So apparently Christian Bale has at least one other thing in common with Michael Keaton besides playing the role of Batman. Both actors do not care much for the character of Robin, the Dark Knight’s sidekick.
Bale said so just recently in an item reported here on CHUD, and I remember reading past interviews with Keaton in which he pretty much said he had no use for the character. Of course, his dropping out of the series after “Batman Returns” deprived us of the chance of seeing how his Batman would have played off of the Robin character.
I do think the character could be interesting, as has been said, if he is written and handled properly. The problem is that so far, the only two screen versions of Robin we have seen are the goofy Burt Ward interpretation — holy campy cliche, Batman! — and the Chris O’Donnell version. Neither, in my opinion, really does the character justice.
The Burt Ward version at least fit in with the silly tone of the 1960s TV series, so any criticism is really meaningless because it was a show you either loved or hated. It’s like the Roger Moore version of James Bond compared to the more serious, back-to-basics interpretation we’re getting now from Daniel Craig. One really has nothing to do with the other.
The O’Donnell attempt is more interesting, because I think they really tried to deal with the character’s basic story as it was laid down in the comics. But the problem was that “Batman Forever” became so mired in neon colors and bad acting that the more somber, human story arcs got lost in the noise and spectacle. And personally, I think O’Donnell was the wrong choice for the Boy Wonder. It struck me as a case of the “hot young actor of the moment” being given a potentially juicy role that he was not really suited for.
First of all, Robin is supposed to be a young kid in his teens, and O’Donnell was clearly in his 20s when the film was made. It was probably fortunate that Val Kilmer played Batman, because frankly, it would have been weird to see Michael Keaton’s slight frame alongside O’Donnell’s clearly more athletic (then, at least) physique. I mean, Batman is supposed to be able to kick Robin’s ass without any doubt.
Had Keaton stayed, and Tim Burton directed, I actually think “Forever” could have been a better, more somber film, but some serious recasting would have needed to be done. My choice for Robin would have been Edward Furlong from Terminator 2, who in 1995 would have been about the right age and less physically dominating alongside Keaton.
Rene Russo was supposed to be the Chase Meridian character, and personally I would have preferred her over Nicole Kidman by far. I would like to have seen Billy Dee Williams get his chance to play Two-Face, and I think he actually could have pulled it off if the script were smart enough and the direction was right. And I would have cast Robin Williams as the Riddler, but not in the goofy Frank Gorshin vein. I would have loved to see something more sinister along the lines of the other dark, creepy character Williams has played.
Oh, what might have been.
But getting back to the present day, does Robin belong in the new Bat-films? Well, if they do, I think they ought to adapt the Jason Todd storyline for the screen. From all I am hearing about “The Dark Knight,” it sounds like Batman prevails only at considerable personal cost, and this would be a good way of extending that arc into a third film. Robin, by nature, does not have to be a goofy character. We only have that view of the character because, frankly, most people’s idea of him stems from the 1960s TV series.
So far, Chris Nolan has done everything right in regard to Batman, in my opinion. I see no reason why he should not be able to fit Robin into the serious, grim, relatively realistic Gotham City he has been creating so far.
If Robin is used for the purpose of creating good drama, and defining the Batman character through the consequences of his one-man war on crime and how that affects Gotham City, its citizens and ultimately himself, isn’t that the purpose for which the character was intended?