8:30am PT by Graeme McMillan
The Other Onscreen Crime-Fighting Career of Lego Batman
The strangest thing about The Lego Batman Movie might be the fact that it's not the first Lego Batman movie, but the seventh — and that's not counting the 2014 Lego Movie. Welcome to the secret history of the blockhead Dark Knight.
The very first Lego Batman movie came out in 2013, a year before The Lego Movie, and was a direct-to-DVD spinoff of the popular video game franchise that launched all the way back in 2008. Lego Batman: The Movie was enough of a success that, like its video game inspiration, a number of sequels followed — but unlike the three games to date, the original animated Lego Batman was far more adept at sharing; by the third feature, his name had been replaced in the title by Justice League as the focus grew to include his fellow heroes.
In total, six Lego Batman/Justice League animated movies were created ahead of his big-screen solo debut: five intended for home release, with one — 2014's Lego DC Comics: Batman Be-Leaguered — made for Cartoon Network. None have quite the meta-textual bite as the Will Arnett-voiced version, but they're not exactly straightforward superhero stories, either. Instead, they manage to hit a sweet spot somewhere between parody and sincerity, making them ideal fodder for those who love superheroes, but acknowledge that, deep down, superheroes are kind of silly, really — and that's part of the fun.
For those wondering what the other Lego Batman — let's call him the Lego Batman of Lego Earth-2 — has been up to all these years, here's a quick guide to his adventures to date.
Lego Batman: The Movie — DC Super Heroes Unite (2013)
When Lex Luthor teams up with the Joker in an attempt to become president — don't ask — Batman has to seek help from more than just the Boy Wonder in order to save the day. Thankfully, there's an entire Justice League out there willing to give a hand, especially when Luthor shows up riding a giant Kryptonite-powered Joker robot.
Lego DC Comics: Batman Be-Leaguered (2014)
Technically a prequel — the movie is about Batman's hesitance about joining the Justice League in the first place because he's such a loner — Be-Leaguered does feature some unexpected supervillains (Black Manta, Captain Cold, Man-Bat) and an impressively on-point voice casting, as Paul Reubens plays Bat-Mite, the extra-dimensional omnipotent Batman-obsessed fanboy elf from the Silver Age of comics.
Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro League (2015)
If nothing else, Bizarro League has a plot that audiences are unlikely to find in the live-action Justice League movie: The League has to deal with a host of supervillains (including Darkseid, Deathstroke and Lex Luthor), as well as a group of imperfect clones of themselves who just want to help out in their own way. Kind of. Zack Snyder, the gauntlet has been thrown.
Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League — Attack of the Legion of Doom (2015)
Fans of The CW's Supergirl might recognize the villains' secret weapon in this installment, as none other than the Martian Manhunter shows up on the wrong side of things, helping out the newly formed bad-guy counterpart to the Justice League. Does he have a plan, or has he just made a really awkward mistake? (Spoiler: It's the latter.)
Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League — Cosmic Clash (2016)
Following up on a threat first made at the end of DC Super Heroes Unite, Brainiac shows up to plague the Justice League, but he's not the only problem facing the team this time around — there's also immortal caveman Vandal Savage, as well as the rebuilding of the Batmobile into the Cosmic Treadmill … aka the thing that allows the Flash to travel through time when he runs really, really fast.
Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League — Gotham City Breakout (2016)
Batman takes a break in the most recent installment of the series — literally, as he goes on vacation and leaves Gotham in the seemingly capable hands of his fellow Justice Leaguers. That doesn't mean that it's light on the Bat-mythos, however; even as Superman and Wonder Woman are dealing with Batman's rogues gallery, Batman's vacation is being spoiled by Bane — because of course it is. Think of it as The Dark Knight Rises, but more fun.