The main trailer for the 2017 spin-off from The Lego Movie went online today, and it’s looking as anarchic and funny as its parent movie – but obviously also darker and more brooding. We talked to the director, Chris McKay, an animation veteran who juggled the hats of editor, co-director and animation director on The Lego Movie, about the trailer. He’s in Sydney at the moment, working towards the finish. “I’m working on the last weeks of animation, getting into the final bits of lighting and music and all that stuff. We will literally be walking this movie into your local cinema as you sit down to watch it.” But until we see him in the front row on opening night, here’s the lowdown on the tiniest Batman yet…
The definitive big-screen Batman
"This is maybe the definitive comic version. We set out to make a movie that’s an About A Boy, a Jerry Maguire-type movie about a guy whose ego and self-involvement have kept him away from people. He also has a deep hurt. There’s a reason why people in these movies are cold and remote egomaniacs – there’s a wound somewhere inside. So we get to play with another point of view on another kind of Batman movie. Will Arnett is amazing. He’s practically the perfect actor. He’s everything you’d want: he’s funny, he’s charming, he’s super-sweet, super-sincere and wickedly fast.
"Zach Galifianakis is such a nice guy and brings such a sensitivity to Joker. He plays Joker as this very fragile, very vulnerable wounded bird, who Batman no longer sees as an equal in Gotham City. Batman has lots of enemies, he likes to fight around, so the Joker is hurt that he doesn’t have a label on this relationship."
The new Commissioner Gordon
"Rosario Dawson plays Barbara Gordon and she’s the only person in this movie who’s not a cartoon character. She looks at Gotham City and says: 'Wait a minute, for 78 years Gotham City has not improved? It’s been the most crime-ridden city in history, and even with this night-stalking vigilante it’s not once improved?' Rosario brings a seriousness and a sarcastic and critical point of view. The movie is really a critique of Batman and she’s really the focus of that."
"Michael Cera is just a wonderful, innocent [person] and one of the funniest people in the world. And he's super-game to play all the time whenever we record with him. His voice is so sincere and sweet and innocent, he brings so much joy to this indefatigable character of Robin. Kids like to dress up: there are kids who love wearing capes and things like that, and Robin is a free-spirited guy. He’s a gymnast, he loves to dance and run around. He’s so happy, you can’t not love someone who exhibits joy as much as him. [His suit was originally] ‘R for Reggae’. Batman’s had so many different adventures throughout the history, and this might be the forgotten chapter. Maybe someone will discover this story one day, but, yes, apparently was Batman was in Jamaica and he had a special suit for when he was down there battling some sort of criminal on the island."
"There are Easter eggs throughout the movie. I’m a big fan of DVD/Blu-ray freeze-framing of things, so throughout the movie we’ve hidden all sorts of things for fans of Batman or DC Comics or Lego. There’s a deep-dive that you can do in the movie. If you look at the signage in downtown Gotham in the movie, there’s a lot of references for fans. People can go real deep."
"We struggled to make a movie that felt like a Lego movie as well as a Batman movie, so we wanted things you’d see in a Batman movie like fog and the water. Obviously I worked with Chris [Miller] and Phil [Lord] on the first movie, and one of the nicest things people said is just how creative we were with using Lego as a medium, like a claymation animator would use clay. Batman is more like an opera, [so] I wanted to use some theatrical effects to sometimes make you forget you’re watching something in Lego and be surprised again. It’s a complicated dance, the way we use lighting and colour and shadows. I look at this as the moment colourful film noir movie you’ll ever see."
The Bat Cave and Bat-kayak
"I think Christopher Nolan wanted it but was not able to get Warner Bros. to cough up the money. I guess Warner Bros. looks at me as a more important filmmaker. As a kid reading comics and watching movies I loved behind-the-scenes stuff, [I had] these encyclopaedia comics – like a history of Batman – that had artists’ renderings of the Batcave or Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. We were all inspired by those. So [from] all the Batcaves in history we were trying to pick and choose things that would be great. We wanted it to be immense, because he’s supposed to be this super-rich guy. And the film’s about loneliness: it’s Citizen Kane stuff. This guy’s lonely and doesn’t have anything in his life apart from these toys.
Ralph Fiennes As Alfred
"Maybe he doesn’t want me to tell this story but I recorded him shortly after he finished his run as Richard III on stage. He’s such a playful guy; he’s serious but he understands the comedy value in doubling down on being serious. In our movie, we’re not doing gunshots, we’ve got the actors doing 'Pew! Pew!' sounds, like kids playing. At one moment, Ralph is supposed to do 'Pew! Pew!'s. We were ready to move on and he said, 'Do you mind if I do another one?' He was doing these great sound effects and we were all laughing. He said, 'I’ve just finished Richard III.' It’s the joy of acting."
The Lego Batman Movie is out on 10 February, 2017