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Why Joseph Gordon-Levitt Will Never Get His Robin Movie

It's been a good few years since the conclusion of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, which ended on an optimistic note with the retirement of Bruce Wayne and reveal of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robin. A perfect ending to a perfect trio of movies, most would say. But what if... just what if... Warner Bros. wanted to milk the cow a little and eke out an uncalled-for spin-off sequel? All the pieces are in place, right? Joseph Gordon-Levitt is still alive. Robin is still a character known to the public consciousness. Film is still a popular entertainment medium.

If it sounds like we're stretching to justify it, that's for good reason, as while there's nary a reason for such a movie to happen, there's nearly infinite reasons for it to never see the light of day. Here's the full scoop on why JGL won't be returning as the boy wonder.

It wouldn't be a part of the DCEU

As Christian Bale has stated, Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight exists in his own secluded three-film bubble, and nothing should change that. Judging by Warner Bros.' recent forming of a DC Extended Universe with no perceived acknowledgement of the Dark Knight timeline, it seems the company is respecting this sentiment. This means that, because they're rolling full steam ahead with an interconnected universe of superheroes who all share a singular continuity, the omission of one facet of the Dark Knight trilogy, i.e. its very own Batman, means the DCEU forfeits all aspects of the trilogy, including any future Joseph Gordon-Levitt Robin spin-offs.

It would confuse current DCEU fans

Within the current DC Extended Universe, Robin is dead. This is shown explicitly in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, during a scene where Bruce Wayne passes by a display case of Robin's old suit. It's covered in demented spray-paint writing courtesy of what audiences are meant to assume is the Joker, and quickly establishes that this older version of Batman has already lost at least one Robin in the line of duty. With not a single reference to recruitment efforts for a new Robin or any hint of the old one being alive across any of the DCEU movies, it's a pretty well-known fact at this point that the boy wonder is not a prominent concern for DC's current vision of the Batman mythos.

This begs the question: why would Warner Bros. drudge up an old Robin from a completely isolated trilogy at any point in the future? At best it'll spawn a decent movie, but at worst it'll destabilize what little precious continuity Warner Bros. has managed to establish with casual audiences across their many DCEU films like Man of Steel and Suicide Squad, making it an action that might discourage the average movie-goer from purchasing tickets to future DCEU movies. 

After all, not everyone keeps up with what is and isn't part of the big cinematic superhero universes' official canon, and flustering audiences with oddball, disconnected spin-offs like a JGL Robin movie might turn casual fans off from giving future franchise installments a shot.  

Warner Bros. already has plans for a Nightwing movie

What's the only thing cooler than being someone's perpetual sidekick? Well, anything, really. Which is exactly what Warner Bros. thinks, as it's eschewing all Robin-centric plans in favor of developing a Nightwing movie. For those outside the loop, Nightwing is Robin's identity after he realized being Robin was lame. Not content with being a sidekick anymore, he ditched Batman and went on to pursue his own solo adventures under the new mantle of Nightwing, a character who's gone on to have more fan appeal and a much cooler overall aesthetic than his former alter-ego.

This decision by Warner Bros. to move forward on a Nightwing movie unarguably rules out any Joseph Gordon-Levitt Robin plans, for reasons ranging from maintaining the DCEU's continuity to building a new status for Nightwing, a character with far more A-list potential than Robin. However, this doesn't entirely rule out a Joseph Gordon-Levitt Nightwing movie—if you ignore the fact that Warner Bros. has refused to recycle any actors from the Dark Knight trilogy for their DCEU thus far. Yeah, nevermind, JGL just isn't coming back as a DC character.

Christopher Nolan is done with the Batman franchise

Christopher Nolan, the man responsible for the roaring critical and commercial success of the Dark Knight trilogy, is done with the franchise. He said it himself, he's done with the popular superhero now that he's told the stories he came to tell. Seeing as no one before or after has proven worthy to the Christopher Nolan school of Batman cinematic direction, it begs the question: why spit on the memory of the trilogy by chancing a spin-off film with another director at the helm? 

Based on both the three films' overwhelming merits and the raging nostalgia surrounding them, there's no way another director could step foot into the universe Nolan created and not make something doomed to fail. Because, even on the off-chance a Robin spin-off in the Dark Knight universe turns out to be good, it will never be good enough to match the memory fans hold dear of the three films Nolan spearheaded. If he's not coming back, it makes sense that Warner Bros. should leave the man's Batman continuity alone in the perfect, isolated bubble it currently resides in, lest they be regarded as greedy and desperate.

The Dark Knight trilogy already ended on a high note

Very few movie trilogies are of such pristine quality that any three people can have a different, and equally valid, preference over which movie is their favorite. Yet, this is the case with the Dark Knight trilogy, a series of three Batman flicks that have gone down as the best in the caped crusader's entire cinematic lineage. 

With the last entry having been released in 2012 in the form of The Dark Knight Rises, it's a dormant saga with a respectable, revered legacy in its wake. This is why it would make no sense for Warner Bros. to drudge up a years-later sequel from the lore of their most critically-lauded time capsule of a trilogy and try to spin it as a faithful continuation of something they, as a company, have no hopes of pulling off without the acclaimed filmmaker who made it all possible in the first place. 

Given Warner Bros.' recent track record with DC properties, there's no telling what damage they could retroactively do to the brand if they needlessly inserted another movie into the Dark Knight timeline far too many years later. 

Fans might not actually want it

Barring a million other reasons as to why Joseph Gordon-Levitt's hypothetical Robin film will never spread its wings and fly, there's one core truth that's worth reflecting on: Robin, as a character, is just not that popular. He isn't today, he wasn't yesterday, and he won't be tomorrow. 

Evidence for this is pretty blatant, as the single time audience members got a say regarding his inclusion in a Batman story, they chose to kill him off. In 1988, DC comics asked readers if Jason Todd, who donned Robin's green and red spandex at the time, should be killed off or spared. Fans voted for the former, leading to the grizzly "Death in the Family" storyline. Since then, no one's been seen clamoring for more Robin-centric fiction, a sentiment so wide-reaching that even the creators seem to share it. 

This is further evident in All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder, a 2005-launched comic in which upon the immediate introduction of Damian Wayne/Robin, Batman literally calls him "retarded" and spends most of the comic haranguing him. If even the boy wonder's makers don't want to treat the character with respect, it begs the question: does anyone care about Robin?

Not every Easter egg deserves a movie

We live in a world where every single cinematic nod to a brand's characters is actually a thinly-veiled teaser for their own upcoming solo film, and one only needs to cast their gaze upon the enemy camp to see a perfect example of this phenomena gone wrong: over in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there's a little movie called Avengers: Age of Ultron. Unfortunately, it's only a movie in its format. The actual make-up of the film is a series of no less than three separate sequel teasers, advertising the likes of Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and Avengers Infinity War while wholly neglecting to focus on itself. This leaves Age of Ultron feeling like a piece of Swiss-cheese, riddled with gaping holes that could've been filled in had the movie spent more time on itself and less time advertising other films in the production pipeline.

In a parallel universe, all of these inclusions would've been much shorter and flown as "Easter eggs," fun nods to extended superhero continuities. The Easter egg is a brand of magic slowly being forgotten about, as it shows the writers care about acknowledging true fans, not just baiting them into spending more and more money at the box office for formulaic sequels. As such, it makes no sense for Warner Bros. to retroactively bastardize what is arguably the best superhero Easter egg of all-time, Robin's name reveal in The Dark Knight Rises, with an uncalled-for spin-off movie.

He's not a strong enough character to warrant a solo film

While Joseph Gordon-Levitt is without question a great actor, it's not him that's the issue—it's the character he's playing. Robin in no way resembles an A-lister with infinite box office appeal. Think about it this way: there have been nine Batman films in the caped crusader's cinematic history, and the only two to prominently feature Robin (i.e., Batman and Robin and Batman Forever) are widely considered the worst of the bunch. 

Both are hated partially for the fact that neither film knew what to do with Robin, such as Batman and Robin making the boy wonder a cringe-inducing '90s teen with a bad attitude who repeatedly states his edgy sexual attraction to supervillain Poison Ivy, or Batman Forever's Robin serving solely as a bad reference to the Adam West Batman show. This only serves to reinforce the idea that if Hollywood's writers can't even figure out how to use the character as a meager sidekick, there's zero chance they'll give the character his own two-hour solo movie.

Superhero movie saturation

The era of superhero movies is coming to an end for some, with inevitable genre-fatigue starting to settle in across the nerdy demographics that helped build the behemoth Marvel and DC tentpole franchises. This means nothing but hard work for the likes of Warner Bros., who are now faced with an audience that won't settle for less. In a genre now saturated with solid flicks from Marvel, simply seeing a superhero on the big screen isn't enough. 

All superhero movies now need to be great movies based on their own cinematic merits—comic book fanfare won't cut it. This means Warner Bros. isn't going to take extraordinary risks with B-list characters who might pan out to be colossal failures, such as Robin. Instead, they're going to stick with characters who carry near-universal appeal and goodwill, like Batman and Superman, so as to utilize every advantage they have in crafting a well-received movie.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt himself doesn't want it

You know what the real death-knell is for hopes of a beloved actor playing a role you'd really like to see them in? When they personally come out and say it'd be an inappropriate idea. That's the kind of thing one doesn't come back from or change their mind about afterward. Even if Joseph Gordon-Levitt said, "Robin's a dumb character, I don't want a full movie," that's still something he could come back from with a simple phrase twist. But to say it's inappropriate and that the trilogy ended where it should, well, that's it. It's over. 

He's turned off the valve of potential future revenue streams, as far as a Robin movie is concerned. A respectable decision fueled by artistic integrity? Definitely. A deal-breaker for a future Joseph Gordon-Levitt Robin movie? Indubitably.