I approached yesterday’s Hitfix piece with a healthy amount of apprehension. The article, which Renn wrote about yesterday, claimed that Joseph Gordon Levitt’s TDKR character, Robin Blake, would likely be soldiering on as Batman for all manners of cameos (Man of Steel), team-ups (Justice League) and future Bat-adventures (The Dark Knight Reboots).
With all due respect to Drew McWeeny, who’s undoubtedly an excellent film journalist and highly respected critic, his sources within or near WB haven’t always provided him the best info. Keeping that in mind, and in light of this official denial from JGL’s camp, I thought now would be a good time to throw my two cents in as well. Here goes:
We will never see Joseph Gordon Levitt play John “Robin” Blake again.
But that’s where my certainty ends on the matter. Batman is Bruce Wayne and, aside from perhaps a one-off film, that mantle won’t be held by anyone other than Bruce Wayne on film. A lot of it has to do with the confusion that’s created in having your Batman on film be different from the one’s in other media. People like you and I will always be able to make the differentiation, but think of the common movie-going public outside from our particular brand of internet fixation: kids, teenagers, your parents.
Hollywood, especially now, is crazy in love with Brand Recognition™. The character of Bruce Wayne makes up a large part of the Batman brand. Comics do this all the time, uprooting status quo and putting new characters under cowls. Azrael filled in for Bruce when his back was broken, Peter Parker’s clone served as Spider-Man during the latter’s identity crisis, and Bucky Barnes subbed for Steve Rogers when he was shot in the head and killed (he later recovered). Bucky was an especially beloved character, and actually made for a great Cap; but a funny thing happened right before Captain America: The First Avenger came out, Steve Rogers came back and assumed his alter-ego once again. Point being: brand recognition begets synergy begets the money or, at the very least, that’s been the working theory the people in charge have been operating with these last several decades.
Regardless of whether or not you think the strategy is the right approach, Hollywood does. It’s the action figures, the video game tie-ins, the happy meal toys, the theme park rides, ect. Having Batman on film be different than the Batman everywhere else requires a lot of maintenance on WB’s part. “Is this Batman cereal I’m buying the Bruce Wayne Batman or the John Blake Batman? Who the hell is this caped crusader on my underwear?!” And Bruce Wayne isn’t going anywhere in the comics. That shit was already rebooted last year.
Above I mentioned my belief that we won’t see Levitt play his Dark Knight Rises character. Of that I’m sure. But, what if McWeeny’s sources are still telling the truth? What if the torchpassing at the end of TDKR was a spiritual one? Might the hand-off have included Bruce Wayne with it? The funny thing is, I could see the young actor in the role of Bruce Wayne. I could even see him give a completely different performance than the one he already gave, a performance that’s far removed from Bale’s excellent take and wholly his own. The kid’s that good. But if it’s not Bruce Wayne then I simply don’t care, and I doubt the studio would either.
If DC’s doing the hard Superman reboot on Man of Steel, I say start fresh across the board. Let Nolan’s trilogy mark the end of a successful era for WB and the Batman character, but leave Nolan’s trilogy alone. If they’re replacing Batman, why not consider Gordon-Levitt? He can deliver a Batman and Bruce Wayne that audiences will readily embrace.
But it all comes back to that goddamn brand recognition, of which John Blake has precious little in the long run. Bruce Wayne is synonymous with Batman. It’s my belief his future in Hollywood is secure.