On a Nightwing and a Prayer

“[W]e need to find the perfect person. We need to get the script right. We need this movie to blow your mind.” — Chris McKay, director

I’ve mentioned the upcoming Nightwing movie before, and you may have heard or read other stuff. I’m excited about it, ‘cuz Nightwing/Dick Grayson has become one of my favorite DC heroes. Up until recently, all we knew was that:

1) Warner Brothers announced back in February that it was ramping up development on a live-action, Nightwing solo film based on the DC Comics character;
2) it was planned for release in the next few years (recently set for 2/1/2019, though that is likely tentative); and
3) The LEGO Batman Movie director Chris McKay has been given the helm, with a script from Bill Dubuque (The Accountant).

I just wanted to comment on a few of the latest newsbits….

Those newsbits come mostly from McKay himself, who has been sending out tweets and doing interviews over the past few months. Regarding what attracted him to the project,

“I’m a big comic book fan, and being able to do the story of Nightwing, to do a Dick Grayson story, which is a character that every single person in the world knows, but has never really had a lot of screentime…. I’m a big fan of underdog stories, and he is one of the biggest underdog stories in comics. And he’s a character that I grew up with. I like the arc.”

He continues…

“Robin was there as a window character for little kids like me to understand Batman’s world and see into Batman’s world. There’s no other character in comics that went through this real-time transition.”

Comic writer Tim Seeley thinks that a plot based on or “very similar to” the 6-issue story arc he recently wrote for the character is the way to go. I haven’t read it, but the synopsis I saw does sound interesting. On the other hand, it sounds like the impact of the events depend on Nightwing’s relationships with other heroes, and there really isn’t time to sufficiently establish those relationships on-screen, imo. In other words, there’s too much ‘history’ for it to really work. I’m not saying there can’t be references to known DC people and things, and I truly hope there are. We fans expect and deserve them. But this really needs to work as a standalone feature.

While no plot details have been revealed as yet, we do know that Grayson’s comic-based past will be acknowledged. As per McKay, “Yes. In some form. There will be lots of nods. Lots of nods.” This comment spurred plenty of speculation about what might be referenced in those nods. His youth working as a circus acrobat with his parents and their subsequent deaths? His years working as Batman’s original sidekick ‘Robin’? His time spent with the (Teen) Titans? Past (or current?) relationships with Starfire and/or Oracle? His day job as a cop in Bludhaven? There’s a ton of material to mine there, but we just don’t know what McKay and Dubuque have in mind.

From the beginning, McKay has stressed the intense physicality of the Grayson/Nightwing role and that the actor will need to be fully committed. “Every day. It is going to be gruelling from a martial arts, gymnastics and stunt perspective.” Isn’t there CGI for that stuff? According to McKay, not so much in this film.

“It’s gonna be a [frick]ing badass action movie with a lot of heart and emotion. It’s gonna be a crazy, fun ride. Whoever gets cast as Nightwing, and any of the other actors around, are gonna go through a [frick]ing boot camp experience because it’s gonna be a lot. I’m not gonna do a lot of CG. It’s gonna be all real $#!t. It’s gonna be real stuntwork, and they’re gonna need to do all of the stuff on camera and do it credibly. For the cast and the crew, it’s gonna be a visceral experience, and for the audience. It’s not gonna be like a lot of these movies where there’s a lot of CG and flying and things like that. Everything he does is gonna have to be real. His superpower is being really [frick]ing good, as a human being, at fighting and gymnastics and $#!t like that, so you’re gonna see that on screen. It’s gonna be fun!”

Sounds awesome!

Naturally, there have been a lot of actors’ names thrown around the fan-boards (e.g., Finn Wittrock). But, no one’s been cast, yet, and as per FlickeringMyth’s Jordan James, “according to Chris McKay himself, we shouldn’t necessarily count on Nightwing being played by a well-known actor.” (See also opening quote.) I think this is a great move, one that more superhero movies (and sci-fi/fantasy in general) should consider. In fact, a few years ago I came up with a few potential candidates….

McKay’s exuberance for the project is practically palpable, and he’s already predicting (sort of) an award win in at least one area:

“This movie is going to win a stunt Academy Award. They’re going to make a stunt Academy Award for this movie. I guarantee it. It’s going to be insane.”

I certainly appreciate his enthusiasm and drive to make a spectacular movie. As always, I just hope he does right by the character(s) and the source material, while balancing amazing action with well-developed characters and believable dialogue. It certainly has blockbuster potential, and I’d like to see it realized. “A [frick]ing badass action movie with a lot of heart and emotion,” indeed.

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Bat-News

There was a small flurry of Batman-related news over the past month or so, so I thought I’d make a few comments….

“Gotham”

We have a new Ra’s al Ghul to look forward to, this time in “Gotham”. As you’ll remember, in the Nolan/Bale film trilogy, the character was played by Ken Watanabe and then Liam Neeson. More recently, Matt Nable played the quasi-immortal master assassin in several episodes of “Arrow”. While I respect the talent of all three actors, I felt those versions were… unsatisfactory. Part of it is the writers’ fault, of course, but none of them quite captured the essence of the character for me.

Siddig in GoT

The latest interpretation of the Demon’s Head will be portrayed by Alexander Siddig (5’11.75″,b.1965), most well-known for his role as Dr. Julian Bashir on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”. (Siddig has, of course, been in many other genre productions, including Kingdom of Heaven, “24”, “Primeval”, “Game of Thrones”, etc.) This is an intriguing choice. He (a Sudanese native) is much closer in ethnicity to Ra’s al Ghul (an Egyptian) than any of the previous actors, and he has played villainous characters before. On the other hand, I’m not sure he has the proper bearing (if that’s the right term) to portray this character correctly. While projecting a certain nobility/regalness, Ra’s is also a very physical person — martial artist / swordsman and often seen bare-chested. So, if they are planning on him displaying much physicality, Siddig had better be physically fit and properly trained.

We shall see. I just hope that they get the other visual aspects right this time, too — from the sometimes Wolverine-like hair & whiskers to his distinctive style of clothes (i.e., sort of a mix of Dr. Jekyll, Doctor Strange, and Doctor Doom).

The Batman

Among the latest news about the solo The Batman movie is that Ben Affleck may be trying to bail (no pun intended) on the role, apparently due to frustrations with Batman vs. Superman‘s reviews, development hassles, and pain-in-the-butt fans. As per Johnny Brayson at Outer Places,

“[S]ources claim that Affleck and Warner Bros. are currently in talks that would see him exit the role, and though he reportedly would like to leave before The Batman, the studio is apparently trying to convince him to stay on for the standalone movie before he takes his leave.”

Assuming any of this is true, you have to wonder if it’s a play for more money.

I know that some people are still very anti-Batfleck and would love to see him leave the franchise. I was skeptical but actually appreciated his performance in BvS and would like him to stay awhile. He is already in Justice League this November, and I would prefer to see continuity with him in The Batman (2018?) and the Justice League sequel (2019). After that, though, I would like to see a reboot with a younger Bruce/Batman. (I’m putting some story ideas together, which I will post in a few weeks/months.)

The other news on this front is that Affleck abdicated the director’s chair and a replacement has been named: Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Planet of the Apes franchise).

Nightwing

Among the better fan-made film shorts and web-series about superheroes is “Nightwing: The Series” (2014, 5 episodes). I only caught one or two episodes, but I thought they were pretty decent and had good fight choreography. There is also a new “The Nightwing” mini-series being filmed by another group this year. Fans of the Nightwing character who have been holding out hope for a feature film, though, may finally be getting their wish.

Just a couple weeks ago, Warner Brothers announced that they are now planning a live-action Nightwing film! It will be directed by Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie, “Robot Chicken”), with screenplay by Bill Dubuque (The Accountant, The Judge). Since this is just barely getting underway, little is known. An adult Dick Grayson / Nightwing would fit with Affleck’s 40-something Bruce Wayne / Batman, but we don’t yet know if there will be an effort to connect the two.

We do know, however, that McKay’s take on the character will probably be a bit lighter, less gritty than Batman, especially the Batfleck version. As he said in a recent podcast,

“Dick Grayson didn’t come from [privilege]. Dick Grayson came from a circus family. Essentially people who aren’t rich and they are self-made. They’re entertainers. They’re gymnasts. They’re people who live hand-to-mouth and that’s something that informs him and his attitude.

He’s a fascinating guy to me, because he had all the same things happen to him [as Bruce had]…. [Y]et he remains still a brutal fighter but he’s not a playboy, he loves people dearly. Those things are why I like Dick Grayson, why I like the idea of Nightwing as a movie.”

That sounds good to me and in line with the way Grayson is usually portrayed in the comics.

Ideally, I would like to see the evolution of Dick Grayson from young, newbie-hero Robin to independent Nightwing over several years. (This would be part of those ideas I’m developing.) But, if the powers-that-be are already planning a solo film, I have a feeling that I won’t get my wish. There just isn’t time to develop the character. I’m guessing it won’t be out until 2020 or later, but whether tied to Batfleck or independent, we may not know for a while. Wherever in the current DCEU timeline it takes place, I just hope (as usual) that the writers/producers respect and draw directly from the source material. Please, comic gods, let it be a faithful and fun ride!