Warner Brothers did not announce a ‘Nightwing’ movie when it first unveiled plans for a shared DC Comics cinematic universe. At the time, the studio was understandably more focused on making movies based on the ‘Justice League’, like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash and Green Lantern. Even Shazam and Cyborg were announced as swooping onto the big screen. But as the original Robin, Grayson is actually more famous and recognizable than most of those other heroes. Since growing into his own man, adopting the Nightwing alias, he has gained a sizable following of his own but has not gained the same level of fame among the general public. Director Chris McKay plans to change that.
After directing ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ which featured an innocent, wide-eyed Dick Grayson/Robin voiced by Michael Cera, it was announced that McKay was going to helm a live action ‘Nightwing’ movie as part of WB’s unfolding DCEU. Despite ‘LEGO Batman’ being a spoof, once the layers of satire were peeled back, viewers were treated to a glimpse at a form of Batman we don’t often get to see– one not obscured under clouds of doom and gloom. And Cera’s Robin played a large part in bringing out this Bat Family Man.
No information about ‘Nightwing’ has been offered until now. McKay seems very excited to tackle this film and is finally offering some insight:
“It’s gonna be a fucking 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 fucking 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 fucking 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!”
As fans know, Dick Grayson was raised as a circus acrobat from an early age. When he was just a boy, he co-headlined his family’s acrobatic act, The Flying Graysons, the prize attraction of Haley’s Circus. Tragically, his family was killed by gangsters who sabotaged their trapezes during a performance in Gotham City. Dick was taken in by Bruce Wayne, who revealed to him his Batman alter ego and took him on as his sidekick Robin. (Named after do-gooder Robin Hood, not the bird as is frequently mistaken.)
This circus-themed origin has been depicted in animation and in the live action film ‘Batman Forever’ with Chris O’Donnell playing a young adult Dick. McKay says that Grayson’s circus past will at least be referenced:
“Yes. In some form. There will be lots of nods. Lots of nods.”
In more recent comics, it was revealed that the Haley’s Circus was a training regime for the Court of Owls. Had Grayson grown to adulthood in the circus, he would have become one of their operatives.
Refreshingly, McKay seems incredibly pumped to actually be making a Dick Grayson movie. This isn’t just an honorable mention job for someone who would rather be making another ‘Batman’.
“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.”
“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.”
Like McKay, I’ve always been a much bigger fan of Robin/Nightwing’s than Batman. It’s heartening to see that someone who gets the character and what makes him unique is in charge of adapting him in his own movie.
While Nightwing has always been a popular comic book character, he hasn’t been widely used in other media. But perhaps like Harley Quinn, this character just needed the right platform.
‘Nightwing’ does not yet have a release date, but the script will be penned by Bill Dubuque (‘The Accountant’, Netflix’s ‘Ozark’) based on characters created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.
Are you a Nightwing fan? What do you think of McKay’s approach to the character?