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Batman: Why It's Time For Robin To Return To The Caped Crusader's Live-Action Movies

Chris O'Donnell in Batman & Robin
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Batman continues to evolve with each iteration on the big screen, as more directors find new ways to revitalize the character. The same is largely true with Joker as we wait for a sequel with Joaquin Phoenix’s version – not to mention supporting characters like Alfred Pennyworth, Catwoman, and Jim Gordon have seen some reinvention on the big screen in recent years. Weirdly enough, however, Caped Crusader cinema seems to forget one of the hero's biggest allies: Robin. 

Robin The Boy Wonder hasn’t appeared in a live-action Batman movie since 1997's Batman & Robin, and I think it’s high time that changed. We’ve been ignoring one-half of DC’s greatest crime-fighting duo for too long, and there are plenty of reasons to work him back into the story in the coming years. 

Batman and Robin staring each other down

(Image credit: Warner Bros. )

Batman’s Relationship With The Robins Is One Of The Most Compelling Stories About Batman

There are a lot of things about Batman that are interesting, and yet, the most interesting plot line about him is often overlooked. Live-action Batman movies post Batman and Robin are suddenly uncomfortable about the idea of Batman having a partnership with Robin –unless he’s already dead and it’s about Batman getting vengeance. Even with that plotline we ultimately didn’t get the payoff to the originally teased plotline, which was just another letdown. 

The Lego Batman Movie, weirdly enough, is one of the few movies to see the narrative potential in Batman adopting an orphan and training him to fight crime. Sure, the whole movie handled it very tongue-in-cheek, but that doesn’t mean it was bad. That movie has a 90% rating from critics for a reason, and it’s because it’s a damn good story. A damn good story, I might add, that heavily relies on the dynamic between Batman and Robin to work. 

Beyond that, there are also plenty of comic book stories involving any of the Robins that are highly-revered and worthy of getting an adaptation on the big screen. Hell, a whole movie centered around Bruce Canwell’s The Gauntlet would be some absolutely captivating cinema, and something I’d keep an HBO Max Subscription to watch again and again. Instead of that, we’ve just been subjected to sequences of Bruce Wayne repeatedly losing his parents.

Robin in Titans

(Image credit: HBO Max)

There Are Different Robins To Adapt Which Makes Reinvention Unnecessary

We’ve seen a few different styles of Batman, and Hollywood continues to try and reinvent The Joker after Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight. It’s clear there’s an interest in reinventing classic characters with a new look, which makes it all the more baffling to me that we’ve only really seen Dick Grayson appear as Robin in Batman movies. Sure, he’s the OG, and arguably the most successful of the Robins, but is he truly the most interesting of the bunch? 

The great thing about the Robins is that each Robin has their own thing going on. Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Jason Todd, and Damien Wayne are all Robins that could have an entire movie set around them, and it’s a shame we haven’t seen more attempts to incorporate them in cinema. I guess there’s a chance Batman v. Superman could have shown Jason Todd’s savage death at the hands of Joker, but that would hardly make for a story that utilized a Robin in a meaningful way. 

I think the story I’m most shocked that hasn’t made it to the big screen is anything involving Damian Wayne. The modern iteration of Batman’s son has been around since 2006, meaning it's been 15 years since his creation. Given the amount of attention Batman gets from Hollywood, it’s wild to think no one has attempted to bring his story to the big screen and show Batman’s trials and triumphs as a father. 

Tim Drake doesn’t give love in live-action either, despite being one of the smartest Robins out there. He’d be an invaluable resource to Batman and put in the work despite being a replacement to the OG Robin Dick Grayson. And yet, even the upcoming Gotham Knights series went and found ways to put other characters over them as leads, which is truly surprising.

Damian Wayne in DC Comics

(Image credit: DC Comics)

A Movie With Multiple Robins Has Such Potential

I got so hyped talking about the Robins in that previous section that I realized we don’t really have to compromise with which Robins appear in a Batman. In fact, it’s possible to have multiple Robins in the same movie. Of course, there would be some technicalities to make that happen, as Dick Grayson would at least need to be Nightwing for multiple Robins to be in the mix, thus no longer making him a Robin. At the same time, once a Robin, always a Robin, right? 

In an era when Hollywood is trying to find unique takes on heroes or fresh stories to tell, why not do a feature centered on the men with the same experience of knowing both Batman and Bruce Wayne? Having Batman as a dad and/or father figure has to be a weird upbringing and create some complicated dynamics, and it would be awesome to see that unfold in a movie. 

Of course, I get that people don’t show up to Batman movies for an emotional payoff. Batman movies, by and large, are primarily action-driven... so it’s a good thing every Robin is trained by one of the greatest crime fighters to have ever walked the Earth. Batman is a one-man wrecking machine in most of his features, but his human attributes often limit the adventure to where he’s only taking on a big foe or two at a time. You get all the Robins in one movie, hell, even other members of the Bat-Family, there’s some potential to do a Gotham-wide massive two-parter adventure that would be the Batman film to end all Batman films. So, with that in mind, I’m once again asking, why the hell haven’t we done films with more Robins in it? 

We need more Robins on the silver screen, but for now, we’ll have to settle for the upcoming DC movies on the horizon. Fortunately, there are some good movies coming up and plenty of DC titles on HBO Max (opens in new tab) to hold folks over until someone in Hollywood finishes a screenplay for a Robin movie.

Mick Joest
Mick Joest

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.