Chris McKay was coming off directing the hugely successful The Lego Batman Movie when he was tapped to stay in the Batman universe and direct the live-action Nightwing film. (Nightwing is the alter ego of Dick Grayson, who was the first Robin.) Things seemed to be moving along, to the point McKay was tweeting about how the movie would be cast and openly talking about how special the story is that he has in mind. And then a few things changed. There was the whole saga with the Zack Snyder movies, and Warner Bros. kind of moving away from them, but not in all cases. And then the pandemic seems to have reset a lot. I asked McKay about Nightwing and, as you read below, it does seem to sound like it’s not completely dead, but fan enthusiasm would sure go a long way.
In the meantime, we’ve got The Tomorrow War, which is a saga of its own. It was supposed to be released in theaters in 2020 by Paramount, but of course that didn’t happen and Paramount eventually sold the film to Amazon and the movie hits Amazon Prime this weekend. McKay makes no bones about it, it’s been a stressful experience. Or, at the very least, he’s “sighed a lot” over the last few months.
The Tomorrow War is about evil aliens attacking Earth. But the twist is they attack in the future. And Earth does such a bad job of fighting them that they have to time travel back to the present in order to draft new people to fight. Dan Forester, who already served in the military, is drafted to go to the future and fight.
Ahead, McKay takes us through his last year a bit – and no laments that if these aliens we are hearing about in the news get themselves a Prime account, he’s now given them the blueprint to beating us. And, yes, talks about the prospects of his Nightwing movie and how letters to Warner Bros. sure would help.
With the world situation and then the movie changing studios, I guess my question is how many times over the last year-and-a-half have you sighed?
[Laughs] Yeah, a lot. A lot. Definitely have had a few ups and downs with the movie. But, again, every challenge has been an opportunity. The fact that there’s something about what’s happening in the world that tangentially relates to themes in the movie and that kind of thing? There’s a reason why things happen why they do, I guess,
When you say the way this movie relates to the real world, are you referring to the pandemic? Or are you referring to the aliens we keep hearing about that you think might eat us?
Yeah, I think a lot of it evolves. Just the idea that we’re all in something together. How do you leave the world a better place than you found it? That kind of thing.
Are you a pessimistic alien person, or are you an optimistic alien person?
Wow. That’s a really good question.
Is it going to be like the Vulcans in First Contact, or is it this movie?
I mean, Vulcans in First Contact, that’s good!
E.T., Close Encounters, they all seem to be nice creatures.
Yeah. I want that. Or I want a universe that has some kindness and benevolence and positivity to it, but I also like the long game of Star Trek, where the Klingons are bad guys in the original series. But then they become part of the Federation in Next Generation and that kind of thing. I always liked that.
I liked that, too.
I remember watching Next Generation as a kid. I’d seen the original series in reruns. And it shows what you can do – as somebody who at that time was definitely feeling he wanted to be a filmmaker – seeing what they did with Next Generation made me go, yeah, you can change stuff radically, and it’s actually more meaningful because of it.
At this point, it just feels like if aliens showed up tomorrow, it would be like, “Oh, God, now we’ve got to deal with this? How long is this going to last? How long are we going to stay inside to avoid these creatures now?” That’s what it feels like.
Yeah. The aliens are a pain in the ass. There’s no joy or wonder.
Right. I don’t want them showing up any time soon. Can we just have a couple of normal years before that happens?” But they’re going to come right now.
Yeah. It is weird that we are living through a time where we don’t know what the next four months are going to hold for us. I don’t think there’s ever been a time, at least in my lifetime: You had a certain amount of confidence in how your next four months would lay out. I don’t think that we have that anymore. So when aliens in the news pops up, yeah, of course, aliens, right. That absolutely makes sense, with the way the world is working right now.
I guess you’ve thought about it more too, because the aliens in this movie seem pretty mean.
Yeah, these aliens are terra-formers. They’re meant to wipe out something, a populous. So yeah. I wanted them to feel like they were ancient. I wanted them to feel like they were hungry, that they had a feral intelligence, that there was a kind of like wolves or coyotes.
What happens if these aliens we keep hearing about on the news get an Amazon account and watch this? And then you’ve given the blueprint how to take us down?
So I’m the architect?
You’re the architect.
So we should film this. This is the origin. This is the prequel, us having this conversation and how we make the movie.
This is what plays before the credits. And we’re laughing, having a nice time, joking around.
Having a good time.
And then here they come.
I love the idea, “Let’s see what’s on Amazon today. Oh, watch this. Aha!”
They first watched Palm Springs, which wasn’t much help. And then this was recommended next.
“J.K. Simmons’s in that. We like him, so let’s watch him in this.”
Are you still doing Nightwing? Is that happening? Or is that lost in the ether now?
I don’t know. I hope so.
I feel like everything has changed. The last year has reset a lot of stuff, didn’t it?
A million things have changed in the industry. A million things have changed when you now narrow it down to like specifically Warner Bros., DC, et cetera. But I still want to make a movie. That’s still something that’s really important to me: the character of Nightwing, the story that we were working on. All of that stuff is really important to me. Warner Bros. and DC have been through a thing and I think that they’ve had some really great successes recently. I hope that we’re next in line. I hope that they watch The Tomorrow War and get excited about the idea of me making a Nightwing movie.
So I’m on the outside looking in, but would you say it’s not dead? From your perspective, is it just “wait and see”?
I think if all the people reading this article sent letters to Warner Bros., saying that they wanted a Nightwing movie, I think that Warner Bros. would probably respond positively.
‘The Tomorrow War’ is now streaming via Amazon Prime. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.