SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers about "The LEGO Batman Movie," in theaters now.
While "The LEGO Batman Movie" tells a heartfelt tale about the Dark Brick Knight learning to love again and embracing his Bat Family, it also features a number of sight gags, cameos from obscure corners of DC Comics lore, and a plethora of special guest villains. One set of arch evil-doers Joker adds to his cadre will be quite recognizable to players of the "LEGO Dimensions" video game and viewers of the BBC television series "Doctor Who," but for some reason, they're never addressed by name during the film. When CBR met with director Chris McKay, he explained why the famous Daleks never receive their full credit on-screen.
“The BBC said we could use the Daleks, and we could’ve called them the Daleks,” he said, explaining that the scripted version of the scene – in which Joker introduces special guest villains like Sauron, the Kraken, and Lord Voldemort – featured the Clown Prince of Crime introducing the Doctor’s major adversary in a quippy way.
However, when actor Zack Galifianakis recorded the lines, one of his takes featured a joke in which "he says all the names, and he mispronounced Sauron and Voldemort, and then he said ‘British robots.’” To McKay, a fan of "Doctor Who," the “point of view that [the Joker] didn’t understand who the Daleks were” struck him as funnier than original line.
To the director, it recalled the days when "Doctor Who" was a cult show in the United States, airing on random public TV stations. “It’s way more mainstream than when I was a kid,” he said. “There are kids now growing up on ‘Doctor Who’ and get it and love it. But it’s still not something everybody knows, so I thought [Joker saying] ‘It’s British robots, ask your nerd friends,’ was just a great joke.”
Like "Doctor Who," "The Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter" characters are well established in LEGO toys and video games, making them natural options for the all-star team of evil Joker finds in the Phantom Zone halfway through the film, but McKay said the choice of the guest villains was not just a matter of licenses available to him because of the LEGO brand. Other villains appearing in the film include Agent Smith from "The Matrix" Trilogy, Dracula, and the Ray Harryhausen-designed Kraken from the original "Clash of the Titans" -- none of which have appeared other LEGO games or properties thus far.
“I was trying to go for things that were the most loved, most indelible,” McKay explained. “It’s hard to tell what most people [remember], so you have to go with your own reference points. [The Kraken] was something that I remember from watching that movie as a kid. They made toys of it. It’s also got a sort of silly charm to it.”
The iconic look of the Kraken also meant the character could appear without pausing the story in order to set up its significance. “I would’ve loved to have had Moriarity from Sherlock Holmes, but then you have to explain who he is and why it’s relevant to Batman,” McKay said. “Some of that stuff, you have to explain and it doesn’t translate to the LEGO idiom like the Wicked Witch, or the Gremlins... or the Daleks. I think that’s what I had to do with all the characters in the movie. Here are the reference points that made sense to me or that I felt were the most universal."
That search for the universal is what eventually led to the film's blending of Banes. "I always liked the Bane from the animated series and the comics, with that mask. But I also really wanted to reference Tom Hardy with that voice and the coat. I love the Christopher Nolan movies. I was looking for things that people would key into and say, ‘Okay, I get who that character is.’”
One easy-to-get iconic villain absent from the film's lineup is Darth Vader. Though "Star Wars" characters appeared in "The LEGO Movie," McKay said he and his team never even attempted to include the character in their story, and he was quick to provide a convincing story reason for the Dark Lord of the Sith’s absence. “I’d argue that Darth Vader is still out there because he wasn’t in the Phantom Zone and hasn’t been captured.”
Sharp-eared audience members may also notice that actor Ralph Fiennes – who lends his voice to Alfred in the film – did not reprise his role from the "Harry Potter" film series. McKay admitted he was tempted to have the actor record Voldemort's lines, but ultimately decided against it. “It’s one of those things where you don’t want to be confusing,” he explained. “We’re not putting [Alfred and Voldemort] in a scene together where they’re going to talk to each other." Without the comedic potential of Fiennes talking to himself, McKay felt it was better to cast Eddie Izzard in the part. "[He] did a great impersonation of Voldemort, and did a great job.”
But for all of its references to the great villains of the screen and Batman lore, one infamous Batman quote is missing from the film: “Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb.” While the film features actual footage from the movie now known as "Batman ’66," the line itself was lost in the development of the feature “That was a missed opportunity that I should’ve capitalized on,” McKay admitted, pausing and then adding, “There’s got to be something for the sequel.”