The following contains spoilers for ‘The Lego Batman Movie’.
Everyone knew The Lego Batman Movie was going to be fun, but fans didn’t anticipate how heavily steeped in comics canon the story would be. Most of the movie’s plot actually revolves around Batman trying to kidnap Joker from Arkham and send him to “The Phantom Zone”.
The film briefly alludes to this ethereal dimension as being a place only Superman has access to, and Batman uses Robin to steal the tools he needs to send Joker there. Of course, once Joker arrives in the Phantom Zone, he realizes that it’s populated with villains from Lego-ized fantasy and science fiction properties, including Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and The Matrix. Some of all this kooky madness is actually comics accurate, so let’s explore.
In Lego Batman, the Phantom Zone is overseen by a multicolored sentient Lego brick named Phyllis (Ellie Kemper). When speaking to Joker, Phyllis mentions that she works for an unknown female leader of the Zone, but the movie doesn’t elaborate on that point at all. The purple and white alternate dimension acts as a prison for baddies across Lego universes, which is similar to the role it plays in DC comics. After many issues in which Superman and his friends use the Phantom Zone the same way Batman uses Arkham Asylum, it’s revealed that the Zone is actually the underworld. The only person able to enter and exit the Zone at will is a superhero called Phantom Girl.
Through Superman comics and adaptations, the Phantom Zone is usually accessed by way of triangular-shaped spaceships, or by a ray similar to the one Lego Batman steals from the Fortress of Solitude.
In some storylines, Superman and his buddies send wounded good guys into the Phantom Zone temporarily, because the dimension stops the human need for food, water, and medicine. It’s an extra-dimensional form of stasis, but The Lego Batman Movie doesn’t use that particular facet.
If we understand the Lego Batman Movie as representing yet another alternate DC universe, in which all the characters know they’re made of Lego bricks, it makes canonical sense that the Lego Phantom Zone would house evildoers across franchises. We learn after the villains are released into Lego Gotham that the inhabitants of the city don’t know exactly who each of the monsters is. Batman and the Bat family call the Eye of Sauron things like “that evil eye,” and they only seem to know the Gremlins as “‘80s monsters.” The disconnect is a nice little tidbit of dramatic irony, as the viewer gets to see familiar characters battling each other, though the characters themselves don’t know what’s going on.
The Lego Batman Movie hits theaters February 9.