Toonzone Goes to "LEGO Batman: The Movie" Premiere at the Paley Center for Media, NYC
MOVIE SCREENING AND PANEL DISCUSSION
LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Superheroes Unite is about as silly and humorous as you’d expect it to be, although it’s a very different sort of humor than the more comedic DC projects like Teen Titans or Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Like the latter show, though, LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Superheroes Unite seems to borrow a lot of its sensibilities from classic Silver Age comic books, with a plot that is endearingly preposterous and less concerned with narrative coherence as much as with maximum entertainment value. The central plot pits Lex Luthor and the Joker against Batman and Superman, but the particulars are less important than the way they let the movie play around with superhero characters and settings made of LEGO bricks. Luthor’s “Deconstructor Ray” would make no sense at all in a world made of anything else, though it’s oddly specific enough to feel like a plot device in one of those Silver Age comics. However, despite the more comedic bent, LEGO Batman: The Movie isn’t complete slapstick, often opting to draw its humor out through more subtle means.
The movie also has a lot of fun re-creating Anton Furst’s memorable urban design for Gotham City in the first Tim Burton Batman movie; LEGO Batman: The Movie‘s opening credits sequence that parodies that earlier film’s opening credits is one of the funniest bits. It’s a lot more entertaining than you’d think to see Green Lantern building his ring constructs out of glowing, transparent green LEGO bricks. There’s also non-trivial comedic value just in watching LEGO mini-figures act like superheroes and supervillains, and it’s surprising how quickly this stops being unusual as the film unspools.
After the movie screening was finished, Warner Home Video PR rep Gary Miereanu introduced all 5 guests, and noted that all attendees to the panel who stayed to the end would receive an exclusive Lex Luthor LEGO mini-figurine on their way out. Highlights from the panel include:
Troy Baker and Gary Miereanu agreed that Charlie Schlatter stole the show as Robin, also relaying an anecdote that Schlatter showed up to one recording session wearing all the Giants-branded clothing he had after the team won the Super Bowl last year. The next day, Miereanu brought in all the jerseys he owned and handed them out before the recording session started (and before Schlatter arrived) as a gag.
There are lots of Easter Eggs sprinkled throughout the movie for the observant DC Comics fans, including a cameo at the end that leaves the door open for a sequel. There is also a post-credits surprise (which we didn’t get to see at the screening).
Clancy Brown relayed that he had actually auditioned for Superman back when Superman the Animated Series was ramping up, and was disappointed when he didn’t get the role but Bruce Timm and Andrea Romano asked him to audition for Lex Luthor. He was initially disappointed that “everyone wants him to audition for the bad guy,” in live-action or voice-over acting, but when Timm and Romano said he didn’t have to do it, he quickly changed his mind and read for the part anyway. He added “it turns out Lex is the most fun guy to play.”
Brown went on to joke about Luthor’s sinister plot (which involves, in his words, “spreading the Joker’s gas” for his own ends), to which Willingham quipped, “There were no jokes about that in the booth at all.”
In response to an audience question, Brown said his favorite project so far was LEGO Batman (earning him a payoff on stage from Miereanu), adding that he had worked with Burton and Pardon earlier without realizing it in the Crash Bandicoot video games. He was familiar with the LEGO games because of his son, which was one reason why he wanted to reprise his Lex Luthor role for this project.
Burton said the Tim Burton influence (vs. Christopher Nolan’s more recent live-action Batman movies) was partially because the Tim Burton films were the ones he grew up with, partially because LEGO didn’t really want to encourage its target audience of 8-12 year olds to seek out the Nolan movies, and partially because Nolan’s Gotham just looks like modern-day Chicago, while Burton’s film gave more opportunity for a striking visual style.
There are no plans to release the movie to theaters or make a sequel, though either one is a possibility for follow-ups if this movie sells well when it streets in May.
Expanding on a comment he made to us on the red carpet, Pardon noted that Lex Luthor’s VTOL airship was made of 11,971 bricks, and would be 2.13 meters long in real-life, while a robot at the end of the movie is 21,000 bricks and stands 1 meter tall. In contrast, the real-world Millenium Falcon special edition LEGO set is 1 meter long and 5,000 bricks. He and Burton noted that they enlist the aid of LEGO master builders to make sure everything in the film is something you could make in real life out of enough LEGOs.
Clancy Brown has never slipped into Lex Luthor’s voice to order coffee at Starbucks, though he did say “Grande Macchiato” in character for the audience. He also answered a young fan asking “What’s it like playing Mr. Krabs in SpongeBob SquarePants?” by just saying, “Fine” (drawing a big laugh from the audience).
Clancy Brown drew more bribes from Travis Willingham and Troy Baker (above) when asked who his your favorite Batman and Superman actors were, before answering, “I don’t think Troy will argue with me when I say that Kevin Conroy is the definitive Batman. I don’t think anybody who’s played Batman in a movie will argue that because they’re all doing Kevin, too.” He does think that Baker brings something new to his “homage” to Kevin Conroy because his take is funnier, which is something Conroy was almost never given a chance to do. He added that Willingham might be his favorite Superman because he had the most fun with it, but added that he really liked all the Superman actors he’s worked with.
And now, the leftover photos that I don’t know what to do with but which are too good not to use somewhere.