BIRD WATCHING: ROBIN IN TDKR
In my last piece, THE GREAT DEBATE ON MIRANDA TATE, I took a look at Marion Cotillard’s TDKR character to see if she could, in fact, be Talia al Ghul. I debated both sides of the argument before coming to the conclusion that Cotillard likely will be playing the role of Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter.
After reading that article, a few of you suggested that I take a closer look at Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, John Blake, believing that JGL might actually be portraying Jean-Paul Valley, who in the comics was the one who took up the mantle of Batman after Bruce Wayne was broken by Bane.
While it is an interesting theory, I think we can safely say Jean-Paul Valley will not be in this movie. For one, he’d be a hard sell to Batman fans and non-Batman fans alike, and two, this movie is the conclusion of the character arc Bruce Wayne started in BATMAN BEGINS. Nolan would not risk ruining that arc by introducing a new Batman, especially one most moviegoers have never even heard of.
But I decided to take a look at another possibility for JGL’s character, one I’m sure you are all familiar with by now. Yes, I’m talking about the ‘R’ word: ROBIN.
Now before you shake your head and dismiss this notion entirely let’s look at both sides of the argument, as we did with Miranda Tate. While there’s certainly a strong amount of evidence to support the claim that Robin will not be in TDKR, I’ll take a deeper look into the actual meaning of the word ‘robin’ to see if there’s a way Nolan could use that to interpret the Boy Wonder.
WHO IS JOHN BLAKE?
When Joseph Gordon-Levitt was cast in TDKR last April, the Warner Bros. press announcement described his character of John Blake as, “a Gotham City beat cop assigned to special duty under the command of Commissioner Gordon.” It’s not a very exciting or telling character description by any means, and while John Blake doesn’t fit the conventional description of Batman’s sidekick, I think there is more to the character than Warner Bros. is letting on. As with Cotillard, I don’t think JGL would have taken on such a seemingly one-dimensional role as that of a cop unless there was something more to the character. Whether or not that means he is Robin is up for debate, but I’ll make the case for both sides and let you be the judge.
WHY JOHN BLAKE CAN’T BE ROBIN
Let’s get this one out of the way first, since after all, it is the easiest argument to make.
For starters, let’s take a look at Christian Bale’s response from 2008 when asked about the rumor that Robin would be appearing in the sequel to THE DARK KNIGHT.
“If Robin crops up in one of the new Batman films, I’ll be chaining myself up somewhere and refusing to go to work.”
Bale is not one to mince words, so I believe him. We also have to remember that Christian Bale is deeply invested in the character of Bruce Wayne/Batman, from his external struggle for acceptance by Gotham to his internal struggle for identity. Bale knows the importance of completing Bruce’s character arc in TDKR, and I have a feeling he’d be more than a bit displeased to have Robin impeding on his turf.
While Bale may not be the final play-caller when it comes to storyline decisions, we know the one man who is: Christopher Nolan. Nolan has reinvented Batman in a way many of us couldn’t have imagined possible after the near apocalyptic disaster that was BATMAN & ROBIN (1997). Nolan, himself, has dismissed the notion of Robin appearing in any of his Batman films, saying, “Dick Grayson’s still in a crib somewhere. I seriously doubt I will even be involved when Robin’s in the franchise.” Even writer David S. Goyer has said that including Robin in any of Nolan’s Batman films would be tricky.
Also, the role of Batman’s ally in TDKR seems to be taken already by Catwoman, played by Anne Hathaway. From the photos we’ve seen from the Pittsburgh set we know that Catwoman will use the Batpod and fight alongside Batman at some point. There’s even speculation that her mask is derived from one of Batman’s cowls. Throwing Robin into the mix would complicate the relationship and dynamic Nolan is looking to create between Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne. There’s just too much evidence supporting the claim that Robin will not be making his big screen return in TDKR.
WHY JOHN BLAKE COULD BE ROBIN
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I feel there is a strong case to be made in favor of John Blake being Robin. You may look at the quotes above from Bale and Nolan as definitive proof the Boy Wonder won’t be in TDKR, but let’s take a look again at the quotes from Nolan and Goyer and see if we can spin their answers to support our Robin claim.
Nolan said Dick Grayson would still be in a crib somewhere during these Batman movies.
That’s fine. We’re not talking about Dick Grayson being Robin, we’re talking about John Blake. Blake’s not in a crib. In fact, he’s a full grown man!
Goyer said including Robin in Nolan’s Batman films would be tricky.
Tricky? Yes. Impossible? No.
Goyer could easily have been trying to throw us off the trail by giving us this answer. After all, when has a writer or director ever given a straightforward answer regarding a potentially major spoiler?
Nolan has also taken extreme measures to ensure that any revealing details about TDKR remain minimal to nonexistent. Last March, Gary Oldman talked about the process he had to go through just to read the script.
“To get in the production office, you have someone meet you and then there’s keys in various doors that lock. The script you [must] read in the production office, and there’s no ending to the script either, because [Chris] tells you the ending, so it doesn’t leak and get out and people spoil it on the Internet. It’s very tight security. Yeah, that’s how he [keeps it all a secret].”
Could there be a major spoiler that Nolan doesn’t want leaked? Maybe one involving Robin?
As for what Bale had to say about Robin, I chalk that up to one of two things:
1.) He either means what he said wholeheartedly.
2.) He’s still bitter about being passed over in favor of Chris O’Donnell for the role of Robin in BATMAN FOREVER!
Another reason John Blake could be Robin is because it would give Christopher Nolan the opportunity to revive yet another character that was nearly killed off forever after the fallout from BATMAN & ROBIN. Nolan has successfully brought Batman back to the big screen, and in TDKR he’ll look to do the same with Bane, whom Joel Schumacher decided to portray as a venom-filled buffoon and lackey. If Bane can be in it, why not Robin?
One thing that we’ve come to learn about Nolan is that he tries to keep his Batman films grounded in reality as much as possible. While in the comics the Joker obtained his white skin color from falling into a vat of acid, Nolan chose to interpret the Clown Prince of Crime as a sociopathic, homicidal clown with a carved up face covered in makeup. Despite the initial outcry from fans complaining that Nolan was going to ruin the Joker by veering away from his comic book origins, the director held firm in his interpretation of the iconic villain and gave us one of the most chilling and memorable performances in cinematic history. If Nolan decides to reinterpret Robin in his own way, I doubt he’d be met with much resistance.
There’s also the matter of the “Robin Easter Egg” in the TDKR trailer. Take a look at the picture of the Gotham Rogues fan below and then the picture of the Robin emblem next to it.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
As you may remember, I recently came up with my own theory on how Christopher Nolan might interpret the Lazarus Pit in TDKR, and I have a similar theory regarding how me might try and interpret Robin should he chose to use him at all.
When we think of ‘Robin’ in terms of the Batman universe we automatically think of Batman’s crime fighting sidekick in his red, green, and yellow costume. But what we have to remember is that in TDKR we are operating within the confines of Nolan’s Batman universe, one primarily grounded in reality.
If Robin were to appear in TDKR, Nolan may opt for a more literal use of the name rather than the typical superhero moniker. I looked into some definitions and meanings behind ‘robin’ to see if there was anything that Nolan could use to create his own interpretation of the character with John Blake. I found a definition—in Shamanic culture of all places—that I think could be a contender.
For those of you who don’t know, Shamans are people said to have access to, and influence in, the spirit world. They believe each of us is born with a spiritual power animal that acts as a guide for us during our lives. They view robin as a power animal symbolizing growth, renewal, and change.
Take a look at some excerpts below from the Shamans’ description of robin:
“One part of growth is learning how to deal with conflict in a mature manner… To become truly mature, we have to learn to trust our intuition and our unique creative expressions… Robin will incite new growth in all areas of your life, areas that have become stagnant and outdated. You must believe in yourself as you move forward for if you do, barriers will disappear, and confrontations will be for show only. Robin will show you how to do this…”
Based on this definition and the character description we have of John Blake (a cop assigned to special duty under the command of Commissioner Gordon), I’m starting to believe we may actually see Robin in this movie. Blake could be a young, immature cop who needs to grow up and mature fast when Gotham starts going to hell. And what kind of “special” duty could Commissioner Gordon assign him to? Perhaps assisting the Dark Knight who has been out of commission for eight years? It’s possible that Blake could help Batman transition back into his life of fighting crime in Gotham once Bane shows up. If Blake acts as a facilitator for Batman in any way, he’ll be taking on the role of a ‘robin’, at least according to the Shamanic definition. Could this be one route Nolan could take?
While it remains to be seen whether or not there is more to John Blake than what we’ve been told, it’s still fun to speculate about possible ways Blake could be Robin in. Even if you hate the idea of Robin appearing in TDKR, Christopher Nolan’s track record with BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT has earned him the benefit of the doubt should he decided to use him. If he does, I say we welcome the decision with open arms.
So after hearing both sides of the argument, as well as getting a look at the meaning behind ‘robin’, what are your thoughts? Is it possible John Blake could be Nolan’s interpretation of ROBIN?
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