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Interview: Director Chris McKay and Will Arnett on Batfleck and Why People Really Dig LEGO Batman

If you haven’t seen The LEGO Batman Movie yet, stop denying yourself such joy and head to the theater immediately. The animated film centers on Batman, who seemingly has everything but turns out to be a pretty lonely guy. As the Joker rounds up a gang of super villians to take over Gotham City, the Caped Crusader faces one of his toughest battle yet. Plus, he’ll have to deal with a fresh-faced kid by the name of Dick Greyson, who he hastily adopted.

Directed by Chris McKay and starring Will Arnett, the movie serves up irreverent comedy, stunning action sequences and annoyingly catchy songs that will probably be stuck in your head well after the film’s release. During a special IMAX screening, I spoke with McKay and Arnett about their version of the character and why people are so receptive to it.

What’s the difference between the Batman from The LEGO Movie and the one we’re seeing here?

Will Arnett: I think the Batman that we saw in The LEGO Movie…we first saw a glimpse of who he was and how he was a little bit different. He came out of the gate hot. He was dating Wild Style. He seemed like a cool guy. He was in charge of everything he did. And then bit  by bit, we see there’s something else going on. Maybe he’s not as in control as we thought. So we wanted to pick up on that in this movie and kinda get into what makes Batman tick.

Why do you think people are responding so well to this version of Batman?

Will Arnett: I think this Batman feels really accessible. I think that’s what people are responding to. He’s a guy who seems like he’s pretty cocky but, ultimately, he’s also kinda flawed just like all of us. It’s funny that even though he’s a LEGO figure, it’s actually a very human story. We get into issues of family and all that sort of thing and I think people can relate to that.

Chris McKay: Because it’s different than the other Batman movies. We tried to do something that actually tackles Batman’s main problem: his fear of getting hurt again by allowing people into his heart. I think that’s something no other Batman movie could do. That’s why I wanted to make this movie. I pitched the studio that I wanted to do Jerry Maguire as directed by Michael Mann with a lot of jokes in it and they kinda let me get away with it.

Who’s more badass? Ben Affleck’s Batman or your Batman?

Will Arnett: Ben Affleck’s is way more badass. He’s tough and sort of dark and cloudy and I think that’s the Batman I’d be afraid of.

Whose idea was it to include more female characters this time around?

Chris McKay: The lineup of Gotham City is kind of a sausage fest. You have to look a little down the cast in order to find a really great female character. Catwoman is one. Barbra Gordon is an important character and I think Batgirl necessarily hasn’t been done in a film. Like, they did it one time…I wanted to do something with that role…show that she’s just as capable as Batman, badass as Batman. [That] you could have a character like that that you didn’t necessarily need to be a love interest…is a character who could actually be a partner or a friend. Because all these movies, some of the female characters are kinda disposable. You get like Chase Meridian or Vicky Vale and they kind of come in and out of each movie and I wanted someone who’s like no, she’s really cool and a badass.

Any LEGO horror stories from your childhood?

Will Arnett: Anybody who’s built LEGO knows the one thing that can be a bummer is if you are building according to the instructions and you haven’t prepared…like when you open the box and you’re not in control of the pieces, you’re getting close and then all of a sudden you’re missing that one piece that you need to complete…That’s like the nightmare. You’re like “No! I’ve spent four hours and all of a sudden I need this piece to complete it!” That’s the thing that, as a LEGO builder, will wake you up in the middle of the night. (laughs)

LEGO Batman is out in theaters now.

(image via screencap)

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