The Robin debate

Posted by · 1:10 pm · July 1st, 2008

(I’m going to geek out quite a bit here, so bear with me.)

Erik Davis at Cinematical points us today to what I would consider a rather ill-advised rant from Sturdy of JoBlo against the idea of introducing the character of Dick Grayson (a.k.a. Robin) into the Christopher Nolan Batman franchise.

Now, I would like to be measured here, because this is an argument far too easily given to hyperbole regarding what Robin is and what he means to the Batman mythos, to say nothing of what his existence means in the scope of a relationship with Bruce Wayne.

I think an introduction is possible, if not valuable, to the franchise Nolan has crafted thus far.

If there is one argument from Sturdy on which I side, it is that Robin has never worked on film or television.  Burt Ward’s incarnation in the 1960s television show worked for what the series was going for, but not for what the character was, while the Joel Schumacher films depicted a character far too old and leaning much too heavily on the “young, dumb and full of cum” credo that must have been difficult to resist.

I do, however, think the notion that Robin has never worked in comics can only come from a reader never truly engaged in what DC writers have done with the character over the years.  Indeed, many story lines failed because it is a dynamic that is difficult to grasp and control (not to mention dense with a three character history), but the proof of Grayson’s worth came with his own evolution into an adult less convinced but more understanding of his role as a vigilante than Bruce Wayne could ever be.

To begin with, I think there is much to be made of a youthful character enduring the pain and suffering Wayne encountered as a child and being flung into the custody of the billionaire playboy.  The cliched defense has always been that Grayson brought out a humanity in Wayne, and I think that still remains true.  Wayne is afflicted by a selfishness, while Grayson forces him to understand his own many layers.  But I believe there is even more to be gained from watching the evolution of Robin into Nightwing, an antithesis of sorts to the Bat first introduced in the mid-1980s.

An entire trilogy could be created to tell the Grayson/Robin/Nightwing story, one as theatric as Wayne’s if not more so.  Indeed, depending on the patience and commitment a filmmaker has to these characters, a lineage could be captured on film rivaling the greatest of cinematic adaptations, and I say that with the straightest of faces.  If critics are evoking “The Godfather” in their assessments of “The Dark Knight,” they might find themselves refering to Roman mythology when struggling to convey the epic potential found within this relationship.

Of course, the comics have depicted three separate Robins in the last 40 years, which makes these waters tricky to navigate.  But I believe aspects of Grayson, Jason Todd and Tim Drake could be lifted to create a solitary, definitive depiction, one that carries across the importance the character, in all his forms, has meant to Wayne in countless issues and countless story archs.  In so doing, Nolan might conceive the genesis of an entirely different vigilante with his own set of ideals, his own lessons learned and his own vibrant story to convey.

So if Sturdy is right, and Nolan is considering introducing Robin in the third installment of his pre-conceived trilogy, I don’t think it’s time for despair in the slightest.  The filmmaker has said in the past that he is uninterested in the character, while some have speculated that the boy from the third act of “Batman Begins,” Jason, might be a wink if not an introduction of the character of Jason Todd.  But whatever the case may be, I think Nolan has proven himself to be more than understanding of what does and does not work.  He deserves more than the benefit of the doubt.

→ 29 Comments Tags: , , | Filed in: Daily

29 responses so far

  • 1 7-01-2008 at 1:30 pm

    Mr. Gittes said...

    Kris, Sturdy is referencing a bogus Cinemablend “scoop.” Why do I think it’s bogus? Well, read it it:

    I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe a word of it. Remember rumors about Philip Seymour Hoffman playing the Penguin in TDK? Except, or course, the Penguin would be like an arms dealer to fit Nolan’s universe…uh-huh.

    In a recent interview, Gary Oldman has kinda sorta said that the Riddler might appear in the next Batman: ttp://

    Robin will never appear in a Chris Nolan directed Batman movie.

  • 2 7-01-2008 at 2:06 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Nolan would have to make them gay lovers. Now that would be a dark summer flick.

  • 3 7-01-2008 at 2:20 pm

    Josh said...

    I would actually like to see Dick Grayson aka Nightwing get his own movie franchise.

  • 4 7-01-2008 at 3:07 pm

    Brian Kinsley said...

    I’m interested in seeing Robin in this film series, but apprehensive.

    I love that I have really no idea what Bat3 could bring.

  • 5 7-01-2008 at 3:23 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Bat 3, if they really wanted to get nuts, could bring a No Man’s Land story line into the fold. Two Face is set, obviously, to be the dominant villain, while the Joker could be eluded to regarding his “territory” in the city, making him very much still a threat but not necessary to be on screen.

    Anyway, thanks for the cinemablend info, Gittes. And I did see that Oldman slip-up. The Riddler has been on the brink of appearing in this franchise for a while now.

    For the record, I liked the arms dealer angle for the Penguin. He’s the most misunderstood villain because he’s classically misused. He has no business as a major “rogues gallery” villain, and makes more sense as a mob, Flat Top-to-Dick-Tracy sort of thing. Not sure Hoffman would have worked, though. Bob Hoskins on the other hand…

  • 6 7-01-2008 at 4:36 pm

    Mr. Gittes said...

    I found it a bit odd that Oldman wanted to get out The Dark Knight but his contract wouldn’t allow it. Huh? What? I remember Oldman saying that playing Gordon was one of his favorite roles of his career because he identified with it and his kids liked to see him as Gordon. However, per the article, he’s not quoted as saying that. Movieweb just says it. So I dunno…

  • 7 7-02-2008 at 2:56 am

    Markku said...

    I’d be sad to see Oldman. Gordon was my favortie character in Batman Begins and Oldman sold the “last honest cop” -thing with panache and intensity usually reserved for villains.

  • 8 7-02-2008 at 2:57 am

    Markku said...

    I meant I’d be sad to see him *go*.

  • 9 7-02-2008 at 8:34 am

    Michael Draycott said...

    First off…Robin sucks, and wouldn’t work as the colourful character he is in Nolan’s very extreme, adult and completely realistic world he has created. But at the end of the day, ‘THE DARK KNIGHT’ hasn’t even been released yet, Nolan once said that he would never introduce Robin whilst he is at the helm,and any Nolan fan knows, that he never thinks or presents any rumours about his next project until they are in pre-production!

  • 10 7-02-2008 at 8:58 am

    jtc said...

    Your article, while making good points, actually shows exactly why this would never work. Robin would need his own franchise for the character to be interesting. I admit, I used to despise the character, but I agree, what DC has done with him in later years is pretty damn cool – so I’ve become a fan now. So, I think it would be very cool to give him his own franchise – showing how he grew up under Wayne’s guard and then eventually into Nightwing. But that’s exactly why this could never work in Nolan’s Batman franchise. The story is too large and would detract from the new Batman story we’ve got going on. So, leave it alone. Robin/Nightwing needs his own space to breathe. He needs his own story where he’s the focus. I don’t want him treading on Nolan’s Batman universe and f-ing it all up. I finally have a badass Batman on film and I can forget my horrible nightmares known as the Burton/Schumacher fiasco. Please don’t suggest they take it away from me by bringing Robin into it. I agree with Nolan. Keep him out. But, by all means, give him his own franchise, sure thing. …Just my 2 cents.

  • 11 7-02-2008 at 9:07 am

    jtc said...

    By the way, Mr. Gittes (& Markku). That stuff about Oldman wanting to leave TDK is nonsense. Movieweb is wrong, your memory is correct. Here’s a recent article backing you up as well – where he confirms he enjoys working with Nolan and would love to return for a third.

  • 12 7-02-2008 at 9:55 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    There seems to be many bogus stories about TDK right now. Another one said Bale would quit if they were to introduce Robin.

    Everyone’s just trying to get some attention amidst the frenzy.

  • 13 7-02-2008 at 10:57 am

    yo gabba gabba said...

    I got bad news for ya……..Two-Face isn’t going to be in the next film

  • 14 7-02-2008 at 12:17 pm

    Kris Krause said...

    I’d like to see Nolan finish up a trilogy, but I don’t believe for a moment he’s going to do a fourth movie. So what I would do is introduce Grayson at the end of the third movie and foreshadow Robin but not put Robin into the film.

    Then, since Nolan would be done with the Batman franchise, I’d make a Nightwing movie rooted in the Nolan continuity that covers Dick’s time as Robin and his transition to Nightwing in flashbacks much like Batman Begins was handled. Dick Grayson is my favorite character, but honestly he’s not all that interesting until he becomes Nightwing so I think his time as Robin and his evolution can all be handled in one film.

    Something clearly set up by Nolan in Begins is that Batman is a symbol and he is more than one man. Bruce will die one day and the introduction of Robin continues the theme that Batman is a symbol and will continue to grow and exist beyond Bruce Wayne. Whether Dick accepts that destiny or not could be the question of a Nightwing trilogy, which could lead into another Batman trilogy that could incorporate future Robins as the war against crime escalates even further. This is long term planning here, but if they do it right and interweave the stories, we could have a lasting and varied source for Batman related movies for decades.

  • 15 7-02-2008 at 1:00 pm

    kholding10 said...

    I think the only way this would be successful is if it was left to the imagination after the 3rd movie. Sort of like the way they teased the Joker… But, that’s just it, they’ve done it already with the Joker which make it unlikely it would be duplicated in such a fashion.

    The good thing about that is you can then start the Nightwing Saga… But, you’d have to be careful because the stories are so alike, that you’d be rehashing what Batman Begins was all about…

  • 16 7-02-2008 at 2:51 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    After seeing “Wanted” tonight, I’m convinced James McAvoy would be a PERFECT Nightwing. Just sayin’.

  • 17 7-02-2008 at 6:47 pm

    Ron Corless said...

    I hope Robin will be in the third Batman movie. Robin makes Batman feel like a father figure and older brother. Robin gives Batman somebody to talk to. I’ve always liked Robin’s colorful costume. I’ve always found Batman is more fun when Robin is with him. Batman and Robin have always been a great team. I think Robin could work in Nolan’s Batman movies. I think Robin should still be Dick Grayson but have him be more like Tim Drake and wear the updated red and black costume that Tim Drake wears.

    And also base the Robin and the story on the graphic novel Dark Victory which the the next film is rumored to be based on. And perhaps it could pave the way for a second Batman trilogy and have Batman and Robin together all the time and Dick Grayson becomes Nightwing in the sxith Batman film and Tim Drake becomes the next Robin.


  • 18 7-03-2008 at 10:50 am

    Sam said...

    what’s with this cult of the “adult” and “mature” when it comes to batman movies? how is it a “realistic” depiction of life, which last time i checked includes children, to leave out anything childish?

    batman = orphan raised by alfred (substitute father)

    robin = orphan raised by batman (substitute father)

    it’s not rocket science, people. just logical character development.

    they could do a more or less straight adaptation of the B:TAS episode “robin’s reckoning” and i’d be fine with it. just throw the riddler or whoever in there to flesh it out.

  • 19 7-04-2008 at 8:04 am

    chris said...

    hello. im a big fan of batman, but problem is i cant think of batman without robin being around sooner or later. i do hope chris nolan and christian bale consider putting robin in the franchise sometime down the road. but this is how i thought they could do it, they should introduce him as dick grayson first and in the movie after that one he becomes robin and go on from there. i disagree with those who say robin brings light to batman, c,mon dick was just as dark when he became nightwing, surely they can do the same with batman’s partner. thats all i have to say.

  • 20 7-04-2008 at 11:20 am

    cYnical said...

    People in Gotham are already trying to figure out who Batman really is.

    If Bruce Wayne adopts a kid after a highly publicized accident, then Batman starts running around with a kid in a suit, it will just be that much easier to put two and two together.

    Also, Nolan’s Batman primarily uses fear to confront his enemies. How much fear does and eight year old in a bright red, yellow, and green costume instill?

  • 21 7-18-2008 at 6:15 am

    brianna said...

    They should introduce Robin/night wing/ greyson….Nolan just stupid…afraid of losin Bale as batman….becuz bale is an attention whore….if he wasn’t the lead I’m sure he would have already introduced him in the dark knight… personally I feel batman begins sucked…thiis ones only going to do well becuz of ledgar (and his death)

  • 22 7-18-2008 at 6:23 am

    brianna said...

    Oh yea and no kidding extremly adult that’s how it is in the comics…robin shows a bit of innocence..depending on which one they would probably do…. in batman and robin (1998) they made him seem stupid which in the comics they do the oposite….robin brings in a lot of good story lines….and if they don’t introduce him chances are barbara gordon will also not make an apearance

  • 23 4-09-2009 at 5:42 am

    Andrew Ho said...

    Robin is my all time favorite character in DC. i get angry when people automatically dismiss this character when mention for an up coming movie. This is because Robin has been Stigmatized with a bad label from the past movies as well as people not understanding his background and importance to the story of Batman. Do your research he is a awesome character. Nevertheless these new movies have been based on the comics ”The Long Halloween and Dark Victory”. The origin of Robin sorta starts towards the end of Dark Victory which although he really doesn’t put on the costume until the very end, it still shows how he graduates to becoming The Robin as Batman’s partner. Dick Grayson has suffered a terrible lost just like batman, he is also very intelligent, cunning, and acrobatic from his circus life which is vital, believable, evidence to support his abilities to the duo team. If Nolan wanted to he can work his magic and make it his own as many of us have faith in him now. It wont stuff up the movie if they can do it right

  • 24 4-08-2010 at 10:11 pm

    Shane said...

    Ok, the following is a matter of opinion it is in no way a fact nor a ploy to get people to agree with me, however if you do agree or disagree, thats’s your decision: These are the pros and cons to having Robin in the Nolan seriess. I’ll start with the cons first: 1. People will instinctively think that it will end up like the Schumacher franchise and refuse to go to the theaters causing a box office bomb. 2. People will think it would lead to a homosexual relationship with the two. 3. People will think that Robin would be “too light” to batman’s dark persona. 4. People will think that nolan would hire some shitty actor to play him. and 5. let’s face it, red yellow and green would stand out in the dark.
    Here are the Pros: 1. they’ll probably stick to the story this time and use the real mobster to kill his parents, like they used Joe Chill in the first movie. 2. They might try to base him more on the Animated series version like they did two face in dark knight, both of which are badass. 3. He might start out as more out of control even arguing with batman on some occasions before he learns better. 4. who knows the actor that plays him might be a fan-girl fave and at the same time a serious actor. 5. If lucius fox can turn a cell phone into a sonar map, i’m sure he can work things out with the robin suit. 6. the bat pod is so cool I can’t wait to see what they do to the robin cycle.

    like I said this is based on opinion not fact. if you agree thats fine, if you don’t agree that’s fine too.

  • 25 4-08-2010 at 10:46 pm

    Shane said...

    Also knowing nolan they’ll probably hire another british and or austrailian guy that can fake a angelo north american accent (bale\ledger.)

  • 26 4-09-2010 at 6:27 am

    Mark Kratina said...

    I remember reading this nearly two years ago and liking it, Kris. Have always been a fan of the Tim Drake/Robin character, though I don’t like the current Robin’s suit (minus the green).

    Robin could absolutely be a key player in an additional trilogy, one that sees his parents murdered/taken in by Wayne/discovers Batman’s identity in the first film, is sent off for training in second film, only to re-emerge in third film as Robin. The first two films would show Batman’s rage spinning out of control while Robin & Alfred serve to rein him in by the third film. It would show what Tim told Bruce in the comics, that Batman needs Robin to bring out his humanity.

    Basically, Robin would be effective if he was simply a mature kid who didn’t a) whine (I’m looking at you Schumacher), b) spout stupid quips (Burt Ward), or c) fill in any of the other bad Robin cliches. Basically, you’d give the Dick Grayson origin, but make Robin the Tim Drake version.

    Nolan will never do it, though I could see him finishing the third film with some hint as to Bruce attending the circus or something like that. Fun to re-visit this topic.