second character to appear as Batgirl. Dick Grayson, the circus acrobat heir, is the original and definitely one of the most famous characters to use the Robin mantle. So the Lego Batman Movie seems to be going with the most famous incarnations of each of Batman’s sidekicks, at least for basic inspiration.
Do the presence of these particular classic versions of Robin and Batgirl hint at any potential story beats or character dynamics that the film will incorporate from the comics or prior movies? We could probably rule out Barbara’s paralysis at the hands of the Joker from The Killing Joke since it’s too dark for the Lego universe. Perhaps she’ll be The Lego Batman Movie’s Wild Style -- with her own characterization to boot.
9 EXPECT CAMEOS FROM OTHER LEGO DC SUPERHEROES/BATMAN VILLAINS
So far we’ve had two quick shots of the lineup of DC Comics heroes and the Batman rogues gallery getting knocked down like bowling pins before a pair of batarangs. The heroes included Superman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Green Arrow. And the villains included Bane, Catwoman, The Riddler, Poison Ivy, The Penguin, Harley Quinn, Two Face, Clay Face, Killer Croc, Mr. Freeze and Scarecrow.
We can’t reasonably expect that all of these characters will be major players in the film. It’s more likely that since it’s The Lego Batman Movie, we’ll see pretty much all DC characters filling out the lip service references, whereas The Lego Movie included Lego Abraham Lincoln, Michelangelo, Dumbledore and Shaquille O’Neal. But by the same token, we can expect at least a few of the DC characters to play more pivotal parts. Perhaps a few of them will serve as expository humor and action to introduce Lego Gotham City.
8 WIZ KHALIFA'S "BLACK AND YELLOW" WILL FEATURE PROMINENTLY
You think when Wiz Khalifa debuted “Black and Yellow” in 2010 that he expected the song would get new life though being used in a Lego Batman Movie trailer? Probably not, but we're sure he doesn’t mind. We imagine DMX was equally enthused when Deadpool brought “X Gon' Give It To Ya” back, a song that was released way back in 2003.
“Black and Yellow” is a great choice to underscore the parody of contemporary Batman. The song is about the hottest, coolest, dopest, illest, badest mudda in town, and that’s exactly what Batman wants to be in this movie. Both Christopher Nolan’s and Zack Snyder’s takes on the character are so determined to make Batman a deathly serious character, and the Lego Batman skewers that by taking out all subtlety and having Batman try way too hard to be cool and hip.
7 THIS BATMAN HAS ALSO ADOPTED HIS WARD, ROBIN
The SDCC trailer for The Lego Batman Movie has finally given us a few clues regarding the plot of the film. Apparently, Bruce Wayne sarcastically adopted an orphaned young man while attending a Gala, one who somehow found his way back to the Batcave. This would reasonably explain the line, “Wait! Does Batman live in Bruce Wayne’s basement?” as well as the following response, “No! Bruce Wayne lives in Batman’s Attic.”
It doesn’t really explain why Dick Grayson looks like the titular character from Where’s Waldo before he becomes Robin. We also don’t really know if the young man will share the acrobatic origins with his comic inspiration, or how he and Bruce Wayne end up at the same Gala in Gotham. We saw in The Lego Movie that even as his public persona, this take on Bruce Wayne can be flamboyant and careless. We’ll probably have to wait til the movie premieres to find out exactly how Bruce Wayne “adopts” his young ward.
6 ALFRED IS BASICALLY THE PARENT TO BRUCE'S RAMBUNCTIOUS TEENAGER
Many of the animated and live-action versions of Alfred have become a surrogate father figure to Bruce Wayne, especially Michael Caine’s in the Dark Knight Trilogy and Michael Gough in the Burton/Schumacher films. But it is in keeping with the trying-to-be-edgy-and-cool Batman that Alfred is even more the nurturing, grounded voice of reason in The Lego Batman Movie.
Almost every incarnation of Alfred has questioned the healthiness of Batman’s mission, but The Lego Batman Movie uses that dynamic to really paint Batman in a juvenile light. Ralph Fiennes’s Alfred is warning Bruce about staying up late every night and engaging the parental lock on his bat-shaped super computer, not to mention leaving microwavable lobster dishes in the fridge for whenever Batman gets home from saving the city.
We’ll have to wait and see how much Batman takes Alfred’s advice to heart, and how much the movie delves into their relationship, but we expect it to be a vocal point -- perhaps more so than ever before.
5 WILL ARNETT AND MICHAEL CERA HAVE WORKED TOGETHER BEFORE
Arrested Development was one of the lucky TV series to get a new lease on life after its premature cancellation on FOX in 2006. After 4 original seasons, a fifth season was released exclusively on Netflix in 2013 to reinvigorate interest in the series.
Did Warner Animation Group or Chris McKay have Michael Cera in mind for Robin all along when they picked Will Arnett to voice Batman? Because it seems like the Batman and Robin dynamic in The Lego Batman Movie is suspiciously similar to Gob and George Michael’s interactions.
One main difference we might expect in Batman and Robin’s relationship is that Batman genuinely seems to care about Robin when he gets in real danger, like when he promises to have Alfred install seatbelts in the Batmobile. Perhaps that’s a sign of Batman’s potential to be a real do-gooder and father figure despite his aloofness -- we can't say the same for Gob Bluth.
4 EXPECT REFERENCES FROM THE WHOLE CATALOG OF BIG SCREEN BATMAN.
Alfred basically promised as much when he meta-referenced the entire live action history of Warner Brothers Batman films, from the DCU to Christopher Nolan to Tim Burton to Joel Schumacher. And of course Adam West.
Based on what we’ve seen of the Batcave and Wayne Manor so far, it’s hard to pin down any specific Batman film era that the film is drawing from. The Lego visuals of the film certainly give the settings and the characters a lot more color than what we’ve seen in recent live action Batman movies. We know the main villain of the movie will be the Joker, but will his plots be reminiscent of Jack Nicholson’s Joker?
What will Gotham look like? Will it be cartoonishly gothic and permanently overcast? What sort of little detail references and main-joke call backs will the movie make? If the trailers aren’t even afraid to remind us of Batman and Robin, no version is off limits. Expect easter eggs galore, folks.
3 THE MOVIE IS STILL A PART OF THE LEGO CINEMATIC UNIVERSE
Remember that part in The Lego Movie where Wild Style described all the different Lego realms that existed in the movie’s universe? Gotham City is apparently part of one of those realms, as this film takes place in the same universe as the 2014 outing that proceeded it. Does that mean that Lord Business’s schemes were affecting Gotham City as well during the climax of The Lego Movie, but off-screen?
Just how much this Batman spinoff will focus on the previous film remains to be seen. Are there micromanager wrecks littered around Gotham? Who protected Gotham while Batman was fighting in Bricksburg? Will any of the main original characters introduced in The Lego Movie make cameos in The Lego Batman Movie? We're still not even sure if this spinoff is technically a prequel or a sequel, but depending on when The Lego Batman Movie is set in relation to the original, real-world characters like Finn and his dad (Will Ferrell) could also make an appearance.
2 LEGO BATMAN HAS BEEN IN SEVERAL MOVIES ALREADY
DC has made a lot of animated films based on their arsenal of comic book characters, going back to 1993 with Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. The DC Lego movies are much more recent, but they’ve been steadily cranked out as well. The first was Lego Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite in 2013, followed by four other films in the Lego DC Comics Super Heroes series.
Now we have The Lego Batman Movie (alternatively titled Lego Batman: The Movie, in case you weren’t confused enough already). The previous DC Lego movies with Batman were all direct-to-DVD or TV movie releases. Warner Animation Group has proven once already that they can take a super commercialized property like Lego and find something both entertaining and genuine to tell with it. Add in the opportunity to send up one of the most famous superheroes of all time, and it should make for great movie.
1 NINJAGO LEGO MOVIE 2 ARE ON THE WAY
The Lego Ninjago Movie will be the first cinematic spinoff based on one of Lego’s own original properties. It already has Charlie Bean set as director and Phil Lord and Chris Miller as producers, among others. The main voice cast was announced in June, including Dave Franco, Michael Peña, Kumail Nanjiani, Zach Woods, Fred Armisen, and Abbi Jacobson as a sextet of secret high school ninja who defend their home Island of Ninjago from villains and monsters. Jackie Chan has been tapped to play their mentor, Sensei Wu.
And of course, Warner Animation Group has already begun planning The Lego Movie Sequel. We don’t have any details on plot yet, but Lord and Miller will continue producing and Rob Schrab is set to direct. Presumably, most of the main voice cast will be back as well. The Lego Ninjago Movie is due for release in September 22nd, 2017 and The Lego Movie Sequel is due February 8th, 2019, so there's plenty of big screen Lego goodness to look forward to!
Are you looking forward to the Caped Crusader's next Lego film? Sound off in the comments.