Spoilers for The Lego Batman Movie
One thing fans have come to expect from the continuing boom of superhero movies is a lot of Easter eggs - be that references to characters' comic pasts or clues towards the future of the franchise. The same is true of Lego, which in 2014 made a gag-heavy existential masterpiece out of brand expansion The Lego Movie. So what happens when you put these two things together? Why, you get an Easter egg smorgasbord so overwhelming it's enough to send you to Arkham Asylum just trying to catalog them all.
So, yes, The Lego Batman Movie is full of in-jokes and references, from winks to the wider Lego-verse to knowing jabs at pretty much every part of the Caped Crusader's history. It'd be impossible to list everything, but we're going to give it our best shot.
Lego Versions of Classic Bat Stories
The Lego Batman Movie manages to bring every single previous Batman outing into its "continuity" in just a couple of short sequences.
First there’s Alfred commenting on the regularity of Bruce’s inner conflict, using it as an opportunity to reference all previous screen iterations. Batman v Superman, The Dark Knight Rises, The Dark Knight, Batman Begins, Batman Forever, Batman Returns and Batman (1989) all get Lego vignettes, while Batman and Robin and Batman (1966) use real movie footage to highlight their ridiculous moments (the bat-nipples and Batman dancing respectively).
It’s not just the movies that get focused on. When Barbara Gordon does her presentation on the state of Gotham crime, she uses various images that honor other iconic stages in Bat-history; The Dark Knight Returns, The Mask of the Phantasm, The Animated Series, the Lewis Wilson serials and Detective Comics #27 all get brick recreations.
Out of all the previous big screen interpretations of Batman, the one the Lego version most repeatedly and pointedly mocks is the Adam West vintage (probably because its comedic leanings are well known).
The most overt reference is the Bat Shark Spray; used by the dynamic duo at the start of the 1966 film, in Lego Batman it's a recurring gag of uselessness until Robin needs it to defeat the shark (Jaws?) from the Phantom Zone. The "Bam! Pow!" style of fighting gets a shoutout, with Batman saying to Robin that hitting goons super hard makes word bubbles appears. This element of the show has been speared incessantly, but it feels somewhat fresh in vibrant Lego format. Additionally, Alfred’s first Bat-suit is a Lego-ified version of West’s (although he later switches it up for a costume more in the style of Dick Tracy). Finally, there's Egghead - the Vincent Price villain is one of the baddies who team up with the Joker at the start.
The classic theme also gets several callbacks in Batman’s various moments of beat-boxing, cementing it as the character’s most defining music.
Tim Burton References
Some more subtle references are made to the other previous Bat-films beyond Alfred's year check.
The first comes very early on when the pilot hijacked by Joker points out how his schemes have been foiled by Batman before, name-checking the time with the two boats (The Dark Knight) and the parade with Prince music (Batman 1989). It's the Tim Burton films (and Michael Keaton’s performance in particular) that seem to most influence the general characterisation of this Batman. This gets an explicit nod when Bats says “let's get nuts” to the Joker in the opening, a nod to the bonkers scene from the 1989 film. Beyond that, the story is pretty much the arc of the Burton/Schumacher films, with the family Batman forms the same as at the end of (whisper it) Batman And Robin.
You can also see some more obscure background elements - the film’s sleek Batmobile is in the Batcave in amongst all the newer, snazzier designs, and Shreck’s Department Store from Returns is in the background of the city.
Because it’s an ongoing series with a lot invested in it, the DCEU doesn’t fall afoul of many jokes in the film – Lego Batman's version of its hero and the wider DC cast are all well apart from their current dark and gritty live-action takes.
However, there are still some nods to Batman v Superman; when Joker tries to get Batman to confirm him as his greatest nemesis, the Caped Crusader instead gravitates towards Superman, despite objections that he's not really a bad guy. And, of course, later a Lego version of their fight scene appears in Alfred’s flashback.
Suicide Squad also gets alluded to later when it’s suggested Batman could use the villains locked up in Arkham to take down Joker and his Phantom Zone crew; Bats questions why you’d ever use criminals to fight criminals.
The Marvel Dig
While The Lego Batman Movie is happy mocking superhero convention and the finer points of the Dark Knight's past, it mostly shirks away from locking on the other, dominant force in superhero cinema: Marvel.
However, the film still gets in a jab against DC’s rivals by making the password to the Bat-cave "Iron Man sucks", a light dig at the MCU’s figurehead and Marvel’s most obvious Batman parallel. It even gets a nice callback later when the full Bat-family gleefully shout it at the end.
Could this be laying the groundwork for a Marvel/DC crossover? It’s a little optimistic, sure, but Who Framed Roger Rabbit put Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny in the same frame, so anything’s possible.
Christopher Reeve's Superman
Most of the superhero movie references are – shocker – aimed at Batman, but the film has a clear affection for Christopher Reeve’s Superman as well.
The general make-up of Superman and his world is based on the classic series – the crystallized Fortress of Solitude most prominently, but the briefly-seen Zod is the Terrence Stamp vintage and Jor-El, who appears in hologram form when Batman breaks into the Fortress, is clearly based on Marlon Brando.
There’s also some sneakier eggs, like the ever-hummable John Williams score playing as Supes’ doorbell.
The Justice League Party
The Justice League don’t play as big a part in The Lego Batman Movie as they have in the character’s mythos (that shot of the gang running in formation isn’t even in the film), but there’s still a lot of gags packed into their single-scene appearance.
The 57th Anniversary party is itself a reference to the age of the JLA – they first appeared in 1960, 57 years ago. Although it should be Green Lantern, not Bats, who’s worried about missing out on the celebrations – he’s the major player set to sit out the live-action Justice League later this year.
The party itself is full of cameos. Aside from Aquaman, Green Lantern and Flash, there’s also Cyborg, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Martian Manhunter, the Wonder Twins, Samurai, El Dorado, Apache Chief and Black Vulcan, who’ve all been part of the team at one point or another. Best of all, Krypto the Superdog is on the decks.
Some big names are brought in for the cast too - Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill and Cobie Smulders return from The Lego Movie to voice Superman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman respectively (and the former even maintain their rocky relationship), while Adam Devine plays Flash.
The Lego Batman Movie goes beyond just riffing on the movies, however, and has great affection for some of the iconic comic elements too.
The excessive, deus ex machina utility belt gets called out when the dynamic duo try to sneak into GCPD, with Bats pulling out ridiculous amounts of questionably useful weapons. There’s also his penchant for storing mementos of victories in the Bat-cave – typified by the giant coin – which is shown with him keeping the Joker’s Gotham-threatening bomb. Best of all, though, is the bevy of vehicles, ranging from the sensible – Batwing – to the bonkers – Bat-space shuttle. So far only some have been made as official sets, but it’s only a matter of time until we get the Bat-kayak.
The film also serves as the introduction of some never-before-seen-on-the-big-screen Bat-ideas, such as Blüdhaven, Gotham’s equally crime-ridden neighbor where Gordon has worked wonders cleaning up crime. In the comics, the city is the regular haunt of Nightwing after he moves on from the Robin position (it may be too much to ask for a gritty Lego Nightwing movie, though).
The (Many) Bat Costumes
One of the most poured over elements of the trailers was Batman’s massive wardrobe of varied Batsuits, a reference to the frankly bonkers variations he’s sported in the past seventy-eight years. There’s a wide range, from all out parodies to sneaky nods to wider Bat-mythology.
On the jokey side, there's Electric Bat, White Bat, Bat By Gaslight, Scu-Bat, St Batricks, El Murcielago, The Batriot, Bat-Hurts 1000, Silent But Deadly, Night Terror, Krampus Bat, Glam Bat, Merbat, Winged Avengers, The Bat Pack, Fairy Batman, Vacation Batman, Catman, Com-Bat, Arctic Bat and, of course, Reggae Man, which forms the basis of Robin's suit.
In terms of proper jokes, there's the Winged Armageddon (which bears a striking resemblance to Keaton's flying suit), Comic-Con Exclusive (a nod to high price variants), Batman Beyond (from the popular future-set serues) and Current Bat (just the main Batsuit from the film). The highlight, though, has to be the Nightwing suit, which Dick dons for brief beat in the finale, acknowledging Robin’s later comic role.
Regardless of if they’re the Joker himself or just a D-list joke, your favorite Batman rogue is probably in The Lego Batman Movie. All the icons are there - Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Riddler, Penguin, Scarecrow, Catwoman, Bane, Clayface and Killer Croc, along with the more obscure likes of Egghead, Calendar Man and, as the movie keeps pointing out, Condiment King.
Most of the characters are designed faithfully off of their comic versions, but some instead hew closer to their movie versions. The most prominent is Two-Face, who finally gives Billy Dee Williams (who played Harvey Dent in Batman 1989) a chance to be the binary coin-tossing villain – the design is a mashup of Williams (who voices) and Tommy Lee Jones’ make-up. Bane also has a movie parallel – although he looks more like the comic version with a wrestler face-mask, he talks in a mimic of Tom Hardy's unforgettable muffled voice.
It’s not just the fact that the characters appear that’s cool, however, but the eclectic voice cast the film assembled for it. Aside from Williams, there's Conan O'Brien as The Riddler, Jason Mantzoukas as Scarecrow, Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Doug Benson as Bane, Kate Micucci as Clayface, and Riki Lindhome as Poison Ivy. And, on the topic of casting, Siri plays ‘Puter, which is kind of genius.
The Phantom Zone Villains
It's worth remembering that The Lego Batman Movie isn’t just another Batman film. It’s also a Lego flick, and as such has that patented “just imagine” creativity that’s made the feet-bothering blocks such a mega franchise. To whit, the rogue's gallery is just the tip of the threat against Bruce Wayne.
In the Phantom Zone, along with Zod, there’s a massive gang of villains from all manner of iconic franchises: Voldemort (Eddie Izzard), King Kong (Seth Green), Daleks (“ask your nerd friends”), The Wicked Witch of the West complete with flying monkeys, the Eye of Sauron (Jermaine Clement), a gaggle of Gremlins, a T-Rex and raptor, a shark, a Creature from the Black Lagoon, among others. Most of these come from Warner Bros. series (so were easily enough to get to appear), but it's impressive that the studio got the rights to use Doctor Who's biggest foe.
The Wider LEGO Movie Universe
Being a Lego movie, we are of course in The Lego Movie universe, something that subtly plays into the core plot; when Joker threatens to blow up Gotham, the result would be the entire city falling off its thin plates and falling into the abyss – the same Infinite Abyss of Nothingness Emmet fell into in the first film that took him to the real world.
That’s not the only link to previous Lego adventures. The plot of the film, with various villains all descending on one world, is very similar to toy-based video game Lego Dimensions, which saw Batman, Gandalf and Wyldstyle on an epic adventure through an ever-growing roster of franchises. This really sets the tone for the Lego series going forward - expect a lot more crossovers!
- The LEGO Batman Movie (2017) release date: Feb 10, 2017