What happened to Robin? I am working on a piece about the Rise of Ra’s al Ghul and his daughters in DC live action. I’m not sure why I have been engaged with the DC universe as of late. I never really read DC as a kid. I’ve made no pretenses about it, I am no fan of their film library. I never have been. But being engaged, researching, and watching DC TV has made me realize is how rich a stable of characters they have.
That being said, one of my complaints (there’s more than a few) about their film catalog has been the absence of an important character. Ever since Batman & Robin in 1997 (20 years ago), the Boy Wonder has disappeared from the DC Live Action plan. Batman & Robin was bad…super bad…Clooney himself admitted it bad. That wasn’t Robin’s fault. No reason he had to suffer banishment. There is, however, a certain commitment to campiness when the Boy Wonder is involved, B &R was certainly that, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
In the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy, the very end features Joseph Gordon Levitt as a cop, named John Baker. At the end, he mentions that his actual legal name is Robin. The Dark Knight Rises ends with that version of Robin wading through the waters and discovering the Bat Cave. It screamed for a sequel, which was never destined to happen. I imagine they knew it was the end, and if that is so, they never should have included that scene at the end. It was the worst kind of tease. Quite frankly, Levitt would have made a fine Robin, were he given the chance and an appropriate script for the part.
Our only other glimpse of Robin in DC Live Action is seeing the damaged, spray-painted Robin costume that Ben Affleck’s Bat keeps on display in the Bat Cave to keep himself tortured, which seems to be a required state of mind for our modern Caped Crusader. Most DCphiles agree that the costume must have belonged to Jason Todd, the second person to wear the Robin costume, who, in DC canon was beaten to death by the Joker.
Certainly, there will be no Robin in Gotham, although kudos to the writers who introduced Dick Grayson’s parents as newlyweds in season 1. It was a fun little Easter egg for true fans. Who knows, maybe in a later season, Selina can rob the Grayson’s apartment and young master Grayson can kick her ass as a spunky toddler.
Season 1 of Gotham
So, why no Robin? I think the commitment to grit in the DCEU has pushed the Boy Wonder out of the universe. The costume of the dead Robin was there to tell fans to fugetaboutit. Batman is a dark angry loner in our universe and that’s the way it will stay. The fact that it is probably Jason Todd Robin only supports that, as Dick Grayson is still alive in the DC Universe and has adopted the persona Nightwing – more on that in a bit.
Certainly, DC and Warner Brothers could introduce either the 3rd (Tim Drake) or 4th (Stephanie Brown) people to wear the sidekick’s duds, but it is unlikely, as movies have a tendency to work towards the widest possible appeal, and Drake and Brown are less well-known to the casual superhero fan than Grayson or Todd.
All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder
The second reason it is unlikely is that DC, in an attempt to imitate Marvel’s success, has adopted a big team-up approach by going in with films like Suicide Squad and Justice League. I actually don’t expect Ben Affleck to be around much past the standalone Batman film he is committed to , and then we will have some reboot again. A shame. If you want to imitate Marvel, imitate the long term commitment to the franchise. I can’t help but feel the success of Marvel films hinges on that. Even as I watched Logan this week, I knew that despite a few clunkers, the long-term commitment of Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart really built a solid base. There were only 2 films in the X-verse that were unenjoyable to me, and those were 100% scripting problems.
The Geekiverse Ranks The X-Men Movies
Batman and Superman are the foundation on which the new DCEU is built, and if you move on from Cavill or Affleck, you may as well start over again….again.
The announced Nightwing film, to be directed by Chris McKay, director of the recently released Lego Batman film, can fill in the void here, and bridge the gaps. By bringing in Grayson as Nightwing, producers can avoid the expectation of campiness established by Burt Ward back in the 1960’s.
Nightwing, as a film, is still in its infancy. The only real announcement made is McKay as director. Nightwing, since leaving behind the Robin mask has been a character who sees his job fighting crime as fun. He enjoys it, which allows for DC and the Bros to add a level (humor) to the DCEU that they have been mostly unsuccessful at as of yet.
Unfortunately, NIghtwing is a long way off. Already on the boards at DC/WB is a long list of films including: Gotham City Sirens, Wonder Woman, Justice League, Aquaman, Suicide Squad 2, Batman, Shazam, Cyborg and the troubled Flash project that has lost key personnel a couple of times, over what is probably studio meddling in the creative side of the project. So, we don’t know when, or even if, Dick Grayson will make it to the screen. The good news, even if it is a 2019 or 2020 release, it does not really matter who is wearing the cowl as they have not been connected yet, whereas all the members of the Suicide Squad and the Justice League will have been connected to Batfleck along the way, who I don’t suspect will still be hanging in Gotham by 2020. So, even a reboot (probably costly in both dollars and fan loyalty) won’t really affect the Nightwing film.
Here’s hoping this works. I’m going to dive in and read me some Nightwing comics and get acquainted with the later life of the Boy Wonder. Adding Nightwing, and creating some story bits that connect him to Batman would add some rich layers to the DCEU, something it currently lacks. Also, it would allow for a nice continuity if producers want, when Affleck retires, whoever is playing Nightwing could move into the role of Batman and the story could include moving Damian Wayne into the role of Robin, which means you need to re-introduce Talia al Ghul to the mix. Look at how I easy I put that all together. Hey, DC and Warner Brothers, gimme a call. I got this.
What do you think? Is missing Robin a gross injustice in the DC Film and TV universe? Leave me a comment below.
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Pete Herr is the author of “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t”. He is the oldest geek in the Geekiverse by a factor of two. Follow Pete Herr on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram . If you don’t he gets Grumpy. You don’t want to see him Grumpy.
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