The age of Adam West’s time-honored “bright” knight has been over for quite some time, at least in the realm of live-action films. Ever since Tim Burton took control of DC Comic’s most renowned superhero, the Caped Crusader has plunged into the muck and mire of Gotham’s seedy underbelly. It’s in that dark corner that Batman has remained. The neo-noir, gothic-modern themes of each film have established a character that identifies with the monsters he fights.
Fear is the name of the game when you’re Batman. A wickedly sleek and thunderous automobile must complement the image. There are many staples that have become tradition despite the differences between Batman’s live-action incarnations. With the DCU’s upcoming film, The Brave and the Bold, the Dark Knight’s crime-fighting career should look a tad different.
At this point, we have learned that The Brave and the Bold is going to feature the working relationship between Batman and his famous crime-fighting compadre, Robin. However, this isn’t just any Robin; the days of Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake are behind the Dark Knight. Now, his son will slip into the suit.
Damian Wayne has a rather sordid history in the pages of comic books. He was raised by his mother Talia al Ghul with his existence unknown to Bruce Wayne. Alongside her villainous father and the League of Assassins, they trained the boy to be a blood-thirsty killer. As a sidekick, he challenges Batman’s non-lethal methods and provides a measure of angst, wit, and brashness that Bruce never experienced with his past partners. With Damian now in his life, the goal becomes fathering the youngster and coaching him to adopt a new moral alignment. With this internal conflict at the forefront, The Brave and the Bold will tread into territory no other live-action Batman has gone before.
A functional partnership with Robin
Aside from the critically-panned Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, most modern live-action Batman films have shied away from the inclusion of the Boy Wonder. When it comes to the silver screen, Robin has often been associated with the campy qualities of comic books being adapted for film, and the two Joel Schumacher-directed films didn’t do anything to divert audiences from this persuasion. So, in effect, filmmakers like Christopher Nolan opted to keep the sidekick out of the picture to maintain the level of seriousness and intensity their films were aiming for.
Even in the Joel Schumacher films, Chris O’Donnell’s Dick Grayson largely caused more problems for Batman than his enemies. He was often scolded by the Caped Crusader and their partnership was comical at best. The Brave and the Bold has an opportunity to depict the Dynamic Duo working together effectively, showing audiences why criminals should fear Robin as much as his formidable partner.
Strike a balance between light and dark
Comic book fans will undoubtedly recognize the upcoming film’s title as the same series that began at the tail end of the Golden Age of comic books and thrived during the Silver and Bronze Ages. This comic book series The Brave and the Bold became known for its anthology-style storytelling with each issue telling different stories of classic characters like Robin Hood. It eventually morphed into a DC team-up style series where two or more DC heroes would partner up for an adventure. Batman was the most common hero featured as he joined forces with other DC heroes in each issue. The tone of these stories was often light-hearted when compared to modern Batman.
An animated series was created in 2008 entitled Batman: The Brave and the Bold that realized this concept in a TV serial format. Each episode is a separate story where Batman shares the screen with another DC character. Of course, Robin was often a popular and obvious choice for Batman to team up with. So, the title of this upcoming film inherently connects it with an era of heart and whimsy. While that might not speak to audiences who have a certain expectation of Batman these days thanks to Matt Reeves’ dark take on the character, this film can ultimately strike a balance between light and dark. While we can appreciate past Batman films, not everything has to be so grim and moody in Batman’s world.
Introduce a villain never before seen on film
Let’s be honest, most filmmakers tend to play it safe when it comes to crafting a film that will find monetary success at the box office. The Joker is nearly inseparable from Batman. And the maniacal character is often like an explosive trainwreck – you simply can take your eyes off him. Of course, Heath Ledger gave the character a dramatic boost in the eyes of fandom and his star has only risen since.
But what if The Brave and the Bold gave the Joker a rest? In fact, let’s put the Riddler, Bane, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Penguin, Ra’s al Ghul, and Scarecrow on the bench, also. Mr. Freeze was intentionally left out of that lineup given that we never received a worthwhile live-action adaptation of the character. (Sorry, Arnold.) However, there is a deep well of Batman villains who could be just as terrifying as the Joker. Professor Pyg, Mad Hatter, Clayface, and even the Illuminati-esque Court of Owls would all be intriguing options for the Dynamic Duo to go up against. These are also characters that would force the heroic partnership to flex their detective skills.
The man under the cowl is often positioned as a practical well-meaning individual with the capital and resources to train and do some good. Bruce Wayne is a wealthy socialite and philanthropist by day (or a recluse in the case of The Batman), and a harbinger of justice and punishment by night. But we all know that Bruce Wayne isn’t in his right mind. Anyone who becomes a daring vigilante and takes on the burdens that Batman carries is really a tortured soul at heart. That’s the crux of the Batman mythos. He is perpetually in a state of mental anguish and torment, so he does everything he can to combat the evil that took his parents from him.
The Batman films of the past have lightly touched on this fact, but never directly address that Batman must be someone struggling with a degree of psychosis or mental instability. In fact, most comic book writers attempt to depict that Batman’s Rogues Gallery each mirror a fragment of Batman’s tortured and multi-faceted identity. For instance, Two-Face’s obsession with duality represents Bruce’s double life while the Scarecrow represents Batman’s penchant to induce the same fear he once felt. Not to be outdone, The Riddler is a reflection of Batman’s methodical approach to detective work and crime-fighting.
Even newer villains like the Court of Owls represent old money and wealth, the very foundation of the Wayne family. Finally, the Joker represents a fixation on chaos while Batman is obsessed with order. They’re two sides of the same coin. Imagine a film that actually acknowledged this and tackled the character’s complexities competently.
The Brave and the Bold has the potential to go where no other Batman movies have gone before by embracing the light instead of the dark. Let’s just hope James Gunn and the newly formed DC Studios have the courage to try something new rather than repeat the now-tired “grim and gritty” formula that has dominated the character’s big-screen adventures for nearly two decades.
- The Brave and the Bold: How the DC movie could work as a Batman anthology series
- Everything you need to know about Batman’s Robin, Damian Wayne
- The Batman Part II, Superman: Legacy headline new DC film and TV slate