It’s been two decades since we’ve last seen Robin on the big screen, despite having a quartet of films featuring Batman.
The Boy Wonder is making his return Friday in perhaps the most surprising superhero film, “The Lego Batman Movie,” a boisterous comedy spun off from the 2014 blockbuster “The Lego Movie,” where Will Arnett voiced a cocky, brash version of The Dark Knight.
In an “Arrested Development” reunion, Michael Cera takes on the role of Robin, his second comic book-inspired role after “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”
While Robin has been absent from film for 20 years, last seen in 1997’s “Batman & Robin,” you can argue that he’s a quintessential component to the Batman mythos. A light to his darkness.
“This iteration of Batman that has captured everyone’s attention in the last 20 years is this brooding loner,” Cera explains. “He’s living in this sort of self-imposed prison of his own making. And so Robin is one of the few people who infiltrates that, cracks through the icy exterior.”
amNewYork spoke with Cera about the movie.
A lot of actors have played Robin. What makes your version unique?
Well, this Robin is a pretty unique take on it just because I think it’s a child’s version of Robin, which I haven’t seen — an orphan, living in this orphanage, who idolizes Bruce Wayne and kind of gloms onto him.
Do you have a favorite portrayal of Robin?
I really used to love the old “Batman” TV show with Burt Ward playing Robin. That show was just really fun. I liked it as a 5 year old. There’s something about that that’s so easily accessible and captivating for some reason.
Were you relieved to play Robin without having to wear a costume?
I don’t know if relief is the word I would use [laughs].
How was your reunion with Will?
The truth is that actually I never had a chance to record with Will. So all the chemistry that might be in the movie is a construct of the editing and the animation. But that’s a testament to both of those things I think. I mean, I think even if we had recorded in the same room it would be relentlessly edited because this film, the tone of this film relies so heavily on the rhythm of the movie. All of the chemistry is really a product of the animators and of [director] Chris McKay’s control of the tone.
How was it working with Chris?
I had such a great time working with him actually. He’s great with actors. … He’s a fun and really encouraging leader. I think a great trait for anyone leading a project to have is to make the people working for that person and working toward that person’s vision, to make them feel confident. He’s really good at that. He laughed a lot. We would normally just leave the tape rolling and try a line 50 different ways and you feel like you have it, you fool around a little, whatever inspiration comes to you in the moment. He would be very encouraging of that and laugh a lot and if you said something that maybe sparked something or a new direction, he was really good on the spot, creating gags and taking things in new directions. So that really encourages you to bring yourself to it, to try your best. You feel like you’re being appreciated.
This film has some fun villain cameos. Did you have a favorite?
I was pretty excited with the Gremlins showing up. I’m not even sure kids are going to get half of the references in the movie. I don’t know if this happened to you, but I know I’ve seen a movie and there’s a reference I don’t know or get, and I don’t even realize it and then years later you see the thing and you retroactively appreciate the reference. Maybe that’ll happen for kids.
You’re going to be on the new “Twin Peaks.” Can you reveal anything about your role?
No, not at all. I mean, I don’t know so much about it, and I signed a nondisclosure agreement, which I’m pretty sure anyone who even stepped into a transportation vehicle for that had to sign. It’s very protected because people are afraid of getting sued. I think it’s great though that people can experience it the right, the way he wants people to experience it.
How was it working with “Twin Peaks” creator David Lynch?
That was incredible. Wow, I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to have that opportunity.
What else are you working on?
A few different things. A few small things. I’m about to work on a movie with friends that we’re going to make for no money. The kind of thing where there’s no pressure at all and if we feel ashamed of it, we’ll pretend it never happened and throw it away [laughs]. There’s a movie that a friend of mine, Janicza Bravo, her first feature film called “Lemon.” She just premiered it at Sundance and now it’s going to play at South by Southwest. I’m extremely proud of it, I think it turned out really great.