It's doubtful that, before 2014, anyone thought LEGO and Batman would be as synonymous as they are now, but that's undeniably the world in which we live. Following the premiere of The LEGO Movie, Will Arnett's blockhead Caped Crusader was so popular he received his own spinoff before the animated blockbuster could even spawn a sequel.
While the vision for Batman of writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller is rooted in parody, it operates with such a secondhand knowledge of the hero's many strengths and even more foibles that the character passes through parody and moves us in unexpected, and often hilarious, ways. Whether he's pounding out death metal to no one or refusing to admit to the Joker that they're soulmates, the loneliness and pathos of Batman still find ways to peak through. Luckily, literally everyone agrees the Dark Knight is as essential to the LEGO universe as he is to Gotham City, so he has received a significant role in The LEGO Movie: The Second Part.
CBR spoke with the sequel's director Mike Mitchell and animation director Trisha Gum, who perfectly distilled part of the magic of this iteration of Bob Kane and Bill Finger's now 80-year-old creation.
"It's the only Batman in all the Batman movies that's aware of the other Batmans in the other Batman movies," Mitchell observed. "It's very freeing."
Because the LEGO movies are built on their own self-referential nature, we almost take it for granted when Batman drops meta references to Adam West and Val Kilmer. But if you unpack that idea, it becomes clear LEGO Batman's simultaneous selfishness and self-awareness are what makes him so funny. He manages to achieve some level of actualization that allows him to consider other people, but he's still the manifestation of decades of story, and the self-importance that comes with that is inescapable.
"In what other movie can you have Bruce Willis and Ruth Bader Ginsberg ... hanging out?" Gum asked.
RBG makes her LEGO debut in The Second Part, along with a Die Hard-esque Bruce Willis running joke that's almost as good as the raptors. Almost. Gum's statement underscores part of the essential charm of the LEGO movies: their unique ability to blend universes better than any other franchise. That's a superpower that gives them an edge when it comes to creating their singular brand of entertainment.
What made the first LEGO movie so groundbreaking was its preternatural ability to turn a child's sensibility into something that was entertaining for adults. We've all probably tried to play with a our own kids, siblings or young relatives, and found ourselves completely locked out of the worlds they create. That's primarily because kids don't play by any rules but their own, which is typically a difficult space for adults to occupy.
While the LEGO movies don't have free rein of all pop culture the way a kid's imagination does (Marvel still isn't returning their calls), they have enough of one to put Batman in an entirely alien adventure and have him pal around with Dumbledore and Sheryl Swoops, if the spirit moves him. It's the particular genius of Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Mike Mitchell and Trisha Gum that they're able to give Batman such a unique story and still contribute something to the character's overall legacy.
Directed by Mike Mitchell and Trisha Gum, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part reunites Chris Pratt as Emmet, Elizabeth Banks as Lucy (aka Wyldstyle), Will Arnett as Batman, Nick Offerman as Metal Beard and Alison Brie as Unikitty. They're joined by Tiffany Haddish as Queen Watevra Wa-Nab, Stephanie Beatriz as Sweet Mayhem and Arturo Castro as Ice Cream Cone. The film is in theaters now.