It's not a dynamic solo: What the lack of a Robin movie says about the DC Universe films

It's not a dynamic solo: What the lack of a Robin movie says about the DC Universe films
Cover to 'The Batman & Robin Adventures' #1 (Ty Templeton/Rick Burchett/Linda Medley/DC Comics)

We've seen the Batcave and several Batmobiles. We've seen Alfred, the Joker, the murder of the Waynes, the spilled pearls in Crime Alley and a fair number of his iconic villains, but the one thing that has been missing from the Batman mythos in the modern movies is his most famous ally: Robin.

The failure of the modern DC Universe to include a Robin says a lot about where the franchise's focus lies — and why it has been failing to connect with audiences.

Robin was first introduced as a way to get young readers more invested in Batman's stories. He was meant to be a point-of-view character, someone that young children could see themselves as. DC Comics wanted kids to be able to imagine themselves having their own adventures with Batman. In later years, other comics would follow the same concept — the Hulk, and later the Avengers, would have Rick Jones, and the Justice League had Snapper Carr, but Robin was still the archetype. 

Even though the current Robin, Damian Wayne, is one of the grimmest Robin's we've seen so far, the Robin identity is still one that rounds Batman out. Though Batman is a standoffish character, a type who seems like he would work best alone, he actually has one of the most extensive and well-rounded family of characters of any superhero franchise.

It's all built on the original success of Robin, through whom fans were better able to connect to Batman's stories. Besides a few hints and teases, though, we've seen almost nothing of the extensive Batfamily in any of the modern films, going back to 'Batman Begins.' 

As Tim Drake once said, Batman always needs a Robin. Not just to have an ally looking over his shoulder in the midst of battle, but to ground him, and to keep him from going too far into the dark. Every new iteration of Batman seems to be darker than the last — more violent, more alone, and less inclined towards seeing the good the world has to offer. A Robin balances Batman out.

The last time we saw a live-action Robin was in 'Batman Forever,' soon followed by 'Batman & Robin' — both movies being arguably the campiest Batman films of them all. Even that version of Robin was a lot closer to the more adult Nightwing version of the character.

The movies seem afraid to show a more nurturing side of Batman, who can train, lead, and inspire a younger generation. Batman stories aren't just about darkness — they're the reason they have such mass appeal. Batman sees himself in younger generations, and equips them with skills to survive the darkness in the only way he knows how — with Bat-gadgets.

It's not, perhaps, the best form of parenting, but it's an aspect of Batman that the movies have been sorely missing.

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