In February of 2017, The Hollywood Reporter published a story that Warner Bros. was planning a live-action Nightwing film. According to the report, Bill Dubuque (The Accountant) was penning the script and Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie) would direct. It sounded like a match made in heaven.
Unfortunately, like most of the planned DC Extended Universe movies post-Justice League, the former Boy Wonder's solo outing moved down the totem pole. All was not lost, though, as McKay assured that the project still lives, but we might have to wait a while longer for it.
The wait is partly due to Walter Hamada taking the helm of the DC ship at Warner Bros. and navigating a little more carefully than his predecessors. Moreover, McKay has his hands full with the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons film, so he won't have time for Nightwing in the immediate future.
While it might seem like a blow for Dick Grayson fans, the delay of the movie could be a blessing in disguise. Why? Because Zack Snyder made it illogical in the pre-Justice League DCEU – and no, this isn't us taking a shot at the director or his films.
Earlier this year, Snyder confirmed on Vero that the dead Robin in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was Dick and not Jason Todd. While it was never explicitly stated in the film, or any of the other DCEU entries, it was a bold move on Snyder's part to radically alter canon like he did. As many fans know, it was Jason who perished at the hands of the Joker in the infamous "A Death in the Family" storyline, by Jim Starlin, Jim Apato, and Mike DeCarlo.
What Snyder's creative decision shows is obvious: there were no plans for a Nightwing movie in the first place. Somewhere along the way, someone at Warner Bros. must've realized it was a bad idea to kill off Dick so soon, and decided to avoid mentioning the name of the dead Robin as a contingency plan.
McKay's film would've been possible without a course correction, though; all they would have had to do was reveal that it was Jason's Robin in a flashback or throwaway line. That said, Snyder's controversial choice is another example of how all the moving parts of a shared universe can hinder each other in the long run.
In this case, Warner Bros. knew what Snyder wanted to do with Dick, allowed him to do it, and then backtracked. It's unfair on all of the filmmakers, and illustrates once again that there was never a set plan for the DCEU to begin with.
Warner Bros. deemphasizing the shared universe concept, however, should resolve all these issues. Now, McKay and his collaborators are free to tell the story they want, without DCEU restrictions. The chains are off and the possibility to revisit classic storylines from the past and present exists. We could have a film at the beginning of Dick's solo career, the middle of it, or even its end – just think Old Man Nightwing.
Undoubtedly, the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Dick will still be a central part of the narrative, but there's no need to figure out where to slot this story in the timeline anymore. It can exist wherever McKay and Warner Bros. want. The best part is, you don't even need Bruce to be present in the film. Much like Titans has done so far, he can be off screen or out of focus – lurking in the shadows.
It's remarkable that Warner Bros. hasn't realized the potential of a Nightwing film yet. It offers the studio something it has been craving: a blockbuster hero whose name isn't Batman or Superman. It's no secret that the studio is slowing down the live-action outputs of the Caped Crusader and Man of Steel as it focuses on other characters.
While it's admirable and a welcome approach, the only superhero guaranteed to rake in at the box office is Wonder Woman right now; everything else is uncertain.
Nightwing is the closest thing to Spider-Man that DC has; he's young, quippy, popular, and has a storied history. If the studio taps into that potential, it could do to the character what Marvel Studios did to Iron Man and turn him into a bona-fide superstar for a new generation.
Without the constraints of a shared universe and the potential to go places it never could before, a Nightwing movie could do what the former Flying Grayson does best: soar.