LEGO Batman may be tiny but he's doing big things

The characters Batman and Robin in a scene from The LEGO Batman Movie.
The characters Batman and Robin in a scene from The LEGO Batman Movie. Warner Bros. Pictures

CHRIS McKay always knew the sequel to The Lego Movie would need to be bigger and better.

Expectations, understandably, would be high for the follow-up to a hit animated film that grossed more than $468 million worldwide and was the fourth highest grossing film of 2014.

After supervising the production of The Lego Movie in Sydney, Chris was promoted to director for Warner Bros' sequel focusing on Lego Batman, voiced by Will Arnett.

"I wanted to make a very epic, operatic movie," he tells Weekend magazine.

"The more serious you can take things in the Lego world, the more silly it can be. I thought it would be funny to watch these guys have very serious conversations about what's going to happen to the citizens of Gotham City."

A scene from the movie The Lego Batman Movie.
A scene from the movie The Lego Batman Movie. Warner Bros. Pictures

The result is a colourful, fast-paced family film in which Batman battles an attention-hungry Joker and his growing army of baddies, and accidentally adopts a teenage orphan (Dick Grayson) who wants to become his sidekick.

"There are kids who want to see the movies their older brothers and sisters can go see, like Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad, that they're not allowed to see," Chris says.

"They want to experience a real superhero movie that doesn't talk down to them. I wanted that feeling like you're being let in on something a little bit above you but still safe enough."

Chris says a Batman spin-off felt like a natural progression for the Lego film franchise.

"Will Arnett is such a charming guy; I did not find it surprising people responded to his character (in the first film)," he says.

"Will's great at playing these characters we all love even in spite of their incredible flaws. He makes them incredibly egotistical but at the same time vulnerable, which is a great combination to centre a movie around."

Lego Batman is a superhero kicking goals in his fight against crime, but who struggles socially with his peers.

"I wanted the opening action scene to be this huge heist where things are happening all over the place but then this guy has to go home and you see what kind of life he actually has," Chris says. "It was important to me to make you feel what it is like to be this guy who goes home and does the normal things we all do but it's really lonely and sad."

Chris is quick to dismiss claims the film is "pro-gay propaganda''.

A scene from the movie The Lego Batman Movie.
A scene from the movie The Lego Batman Movie. Warner Bros. Pictures

Some conservative critics have taken issue with two key aspects: that Dick Grayson (as Robin) revels in choosing his superhero outfit in the bat cave, and that the teenager mistakenly thinks he has two adoptive dads because he doesn't realise Batman and Bruce Wayne are the same person.

"Having worked on the first Lego movie where people were reading both a business agenda and an anti-capitalist agenda (into it), I learned no matter what you put out there somebody can find something to latch on to if they want to fit a narrative," Chris says.

"Robin's a super positive kid. He loves life... he's indefatigable. All the same bad things have happened to him that happened to Batman (as an orphan) but he faces life with a super can-do, positive attitude.

"You have to go 'okay, we're just making a movie about a guy who's super happy and loves sparkly capes'."

And Chris isn't finished playing with his Lego mini-figures yet.

The Chicago native serves as executive producer on the upcoming Lego Movie Sequel, due for release in 2019. He will also return to the director's chair for Warner Bros' live-action Nightwing (Dick Grayson's superhero moniker after Robin) film.

"I'm going to be a very old man playing with Lego," he laughs. "By the way I'm super happy about that."

The LEGO Batman Movie is in cinemas now.

Topics:  movies warner bros.

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