The Caped Crusader is gearing up to fight crime once again in director Matt Reeves' The Batman, and it could be the perfect opportunity to finally get Robin right on the big screen. Reeves is the latest director to take a crack at one of, if not the most, well-known superheroes ever created, Bruce Wayne a.k.a. Batman. Reeves is reportedly creating a new Batman trilogy, which means there are some big opportunities to get key elements of Batman lore right this time around — namely, Batman's sidekick and the other half of the Dynamic Duo, Robin.
Robin has been with Batman since almost the very beginning of his comics run. Dick Grayson, the first Robin, came from a family of acrobats who, unfortunately, were murdered when he was still young. He soon became Bruce Wayne's ward, sticking by Bruce's side, learning from him, and growing into the trusty right hand Bruce needed as Batman. Robin would eventually forge his own path and evolve into the masked vigilante Nightwing, opening up the role for other Robins to step in and help Batman save the day.
With Reeves taking his Batman story back to Bruce's early years in the cowl and cape, it stands to reason Robin would also be involved in, and some rumors have supported this notion. At least, he should be involved because it's been far too long since Robin's been fairly and accurately depicted in a film adaptation of the Batman story that feels in alignment with how he is depicted in the comics.
So, how do you solve a problem like Robin? There are some key things about how Robin should be involved in The Batman that will help get the on-screen version of this character (finally) right.
There's Time to Develop a Proper Robin Story
A new Batman trilogy from Reeves means there would be plenty of time to develop Robin. Where other films have thrown him in for one or two films or worse, only featured him as a background character who wasn't blatantly revealed to be Robin (more on that later), three films would be perfect to do right by this beloved sidekick.
At this point, the tragic past of Batman has been repeatedly shown in nearly every movie made in the modern era. At this point, it's a groan-worthy proposition to rehash Batman's backstory because it is so well-known. Fortunately, Reeves is skipping past these details, introducing a Batman who isn't brand new, but still in the early years of his career. Conveniently, this is the perfect place for Robin to become a part of the story.
Reeves' Proved He Could Handle Robin's Themes With Planet of the Apes
It would make sense for Reeves to introduce Robin early into The Batman and work to evolve him as a character if only because Reeves has experience introducing and sensitively handling younger characters. Case in point: Blue Eyes and Ash from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. In that film, Blue Eyes and Ash are still children when they become involved in the battle between apes and humans.
These are young creatures who are experiencing the horrors of war, persecution and engaging in dangerous activity for a perceived cause. They're even swept up as child soldiers in Koba's army before joining Cesar upon his return. Reeves expertly explores what Blue Eyes and Ash must be going through. These are all themes that are present in many interpretations of Robin who is swept up in the violent world of Batman's war on crime in Gotham at a very young age.
Reeves did all this with both limited screentime and virtually no dialogue, incorporating younger characters who've faced down seriously adult issues (and done it well), he could do the same for Robin's personality and arc in The Batman and beyond.
A More Serious Take Can Fix Problems With Past Robins
Another good reason to get Robin in on the ground floor of a new Batman trilogy? The varying quality of previous Robins. If Robin has ever been included in a Batman film or TV show, it's often been done to differing degrees of efficacy.
Burt Ward's Robin has had the most screentime to date, starring alongside Adam West in both a Batman movie in 1966 and then the Batman live-action TV series from 1966 to 1968. Chris O'Donnell's take on Robin in 1995's Batman Forever and 1997's Batman & Robin painted Robin was to play him as a stereotypically '90s brash, tough motorcycle-riding guy with a buzz cut who was rough around the edges, needing to be shaped into the kind of hero who didn't fight for praise. By the time Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Blake showed up in The Dark Knight Rises and did the action and investigative work of Robin but his identity was treated as a surprise twist, leaving plenty of room for dissatisfaction as a squandered opportunity to properly introduce Robin.
Robin may be the comic relief at times and at other times is required to be a tough guy. But there needs to be a balanced depiction of Robin onscreen, especially when he, like Batman, has very similar emotional baggage. Honoring the seriousness of Robin's backstory and introducing it early on allows for meaningful, serious development that won't feel forced. Robin needs to have the time and space onscreen to have a story arc and let it develop; not be rushed at the end or treated as a non-entity. If Reeves sees this need, he could remove the camp of past iterations. This would allow Reeves to focus on creating a more serious Robin who also feels authentic and would have the opportunity to be depicted in a way much closer to the source material.
Batman The Mentor Is Largely Unexplored in Previous Live-Action Versions
Fans of the Batman comics know that Batman isn't just a vigilante fighting crime on the streets of Gotham — he's a mentor to Robin as well. He protects Robin, he gives Robin a new purpose as a young crimefighter, and he makes sure to take every opportunity to help Robin through complicated issues. Batman's paternal role in Robin's life has, at various points in both characters' histories, been healing. Batman and Robin have had to live a majority of their lives without fathers. But their dynamic, both as superhero and sidekick, mentor and mentee, has allowed them to engage in that kind of a relationship and heal.
This aspect of Batman's character is almost entirely absent from Batman's cinematic depictions. The Schumacher Batman movie introduced a much older Robin, situating Dick almost as a sort of rival to Bruce, robbing them of the father-son relationship (after all, Dick Grayson is Bruce Wayne's adopted son) and mentorship that defines much of their history.
Putting Robin in The Batman and making sure to focus on Batman his growth as Robin while Dick Grayson also learns from Bruce Wayne is an enticing opportunity. Incorporating this dynamic means Batman would have to grow up, take responsibility, and allow him to be vulnerable with someone he trusts and works alongside. Having Robin as a crime-fighting partner and mentee means Robin can also have that character development we so desperately crave. Robin will be able to learn, he'll be able to mess up, and he'll get the sage guidance of Bruce along the way.
But most importantly, it would just be really good to see a young Batman get his act together and become a mentor to a young man in need of his help.
- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021