As far as 2014s go, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller had a pretty good year. The duo helmed not only a hit comedy sequel in this summer's 22 Jump Street, they also defied expectations (a running theme of theirs throughout their careers) by taking a questionable concept like The LEGO Movie and turning it into a bona fide phenomenon. Earning the praises of critics (read our review) and audiences ($468 million worldwide), it will most likely be remembered as one of the best offerings from the past 12 months.
Warner Bros. wasted no time in staking out a release date for The LEGO Movie 2 shortly after the first film made waves, but the studio has altered their plans slightly in the months since. While a direct followup to the original is still upcoming (now in 2018 instead of 2017), the brand will first be expanding horizontally by way of spinoffs Ninjago and LEGO Batman.
Though LEGO Movie animation director Chris McKay will be calling the shots on LEGO Batman, Lord and Miller are still very involved with the franchise; chiefly by penning the screenplay for LEGO Movie 2. In regard to the spinoffs, they're serving as producers, and have a good idea on how they'll play out. In an interview with Empire, they took the time to provide hints with what's to come.
Miller addressed how each movie will differentiate itself from the other entries:
"The thing is about these movies is that each of them have their own tone and their own voice. We’re doing this Ninjago one with Charlie Bean, we’re working on the Batman one, and each one of them feels like its own movie, but obviously they all exist in the universe that the Lego movie existed in, and so finding that balance has been part of the trick."
Lord then chimed in, stating how their approach is like The Avengers, but in reverse; as they started with a big LEGO world and then spun off individual aspects.
With WB looking to capitalize on the breakout success of their animated smash, the cynical may view these spinoffs as nothing more but cash grabs, but it's nice to hear that the creative team is exploring ways to make each one stand out. The films in the franchise are all going to deal with different subjects, so it makes sense for the entries to boast their own tone. Obviously, WB will want to keep some consistency (hence, the comment on finding a balance), but if the movies can stand on their own merits, it will be for all the better.
One of the upcoming LEGO films that's generating a lot of attention is the one that will feature Will Arnett's Batman, who was one of the standout characters in the first flick. Given the Caped Crusader's overwhelming popularity with moviegoers these days, the decision to have him star in his own vehicle makes sense and it gives the filmmakers plenty of opportunities to poke fun at his long on-screen history.
According to Miller, that's exactly what they're going to do:
"Rest assured that every era of Batman filmmaking will be acknowledged. There have been so many interpretations of Batman and there is so much to play with there."
From Adam West to Michael Keaton to Christian Bale, every incarnation of the Dark Knight has had its own elements that earned the hearts of legions of fans. One of The LEGO Movie's strengths was its cross-generational appeal (thanks to its witty social commentary and pop culture references), so dedicating portions of the run time to recognizing the various takes on Batman will theoretically help LEGO Batman achieve similar success. Everyone in the audience will be looking forward to a different joke.
Plot details on the two spinoffs are sparse, but that shouldn't be too much of a concern given these comments. Lord, Miller, and the rest of their team seem to have a solid grasp on what the future of the LEGO film franchise should be and with their track records, they've more than earned the benefit of the doubt from us.
Ninjago will be in theaters September 23, 2016. LEGO Batman will be released on February 10, 2017. The LEGO Movie 2 is expected to hit screens on May 25th, 2018.
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisAgar90.