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The LEGO franchise continues to find its footing in Hollywood, and after the surprising success of the first film, it only makes sense that the studio wants to recreate what works. However, rather than dive straight into The LEGO Movie 2, Warner Bros. opted for The LEGO Batman Movie -- which eschewed the live-action component that made the first film so unique. I recently had a chance to ask LEGO Batman director Chris McKay and producer Dan Lin why they moved away from live-action for The Caped Crusader's brick adventure during a chat about The LEGO Ninjago Movie, and they explained that their focus was on telling a Batman story above everything else. McKay elaborated:
Well it's tough, because as you follow the great success of The LEGO Movie, we are always looking. How do we not repeat ourselves? And also, we've talked at times about sort of like... there's a cinematic universe to all of this stuff, but is there going to be something that ties it all together or not? The LEGO Movie and its sequels will always have a live-action component to it, and a real-world component to it. And that Batman clearly is from that world. But how exactly does that fit into the timeline? I like the idea that some of these things can just be side stories that maybe someday will wrap into all of this stuff. Right now it was just like, let's make a Batman movie with these characters and there is a real world but none of that story had anything to do with the real world do it didn't feel like it was germane to tell the story.
So while every main installment in The LEGO Movie franchise will feature a live-action segment that directly references Finn and/or Will Ferrell's The Man Upstairs, the spinoff LEGO films will pick and choose when to use it. For a character like Batman, using the live-action component didn't work because they wanted The LEGO Batman Movie to feel like a true Batman story that existed in its Gotham City. A live-action counterpart to The LEGO Batman Movie franchise is possible, but a story to use it hasn't come up yet.
From there, the spinoff movies will be selective about when they want to incorporate the live-action component into the storytelling. The LEGO Batman Movie didn't feature it, but elements of the device will show up in The LEGO Ninjago Movie because it works for the narrative that they have constructed. It's all about serving the needs of each story.
Elsewhere in my discussion with the producers of The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Dan Lin chimed in and explained that part of this has to do with confusion over the continuity of the LEGO universe and how it all ties together. Lin said:
There was some confusion because some people thought that Batman was going to be the sequel to the first movie, and it wasn't. It was very much a standalone movie and Ninjago is a standalone movie. And Lego Movie 2 will finally be a sequel.