SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains substantial spoilers for the end of The LEGO Batman Movie. If you have not yet seen the film, and don't wish to know details about the ending, please bookmark this page and save it for reading until after your screening!
The opening sequence of The LEGO Batman Movie features the big screen debuts of a ridiculous number of obscure Batman villains from the comics... but surprisingly that doesn't wind up revealing the blockbuster's entire hand. Instead, the film actually takes a surprising left turn in its third act, as The Joker (voice by Zach Galifianakis) travels to the Phantom Zone to release an impressive horde of villains from all around pop culture. It's a strange sight to behold, as the big action sequence features a wide variety of odd franchise crossovers, but it was actually a very thought-out process figuring out who to include that would be mostly recognizable to all audiences.
I felt compelled to talk with director Chris McKay about the huge action sequence -- which includes Sauron from The Lord of The Rings, Voldemort from Harry Potter, Daleks from Doctor Who, Dracula, King Kong and more -- when I sat down to talk with him at The LEGO Batman Movie's Los Angeles press day earlier this month. Noting the surprising twist away from classic Batman canon, I asked about the decision to use the weird ensemble of villains, and the filmmaker explained the central intention of the approach:
It's one of those things where I wish we could have gone as deep, deeper, as we possibly could, sort of like I wanted to put Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes in there. It was a matter of, 'Are kids going to get this?' You have to find stuff that's immediately recognizable, and universal, and even though we use stuff like from The Matrix, which is an R-rated movie, we figure they're enough in the popular culture that people would kind of get them and kids would know them enough. But I wanted the Daleks -- stuff I loved as a kid, and still to this day are amazing... like Sauron. Stuff that you might experience. I was hoping that I would have enough of a breadth of those characters that everyone would sort of know what was going on -- that The Joker up-ed his game, and these other diabolical, crazy villains from another world are here to confront Batman.
This is a direction that notably fits the LEGO brand. The toy company's licenses to many different franchises mean that kids have spent years letting their Batman minifigs interact in Lord of the Rings sets -- and The LEGO Batman Movie just does its part to bring that kind of experience to the big screen (much like The LEGO Movie did back in 2014). It is worth mentioning that there is an argument to be made that including other brands dilutes the new film to some degree and makes it feel less specifically like a story about the Caped Crusader... but that doesn't totally undercut what is very much a fun family-friendly cinematic experience.
You can watch Chris McKay talk about his experience putting together the pitch perfect villain team for LEGO Batman to face off against in the video below: