The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) runs down his villainous crew in a clip from ‘The Lego Batman Movie.’
Warner Bros. Pictures
After having his pop-culture potential bottled up for years, the Condiment King cometh in The Lego Batman Movie, as do many other Bat-baddies, from the famous to the farcical.
In addition to its macho title hero (voiced by Will Arnett), the animated superhero comedy (in theaters Friday) features a host of villains inspired by comic books, movies and television. “I wanted our movie to feel like it was the accumulation of 78 years of history of Batman,” says director Chris McKay.
Headed up by the Joker (voiced by Zach Galifianakis), the crew of Arkham Asylum’s finest features well-known icons such as the Penguin (patterned after Danny DeVito’s waddler in 1992’s Batman Returns), Egghead and King Tut (both from the 1960s Batman TV series), plus lesser-known obscurities Kite Man, Gentleman Ghost and Crazy Quilt. (As Lego Joker says in the film, “Probably worth a Google.”)
McKay explains the thinking behind some of the higher-profile ne’er-do-wells:
There’s definitely Jack Nicholson (from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman) in this Clown Prince of Crime, but it was Galifianakis’ idea to have his character be a sensitive, insecure frenemy for the Caped Crusader. “He was like, ‘Maybe there’s a way to get at what being the other half of this relationship trying hard to get this guy’s attention feels like,’ ” McKay says. “It made it more fun and more real.”
Rather than animate Margot Robbie’s bad girl in hot pants from Suicide Squad, Lego Harley (Jenny Slate) sports a kid-friendly look reminiscent of her origins in the ’90s Batman: The Animated Series. Also absent: the abusive co-dependent relationship between the Joker and his moll. “It’s just a different message than what I wanted to do,” McKay says. Instead, Lego Joker calls her his “girl buddy” and they have a dynamic much like Batman and Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), where the two can be “co-workers and friends and have something meaningful.”
Conan O’Brien voices the red-haired guy with the “Riddle me this” lines and the color-coordinated green suit and bowler hat. Like with Batman and Batgirl, McKay wanted someone who could not only fill the animated role of the master puzzler but also “you could see these actors actually doing the character in a live action movie.”
Like a lot of kids in 1989, McKay watched Billy Dee Williams as district attorney Harvey Dent in Batman and imagined him one day turning into the disfigured Two-Face in later movies. It never happened: Tommy Lee Jones played the villain in 1995’s retooled Batman Forever. “That was a bummer for me,” says McKay, who recruited Williams as his Lego Two-Face. “To be able to right that wrong was great.”
McKay loved Tom Hardy’s Bane performance in The Dark Knight Rises (2012) — even though his oddly pitched voice came under some criticism. “I’m amused by the life it has as an element of parody as far as can you can’t understand what he’s saying,” McKay says. Enter comedian Doug Benson, who does a Bane impression in his stand-up routine and on his Doug Loves Movies podcast, and whose voice was paired with a comic-book version of the villain wearing Hardy’s Dark Knight Rises coat. “It took all of my favorite elements of that character and tried to mash it up into one,” McKay adds.
The new trailer for ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ starring Will Arnett and Zach Galifianakis.
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