It’s safe to assume that the vast majority of Beat readers are already well intimate with the infamous “Batman: A Death in the Family” storyline (read The Beat‘s own Joe Grunenwald’s detailed oral history) but long story short—the tale of Jason Todd, the second person to take up the Robin mantle, is perhaps one of the darkest chapters in the history of the Caped Crusader. Murdered at the hands of the Joker only to be resurrected years later and find a new lease on life as the anti-hero Red Hood, Jason Todd is undoubtedly the black sheep of the Bat Family. So imagine the imagine the challenge posed to the filmmakers of LEGO DC: Batman – Family Matters, the latest entry in the LEGO/Warner Bros. Animatin/DC Comics collaboration series of direct-to-video animated feature films, when they were tasked to produce a family friendly version of Todd’s transformation into the Red Hood!
“We’ve done Red Hood before in other movies but for LEGO this was our pioneering chance to play with that character which is a great opportunity because there’s a lot of history with that character,” said director Matt Peters. “It was a lot of fun to be able to exploit that and also bringing it into the LEGO world because Lego has kind of got its own unique style from the other DCU that we do. So it’s almost like a brand new introduction for that character.”
For an unabashed fan of the character like actor Jason Spisak, who voiced the villainous Joker in prior LEGO DC projects, to chance to play Jason Todd/Red Hood was a fanboy’s dream come true. Nevertheless, Spisak did not view this decidedly different tone of Red Hood as a hindrance but rather an opportunity. “LEGO movies are harder than playing the actual character representation. What you have to do is paint this realistic painting of the character and then you have to take it and then you just paint watercolor over it,” argued Spisak. “LEGO movies if they are too light all the time you miss the chance in invest in them. LEGO movies are a great chance to get the family to watch. At the end when Batman and Jason kind of have a moment of reconciliation that could possibly open that door in their own family.”
In case you couldn’t tell by the title, Batman isn’t alone in this film and needs the help of his entire Bat Family to take on Red Hood including Batgirl voiced by Alyson Stoner. It’s a character Stoner has already played not only in the previous LEGO Aquaman animated film, but also in the Young Justice cartoon. The different interpretations of the same character in two properties thus affected her performance. “With LEGO the humor is far more sardonic. You see other elements of Batgirl’s personality come forward,” described Stoner. T”here’s always the boldness and the sense of being empowered. There’s a sassiness and a snarkiness to her in this version that I haven’t been able to portray in others. You just you go with the flow and then you listen to the experts. And you honor the legacy at all times.”
Family Matters also sees Kate Kane better known as Batwoman enter the fray. As the first openly lesbian DC superheroes to receive her own live-action television series on The CW this fall, things are certainly coming up Batwoman this fall. Fans may be disappointed that Kate Kane’s sexuality isn’t a major aspect addressed in the film, but with so many moving pieces and characters in the story don’t think it’s due to censorship. we are focused on just the characters and superheroes and things. “Sexuality is not really brought up in the film but it’s but it’s not ignored,” admitted Peters. “It’s not something that we excluded or avoided it for any reason. We were just here to have fun with the heroes.”
Additionally Shazam, a character not typically associated with Batman, appears in the film who incidentally had his own feature film earlier this year. Although the media synergy with the Batwoman CW show and Shazam film were great timing, they weren’t factors in the decision to highlight those characters. I think it was just she [Batwoman] is part of the Bat Family of characters now. The idea that we’re going to do a Bat Family thing just made sense and she’d never been done and she’s a cool character and she looks awesome,” said producer Rick Morales. “For Shazam, obviously we had an idea that there was a feature film in the works but it’s not it’s not like we necessarily tried to align with that. I think you’ll see in this film how that all works out. This film plants seeds for future stuff that I don’t think any of our other films have necessarily done.”
As Dominic Torreto taught us, it’s all about family, a theme brought to the forefront in this film. “That right there is the core of the movie that we’re going for,” Peters said. “It’s kind of an analysis of Batman because he really is the head of the Batman Family and there’s a responsibility that goes with that. And how would Batman the crime fighter deal with that. Is it something that he would like to relinquish or is it something that he is going to double down on and take responsibility?” And that’s kind of a story for a hero as well.
For actor Troy Baker, who has voiced this LEGO Batman in various projects for almost a decade, the role of Batman as head of the Bat Family has had new meaning since becoming a father. “I’ve got a 14-month old son and it’s so hard letting go of the image or the picture that I have of who I want my son to be and just let him be the person that he already is. It’s all based out of fear the same way with the Batman because I just don’t want to make the same mistakes. I want my son to make mistakes. I just don’t want him to make MY mistakes. If he makes my mistakes then I messed up. If he makes his mistakes—awesome, because we’re both going to learn something. I think that’s something Batman is learning how to do as well—trust. That would be the biggest word that comes through in this.”
Likewise Jason Spisak, a father himself echoed Baker’s sentiments. “My own daughters [and I], we love to watch the LEGO movies together. It’s so great. Just like DC Super Hero Girls, anytime you can get something where everybody in the family watches it together you’ve won.”
Batman, Robin and Batgirl must stick together even when Gotham’s most dangerous villains attempt to pull them apart in LEGO® DC: Batman – Family Matters, the latest animated adventure in the LEGO® DC series. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC and the LEGO Group, the film will be distributed by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment starting August 6, 2019 on Blu-rayTM Combo Pack, DVD and Digital.