It’s been over 20-years since Robin was last seen in the live-action world of Batman. Sure, there’s been teases of the boy wonder, notably in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises with Joseph Gordon-Levitt carrying on the role of the classic Batman sidekick, though Nolan himself has confirmed that he had no intentions on continuing the story of Robin. There was artistic reasoning behind his method which is that Batman is a symbol that can be anybody. There was even a reference to Robin being dead in Zack Synder’s Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Surprisingly, one of the key parts of the Batman lore hasn’t been seen in the world of Batman since Nolan revitalized the franchise back in 2005. Now, Robin hasn’t been completely erased from the Batman lore. He’s all over the animated features and he even headlines the Titans show on HBO Max. However, is it time to re-introduce Robin/Nightwing back into the world of the live-action Batman films?
First things first, Batman doesn’t need Robin in his films. The popular DC hero has never been a crutch that Batman needs in order to save the day, so all of the films without Robin are just fine. However, that doesn’t mean that Robin isn’t a vital part of the Batman world. There’s been several variations of the DC character with the first being Dick Grayson, who made his debut in Detective Comics #38 in April of 1940. There’s also Jason Todd (Red Hood), Tim Drake (Red Robin), Damian Wayne, and even a heroine by the name of Stephanie Brown (who eventually became Batgirl). The stories are similar in how all Robin Hood characters start out under the wing of Batman. Originally, Bill Finger – one of the creators of Batman and Robin – saw Robin as the Watson to Batman’s Sherlock Holmes. While that’s certainly the case, the most interesting aspect of the character is that we’ve yet to see a live-action Nightwing character. In fact, it’s shocking that we haven’t gotten a Robin/Nightwing solo film. And no, those crappy variations of medieval Robin’s don’t count in the DC lore. While Batman doesn’t particularly need Robin, there’s an interesting story that none of the modern filmmakers aren’t capitalizing on. Say what you will about Titans, but Dick Grayson’s relationship with the dark knight is certainly a fascinating one. Watching the boy wonder grow up in a corrupt and dark world could truly be an interesting experience.
Both Batman and Robin have a similar story in regards to their parents; Both tragically died at the hands of criminals within the Gotham world. However, that’s where the parallels and dynamic of both characters could differ. There’s been plenty of teased darkness with the Robin character, namely with Jason Todd. The second incarnation was more of street thug with a rebellious streak. Notably, in Batman issue #424, it’s implied that Todd actually killed a serial rapist named Garzonas, with the young boy actually asking Batman, “Would it be such a loss if I had killed him?” There’s too much rich potential on how Robin would grow up in the darker world of Gotham. Playing off the dynamic between Batman and Robin opens numerous directions that can actually freshen up the Batman lore. Don’t get me wrong, there’s huge excitement over the Matt Reeves version of Batman coming out in March, but the movie is seemingly playing with the same puzzle pieces as Nolan and Synder did. Sure, The Riddler will be making his first live-action movie appearance in over 20-years, and Carmine Falcone is making his debut, but there’s no true challenges on the superhero front. Unless you want to count the on-and-off relationship between Catwoman and Batman.
Nolan played with this notion in The Dark Knight in the vein of Harvey Dent/Two-Face. The story was well told overall, though Two-Face’s death was too quick. In fact, it would’ve been better if Two-Face was the big bad for The Dark Knight Rises. It’s definitely time to bring back Robin into the Batman fold. The films don’t necessarily have to follow the source material. In fact, maybe they could actually start out with Nightwing? Or Jason Todd/Red Hood could be the villain of the next Batman feature? Either way, the potential for Robin/Nightwing in the Matt Reeves world is too great for the DC hero to sit on the sidelines once again. Especially since Reeves has made it clear that Batman is more of a detective in this world. It would be great if he had a Watson by his side.
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