It’s not lost on Chris McKay – who directed this weekend’s upcoming sure-to-be blockbuster, The LEGO Batman Movie – that his movie has to live up to some pretty high expectations when compared to 2014’s The LEGO Movie. It’s also not lost to McKay, who served on the previous film as animation co-director under directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, how bizarre it is that these LEGO movies now represent a kind of quality that comes with such high expectations in the first place.
Don’t forget, when the first The LEGO Movie was announced, it was dismissed almost immediately as a stupid idea. “Now there’s like a backlash of like, well, it’s a good movie,” says McKay in response to his movie having to live up to the now high expectations, “but it’s just not as good as The LEGO Movie.” McKay laughs as he continues, “It’s like, yeah, trust me, I know. We worked really hard to make that movie as great as possible because we wanted to overcome everybody’s prejudices against it.”
When you speak to McKay right now, he’s brimming with excitement in a way where he can’t quite believe his movie is finally coming out. A veteran of Robot Chicken (oh, and there’s a lot of Robot Chicken influence in The LEGO Batman movie) McKay steers us through this particular world of of a cocky, sad, and lonely Batman – a world filled with obscure references to just about everything – who goes home to watch Jerry Maguire in his own personal theater by himself, where he laughs and laughs and laughs. (McKay’s excitement is contagious. This interview was almost canceled because I had a death in the family, but I’m so happy it worked out because I left this in the first genuine good mood I’ve felt all week.)
Ahead, Mckay takes us through some of the secrets behind making The LEGO Batman Movie – including, yes, even that Gymkata reference.
What do you think Batman finds so funny about Jerry Maguire?
[Laughs.] I think it’s probably sincere emotions, things that he doesn’t necessarily have a lot of experience with, maybe? I think that’s probably what I was hoping that people would get out of that moment.
I thought he might cry, but then he bursts out laughing during the “You complete me” scene.
But for some reason he wants to share that same feeling with other people, and he immediately looks to the left and looks to the right and says, “How can I share this hilarious moment?” It’s like you’re watching The Hangover or something like that and you want to look to your buddies, “I can’t believe they just did that.”
And it’s the actual live action Jerry Maguire…
For me, I wanted as much as possible to make this movie feel like it’s the inmates kind of running the asylum. Maybe you’re not supposed to do stuff like this? And hopefully we can get away with things like that. Like, oh, you’re not going to try to do a LEGO version of Tom Cruise, you’re just going to put the footage from the movie in there – which it seemed fun, it felt fun to us.
Speaking of the references, is there a line between too many past Batman references or not enough? Or is it just the more, the better?
I’m sure for some people there is definitely a line. You know, for me, I think part of what was going to be fun about this movie is putting a lot of references and a lot of allusions to other Batman movies, other DC movies and superhero movies in general. Also, for me, I’m a film nerd, so putting references to other movies, other films and filmmakers, that was important to me, too. When I pitched the movie, I said that I wanted to make it “Jerry Maguire as directed by Michael Mann with a lot of jokes in it.”
What was the most obscure reference? Gymkata?
Yeah, Gymkata is very obscure.