It’s no secret that Batman has been the star of many cinematic outings. While the Caped Crusader differs in each adaptation, there are plenty of recognisable elements through each version, such as Bruce’s trusty butler Alfred Pennyworth and the Batmobile. But one aspect that rarely survives the jump from the comic-books to the movies is Batman’s trusted sidekick Robin.
While it’s hard to forget Chris O’Donnell’s turn as the Boy Wonder, or his portrayal in the delightful The Lego Batman Movie, the big screen has rarely taken the character seriously. Robin has been ignored for too long, but Matt Reeves’ The Batman could change everything – and bring him back into the cinematic Bat mythos for good.
Robert Pattinson’s Dark Knight will see the superhero in his second year of crime fighting, which means he’ll be at his most impressionable – somewhere between amateur vigilante and battle-hardened fighter. This is the perfect time to bring Robin into the story. The sidekick has a massive impact on Batman, the masked hero, and Bruce Wayne, the person: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice very briefly alluded to the impact Robin’s death has on Bruce, his absence turning Bats into a cruel and uncharacteristically lethal hero (and Zack Snyder’s Justice League will likely show us more). The Batman, though, can show the importance of Robin to Bruce’s story while he’s actually alive.
It might be surprising to learn the brightly clad Boy Wonder can fit into a gritty Bat adaptation, but the bond between Batman and Robin is based on something deep and dark itself – shared trauma. The first person to hold the Robin title, Dick Grayson, helped Batman deal with the death of his parents. Like Bruce, Dick saw his own parents killed in a senseless tragedy – the Flying Graysons were acrobats at Haly’s Circus, killed mid-performance when a criminal cut the wires of their trapeze – and by helping Dick cope with his grief, Bruce was able to better handle his own feelings and open up to the possibility of having a family again.
Batman Forever touched on this quite effectively, but the follow-up, Batman & Robin, threw the more serious aspects of the story out completely. Pattinson’s Batman is young, which means his parents couldn’t have died all that long ago – and Robin is traditionally far more light-hearted than his brooding mentor, so a new partner could do Pattinson’s grim Dark Knight wonders.
Then there’s the potential for further storylines that the introduction of Robin could usher in. Dick may be the first to hold that superhero name, but he’s far from the last – his successors all bring their own unique twist to the mythos. There’s Jason Todd, who was infamously killed by the Joker, which plunged Bruce right back into the violent, reckless phase of his vigilante career. Jason was followed by Tim Drake, who helped pull Batman back out of the darkness by grabbing the yellow cape, and secured his position by insisting to Bruce that “Batman needs a Robin” to keep him in check. Bruce even has a biological son named Damian Wayne, who flipped the script by needing Bruce’s help to become a hero after being raised by assassins.
And then there’s Stephanie Brown and Carrie Kelley, whose storylines both deal with loss and trauma – Stephanie died on the job, and Carrie took on the Robin name after Jason’s death in Frank Miller’s famous alternate universe tale, The Dark Knight Returns. It helps that these characters all tend to become their own hero once they leave the Robin mantle behind, too – which sounds like unlimited spinoff potential for HBO Max projects. Chris McKay’s mooted Nightwing film could live again if Dick outgrows Robin in Reeves’ trilogy and takes up the new identity.
As much as we’re used to the image of a lone Batman patrolling Gotham City, he’s surrounded by friends and his found-family in the comics. The Batman already includes two of these allies – Catwoman and Commissioner Gordon – and it looks like the Bat and the Cat will have more of a friendly rivalry than a hero vs villain relationship. There might not be room for Robin in the first instalment of the trilogy, considering Bruce looks to have his hands full with taking on the Riddler, but if Bruce warms up to working with Catwoman in this film then he could be primed to accept a sidekick in a sequel.
With all the potential of The Batman trilogy, it’s time to finally start taking Robin seriously and delve into what makes pop culture’s most iconic duo such a good partnership.
Until March 4 2022, check out our guide to watching DC movies in order to get caught up.