With 2017’s The Lego Batman Movie having grossed over $311 million worldwide, building on the block toy franchise’s cinematic success, a sequel seemed like a no-brainer for studio Warner Bros. However, external constraints intervened when Universal Pictures landed an exclusive deal for the rights; a twist of fate that essentially canceled the sequel in the midst of its development. Consequently, director Chris McKay’s most recent—unfortunately inauspicious—update on that front also came with intriguingly bittersweet plot details.
How’s this for a pitch for The Lego Batman Movie 2? A dramatic ordeal resembling themes from The Godfather Part II and Boogie Nights teaches Batman the value of friendship. Of course, those rather random sources of inspiration—from a dour early 1970s-era epic and 70s-nostalgic 1990s cinematic caricature—may seem like a puzzling plot structure for the kid-friendly animated film franchise, but there was a method to the apparent madness, which was to be based on a script by Rick and Morty’s creative duo, Dan Harmon and Michael Waldron. However, in an interview with Collider, McKay sadly states that he doesn’t think the sequel will ever get made.
“Dan [Harmon] and [Michael] Waldron had done a first draft of the script that was really great,” he explains. “It was truly epic… both from an action standpoint and from a story standpoint. The structure was Godfather Part 2… a story about Batman’s relationship to the Justice League (and Superman) now as well as the formative moments of the Justice League (and Batman’s relationship with Superman) then.”
If that idea wasn’t intriguing enough to fans, McKay subsequently tweeted the script’s cover page, which bears a title that further reflects the sequel’s 1970s leanings, Lego Superfriends. That, of course, is a reference to iconic Saturday morning cartoon series Super Friends, which created an indelible—intrinsically lighthearted—idea of DC’s Justice League heroes by having them headquartered in the Hall of Justice, regularly combining their efforts to battle an all-star tandem of supervillains known as the Legion of Doom. While it remains unknown how such a concept could be applicable to the bleak focus on the moral ambiguities of family loyalty of 1974’s The Godfather Part II and the meteoric, sex-and-drugs-driven rise and abrupt fall of a porn star in 1997’s Boogie Nights, the key concept that McKay has teased for Lego Batman’s nixed cinematic solo sequel is friendship.
“Friendship. And change,” emphasizes McKay on the driving forces for the halted Lego Batman sequel. “It was about how hard it is to change. To commit to change. To stay on the new road you’ve carved for yourself. Especially when maybe you weren’t such a good guy to your friends. Your old friends might not be able to see the new you. They might still live in the past. But as the movie (and Robin) finds out… the past might be more complicated than it seems.”
Consequently, with Batman’s past and present potentially presented in a poetically pertinent manner here, the comparison to the Godfather sequel might just reference the six-Oscars-generating film’s dual narrative between the early-1900s flashback exploits of Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) during his steady rise to power, and the “present” 1958-set story of his son, Michael (Al Pacino), as the ascended head of the crime family. Additionally, the evocation of Boogie Nights—on which the aforementioned script cover says it’s “loosely based”—might refer to a potential rise to a form of niche fame for Batman akin to Mark Wahlberg’s Dirk Diggler, followed by a self-inflicted, hubris-brimming fall, albeit one buoyed by the lifeline of unwavering friendship with fellow onscreen porn cop Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly).
Nevertheless, Universal’s plans for the Lego film franchise, which are stretched across a five-year period, don’t seem destined to involve Batman or any other DC heroes for that matter, making the chances that The Lego Batman 2, Lego Superfriends—or whatever the sequel was to be titled—all but nonexistent. Moreover, even if the property remained active, it would have had to combat the perception that it already peaked, notably due to the disappointing box office performance of 2019’s The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, which only grossed $192 million worldwide—less than half of the 2014 original film’s $468 million. There was also the failure of 2017 offshoot The Lego Ninjago Movie, which, having only grossed $123 million, might have initially revealed the franchise’s weaknesses. Thusly, while The Lego Batman Movie was a substantial hit, the idea of a sequel— brilliantly outrageous-sounding as it might be—could have been a riskier proposition than one might think.
Despite the setback, McKay has been keeping busy, and will soon unveil his latest directorial effort, a live-action sci-fi film titled The Tomorrow War, which stars The Lego Movie’s Chris Pratt. The film, having been knocked off its theatrical schedule during the pandemic, is now set to stream on Amazon Prime Video on July 2.