As yet another reminder that fans know next nothing about the actual plot or cast of Zack Snyder's Batman V Superman, the question of what role - if any - a past sidekick to Ben Affleck's Dark Knight could play has once again risen. But with Snyder making his intentions of drawing heavily from Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" comic series perfectly clear, it's possible that a female Robin may be a more likely candidate. And for those who hold to the theory, it seems an actress has already emerged as a frontrunner.
Rumors that Zack Snyder intended to introduce a new Robin into the film formula for Affleck's Batman have been circulating since the film's announcement, with the now-debunked fake BvS script claiming it would be Carrie Kelley - a young girl who took on the mantle in Miller's "Dark Knight Returns" - filling the role. Also in keeping with Miller's take, a memorial to a deceased Robin (Jason Todd for you comic fans) would also be included; his relationship with Dick Grayson would remain unclear.
But when actress Jena Malone was spotted on the set alongside Zack Snyder this summer, many fans saw it as confirmation that the director would be almost entirely adapting the characters and themes of Miller's comic. At the time (and to this point) it still seems a long shot to include not just a sidekick to Batman - once seen as impossible in Christopher Nolan's serious take - but to cast what may be one of the least known versions. And, thematically speaking, her origin story isn't what one might call 'epic.'
Where the first versions of 'the Boy Wonder' fell victim to the loss of a parent or a similarly tragic event, and were brought under Batman's wing for guidance, Carrie simply decided to make her own Robin costume, and seek out the Dark Knight with a slingshot in hand, hoping to earn a place at his side based on willpower alone. In the end, Carrie proved her effectiveness with her quick wits (and the required acrobatic), and has plenty of fans despite her limited appearances.
As news of Malone's presence passed, the speculation seemed to die down as more and more came to believe that Malone and Snyder were simply friends following their work on SuckerPunch. But all it took was a single photo of Malone's posted to Instagram to deliver what many again see as a smoking gun:
It's a far cry from concrete evidence, since the hairstyle isn't the first change Malone has made to her 'do (including the upcoming Hunger Games: Mockingjay). However, her prominence on the set of a film drawing from "The Dark Knight Returns," and now changing her appearance to more closely resemble a character from that comic is grounds for speculation. Especially since Malone would actually be a strong fit for the character's personality.
In several roles - including SuckerPunch - Malone has shown a knack for conveying confident, edgy and defiant characters. Those same traits describe Carrie Kelley perfectly, but given the age gap (the comics show her as a teen, while Malone is close to 30) some tweaks to the character's origin story would be needed. But all things considered, it isn't the age or origin of this Robin that could be put to use on rounding out Affleck's character.
Fans have known to expect an older, more worn and bitter Batman than they're used to this time around, since the vigilante will already have a lengthy career under his belt by the time the film begins; time enough to have lost a Robin, and plenty more than is needed to grow sour on the idea of trusting an ally. Whether that ally is a redheaded young woman, or a god-like being from another planet.
There has also been speculation that BvS:DoJ's take on Wayne Manor could be significantly more modest, and seemingly more urban in its location. If that's the case - and if Bruce Wayne's penchant for underworld nightlife proves true - then there would be ample opportunities for he and Carrie Kelley to cross paths. It wouldn't take much maneuvering to frame Wayne's cynicism against Kelley's fresh enthusiasm and drive. That's also a parallel story to one we expect to see at least partially told when Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman share the screen.
A 'Girl Wonder' coming from a broken home and desiring to simply make a difference in the same way Batman has for Gotham City could also offer a reprieve from the larger 'anti-Superman' themes or protests. After all, if DC and WB intend to have Affleck's older Batman appear in a standalone film a few years from now, any extra effort spent on the characters, struggles, and street crime of Gotham could pay off down the line.
Whichever version of Batman's sidekick ends up being discussed for DC's shared movie universe, and regardless of who will play them, it's clear the most obvious solution won't be the easiest one to turn to. If nothing else, a version of Batman as old as Affleck's largely rules out the usual Robin origin (unless Snyder decides that a twenty year gap between is what he's aiming for). Even if Snyder's influences weren't as explicit, Carrie Kelley's story (or Tim Drake's) would seem a more believable one in keeping with the tone of Man of Steel.
For reasons that should be clear to every Batman film buff, adding a sidekick to the Dark Knight requires some careful movements. George Clooney has apologized for "ruining Batman," but mass audiences may not be so forgiving; still associating the title with Batman Forever or Batman & Robin, or simply the juvenile version of Dick Grayson. It was only Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises that seemed to win fans over to the idea, but the need to keep the character's 'identity' a mystery could be a sign that even the director was a skeptic. Although WB would likely be pleased to add a female Bat-character to their universe without '-girl' in her title.
It's also entirely possible that a red-haired Malone could appear as a simple easter egg for fans, playing a small role as an admirer of Gotham's caped crusader, planting a seed that may or may not bloom in a Batman solo film (rumored to arrive in 2019 at the earliest). But considering the grain of salt that must be taken with the current speculation on Malone's involvement, it's best to simply hope that any version of Robin will be deemed suitable for the big screen.
What do you think of Robin's absence from modern, grounded Batman movies? Is a version like Carrie Kelley a more likely solution, or would you still prefer Dick Grayson to return to the fold once Batman V Superman has come and gone? Share your thoughts in the comments, and we'll keep you up to date as more(?) evidence arrives.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice arrives on March 25th, 2016.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce for Batman V Superman updates as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.