Following the news that Warner Brothers officially worked out an agreement with Matt Reeves to direct The Batman after negotiations broke down last week, the studio has decided that The Dark Knight’s sidekick should get a movie too.
According to The Hollywood Reporter‘s Rebecca Ford, Warner Bros. and DC Films are developing a film featuring Nightwing, the older version of Batman’s partner Robin. Chris McKay, who directed The LEGO Batman Movie, is attached to helm the project. He’s already directed a version of the character (voiced by Michael Cera), albeit one who enjoys wearing short tights a bit too much. The script will be written by Bill Dubuque, who most recently wrote The Accountant for the studio.
In DC Comics mythology, Dick Grayson eventually ditched the Robin name and costume in an effort to establish his own identity and step out of the Caped Crusader’s prominent shadow. Others such as Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and Damien Wayne each adopted the Robin identity, but Nightwing became a popular character with the Teen Titans in addition to his own comic book series. The character has also been seen in several of DC’s animated films and TV series. (This will be a live-action film, however.)
The Dick Grayson character has been on screen twice before, played by Chris O’Donnell in 1995’s Batman Forever and 1997’s Batman and Robin. Though Grayson was Robin in both films, the costume he wore the second time around followed the design used for Nightwing in DC Comics with a bird across the chest and shoulders, and a mask with wing-like features that resembled the Batman logo.
Considering the success Batman movies have had for Warner Bros., building out that part of the DC Extended Universe probably isn’t a bad direction to pursue. The studio announced in December that it was making a spinoff from last year’s Suicide Squad with director David Ayer titled Gotham City Sirens, featuring Batman villains Harley Quinn, Catwoman and Poison Ivy.
The question is whether or not Batman will make an appearance in these films, as he did in Suicide Squad. Can a Batman-centric film be successful without Batman? Given the direct connection between former sidekick and mentor, it’s difficult to imagine that Batman won’t play at least some role in a Nightwing movie. At the very least, a new character and his relationship to a familiar one has to be introduced to a wider, non-comic book audience.
That is, unless one of the upcoming Justice League films or The Batman performs that objective, much like Batman v Superman introduced Wonder Woman before her standalone film (as well as the older, Ben Affleck version of Batman). Interestingly, Nightwing was rumored to be in BvS early on during its development and reports had Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) attached to the role.
The idea was to introduce the former Robin who had become estranged from Batman and struck out on his own. Whether those reports were erroneous or Nightwing was written out of the script is unknown. (Those who saw Batman v Superman might recall that Batman kept a display of Robin’s costume in tribute to his fallen sidekick. Suicide Squad revealed that The Joker and Harley Quinn killed Robin, but that was very likely the Jason Todd version of the character. A Nightwing movie being developed would seem to confirm that.)
Presumably, Nightwing could be a younger Batman-type of character, one who might be a bit more fun and relatable to a younger viewership. Dick Grayson’s parents were also killed as part of his origin story, compelling Bruce Wayne to become his legal guardian and steer him toward crimefighting. But Nightwing is not nearly as grim a presence as Batman has become since the 1980s, if for no other reason than he didn’t want to be like his joyless mentor.
Audiences might identify with someone breaking free from his upbringing and forging his own path. If that’s the case, perhaps Nightwing could lead more than one film or appear in other DC Extended Universe movies.
Maybe that’s one reason the studio wants to develop this project, as Ben Affleck’s continued interest in playing Gotham’s main superhero beyond the Batman and Justice League films he’s committed to (especially as he gets older) has to be called into question. (At some point, Warner Bros. will have to recast the Batman role yet again, especially if Affleck is as eager to get out of it as rumored. The current timeline of DC Films has Batman as an older character, but that can always be changed, especially for standalone movies.)
That’s probably wishful thinking, however, as Nightwing doesn’t have anywhere near the global recognition that Batman does, especially in terms of logo or costume. Regardless of what Nightwing’s costume looks like on film (and it has evolved over the years from its original disco-collar look), it won’t have the familiar, fearsome silhouette of Batman’s cowl, nor the cool factor of his cape.
But at his best, Nightwing is Batman with a little bit of Spider-Man and Daredevil mixed in. (Personally, he’s one of my favorite comic book characters, and the idea of him in a feature film is exciting.) A more enjoyable version of Batman — one that allows a bit more humor into his world, and has a more dynamic, gymnastics-type of fighting style — may be exactly what the grim DC Films universe needs at this point.