As medium-sized films continue to make way for big budget blockbusters with some of the most established brands in modern memory, no studio is willing to pass up a potential franchise. It's because of that fact that Warner Bros. has not only put the success of The LEGO Movie to work on a direct sequel - coming in 2018 - but spin-off films based on the Ninjago license, and a standalone LEGO Batman.
So, how does one take a supporting character - mainly used for comedic relief and poking fun at the world's most iconic antihero - and build an entire story around them? We may have our first clue, as LEGO Movie writer/director Phil Lord has offered one tantalizing question that may lie at the heart of the spin-off's story: does Batman always have to be so miserable?
The question has become even more hotly-debated in recent years, with Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy introducing a more tortured and somber version of the hero than typically seen on film. It was Christian Bale's gloomy, super-serious Batman that actor Will Arnett was clearly channelling in The LEGO Movie, being made the butt of many a joke for a change. The solo film isn't locked into the same sense of humor, however; directors Lord and Miller have promised both spin-offs to have an identity of their own.
While LEGO Batman director Chris McKay is hard at work on the film itself, it has fallen to Phil Lord and Chris Miller to provide what little detail they can. Having previously teased that "every era of Batman filmmaking will be acknowledged," Lord explained to MTV that his view of the Dark Knight isn't exactly a 'tragic' one:
"Wah, I’m so rich and handsome, and women like me, and I’ve got a Maclaren... ‘Something about my parents!’
There are plenty of movie fans who will share Lord's assessment, but even those who feel that Bruce Wayne is a sympathetic character will concede that another retelling of his origin story is far from needed at this point (part of the reason that Batman V Superman going with an older Dark Knight was received so strongly). And after years of the character being allergic to laughter, The LEGO Movie's treatment was a welcome change.
Change seems to be the trend for his solo film as well, with Lord offering one tease of the angle LEGO Batman may take:
"No spoilers... But I will say I think the movie is really exciting because it’s about ‘Can Batman be happy?"
The speculation can run wild over what this means in relation to the promise of referencing the varied past of Batman on film. Those who took the previous statements literally immediately dreamed of seeing - or hearing - Adam West, Michael Keaton, or even voice actor Kevin Conroy (probably not George Clooney) reprise their respective takes on the role. As an ensemble gathering of various versions of Batman, or simply included as memories of the man Batman once was, it seems too good a bit of fan service to pass up.
There's also the chance that Lord is describing a story set after the events of The LEGO Movie, when Batman finds himself minus a girlfriend, and seriously upstaged by a chosen hero who was as naive and sentimental as the Dark Knight is dour. Whatever the case, the lasting impact of Arnett's painfully proud Batman guarantees an audience. It's up to McKay to determine the longevity of a solo film series.
What do you make of Lord's quotes? Does an attempt to crack Batman's egotistical shell sound like a comedy waiting to happen? Or do you have doubts about the LEGO brand's ability to sustain solo spin-offs? Share your thoughts in the comments.
LEGO Batman is set to release on May 26th, 2017.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce for more LEGO Batman updates as well as movie, TV and gaming news.