Whether you are talking about Rocky, Kingsman, or The Karate Kid, audiences can’t resist a good underdog story. There might not be any bigger one in comic books than Dick Grayson, aka Robin. The long-time sidekick of Batman has rarely gotten his opportunity to shine in the spotlight and it seems that things will change in the near future for the Boy Wonder.
The Batman LEGO Movie director Chris McKay has been hired by Warner Bros to helm the first big-screen adventure of Robin, aka Nightwing. WB has readjusted their DC Films’ slate and committed to creating a whole new banner and division dedicated to bringing auteur directors’ vision of the characters of DC Comics to theaters. We have gotten a taste of their reworked vision with announcement of movies based on Batgirl, as well as a Martin Scorsese produced young Joker origin movie. In an interview with Collider, he shared what makes Dick Grayson a standout character in comic book lore:
“You always thought Robin was the dork and were like, ‘I don’t want to be like Robin. I don’t want to play with Robin. I wanna play Batman.’ But Robin was there as a window character for little kids like me to understand Batman’s world and see into Batman’s world. There’s no other character in comics that went through this real-time transition. Every other character lives in a rough version of the age that they’re in. Very few characters actually grow up in the comics and become something else, and go from being a boy to being an adult, and have their own life and become their own thing.”
McKay’s film has the unique opportunity to blend elements not yet seen in superhero films and the director is eager to jump in. Despite having a resume steeped in animation, he seems to have a firm grip on the material. He shared his inspiration to make the upcoming movie:
“I’m a big comic book fan, and being able to do the story of Nightwing, to do a Dick Grayson story, which is a character that every single person in the world knows, but has never really had a lot of screentime. They make a billion Spider-Man movies and a lot of Batman movies, and they’ve tried The Hulk. When they were making the Tim Burton movies, they were always like, ‘Oh, maybe we’ll do Robin in this now. Maybe we’ll save Robin for Returns. Nope, we’ll save it for the next one.’ With Christopher Nolan, people were like, ‘Is he gonna do Robin?’ When they made Batman v Superman, they were talking about it. I’m a big fan of underdog stories, and he is one of the biggest underdog stories in comics. And he’s a character that I grew up with. I like the arc.”
The chance to tell this meta story of an unexpected hero has the opportunity to operate on multiple levels. When you consider McKay’s background with the LEGO Movie franchise, he has proven to have a sharp insight into exactly what makes the Batman universe click. His approach of a character and movie looking to get respect in the shadow of the Batman could make for compelling drama. However, now that the thematic core has been established, McKay addressed how the action would be handled in the new movie:
“It’s gonna be a [frick]ing badass action movie with a lot of heart and emotion. It’s gonna be a crazy, fun ride. Whoever gets cast as Nightwing, and any of the other actors around, are gonna go through a [frick]ing boot camp experience because it’s gonna be a lot. I’m not gonna do a lot of CG. It’s gonna be all real shit. It’s gonna be real stuntwork, and they’re gonna need to do all of the stuff on camera and do it credibly. For the cast and the crew, it’s gonna be a visceral experience, and for the audience. It’s not gonna be like a lot of these movies where there’s a lot of CG and flying, and things like that. Everything he does is gonna have to be real. His superpower is being really [frick]ing good, as a human being, at fighting and gymnastics and shit like that, so you’re gonna see that on screen. It’s gonna be fun!”
Nightwing is the persona that Grayson takes on once he breaks from Batman and forges his own path as a young adult in the DC universe. In the comics he has a signature style derived from his background as an acrobat that’s heavy in agility and gymnastics. Grayson manages to maintain a perspective that’s noticeably more light-hearted than his ward Bruce Wayne, which should be an element that further defines the franchise apart from Matt Reeves’ upcoming effort.
It’s still not clear if Nightwing will take place apart from the larger DCEU, however it would seem to be a wasted opportunity to not tie it to the plot threads that were gratuitously displayed in Batman v Superman. It seems that McKay has the chance to make the superhero version of John Wick, with an impossibly slippery hero and the clever action choreography. While there isn’t a firm release date set, there will be a lot more to report soon to come.
Nightwing currently doesn’t have a set release date.