The 2016 David Ayer film, SUICIDE SQUAD, proved to be a disappointment upon its release. Though the rushed character developments, muddled plot, and underwhelming villains were among the many faults of the film, there is one aspect that continues to bother me. In one of the many character introductions, we learn of Harley Quinn’s involvement in the death of Robin. Of course, this is one of the most climactic events in the Batman mythos. Unfortunately, SUICIDE SQUAD, and BATMAN V SUPERMAN, barely alluded to it. Therefore, for the DC Extended Universe to establish Batman as a dynamic character, filmmakers must develop on these allusions to the tragic tale of Jason Todd.

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The Death of Jason Todd

A Death in the Family

1989 featured a different shift in the Batman mythos that coincided with the beginnings of the Modern, or Dark, Age of Comic Books. At this time, Jason Todd was the Boy Wonder, taking up the mantle after Dick Grayson went solo as Nightwing. Interestingly though, DC Comics noted an unpopularity in the newest Robin, so the company made a bold decision. The story arc was called “A Death in the Family.”

In a climactic sequence, The Joker leaves a time bomb in the facility he is holding Jason Todd hostage. The ending of this particular issue is ambiguous, for the facility explodes with no confirmation on whether Jason survived. So, DC Comics included a phone number in the final pages of the issue that readers could call to cast their vote on whether Jason Todd should live on to serve as the second Robin or die in the explosion. The readers made their choice.

The consequences of this tragic event appear to be present in BATMAN V SUPERMAN. Bruce Wayne appears to live a life of isolation, with the occasional gala and celebrity appearance. Unlike the Batman in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, the Batman of the DCEU opened up his life of crime-fighting to others.

He did not fight in solitude or carry Gotham City’s burden alone. Sure, Nolan’s Batman had his trustworthy allies, but we never witnessed him truly take on a sidekick that he consistently worked alongside.

READ: There is more to the parallels between THE INCREDIBLES and WATCHMEN than meets the eye.

The Batman of the DCEU did just that and suffered loss as a result of his decision. He maintains a display of Robin’s vandalized costume to remind him of his loss and, perhaps, his mistake. Perhaps if he had never let Jason into his life, the boy would have lived, and Bruce Wayne would have remained fearless.

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A still from the 2008 film, THE DARK KNIGHT

Fear Will Find You Again

Christopher Nolan’s franchise focuses heavily on overcoming personal fears. The Batman of this series strives to remain fearless. However, in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES he comes to terms with the fact that he must fear death to motivate himself to survive. The display of Robin’s costume in BATMAN V SUPERMAN suggests that this Batman no longer strives to be fearless.

In his climactic confrontation with Superman, he states that fear is what makes us human. Bruce Wayne’s isolation is a consequence of his personal fear of letting people in. For when he did let someone in, Batman’s archenemy violently took that person out of his life.

READ: Catch up on season 3 of GOTHAM, here!

The complicated history of Jason Todd did not end in his death. In the early 2000’s, his character was resurrected as Red Hood, an alias The Joker used before he became The Clown Prince of Crime. Since this reintroduction, Jason’s status has since varied between villain, anti-hero, and vigilante.

So, not only did Batman have to suffer through the trauma of his ward’s death, but he also had to suffer through Jason’s resurrection as a vengeful enemy. Jason seeks revenge for the lack of justice in his own death, accusing Batman of a failure to kill The Joker in retaliation.

The DC Extended Universe permits a bend in realism that is not present in Nolan’s trilogy. Because of this, filmmakers could easily adapt Jason Todd’s resurrection and ultimately explore Bruce Wayne’s past beyond the death of his parents. The aged Batman of the DCEU has accumulated years of experience. It would be a missed opportunity for filmmakers to bypass this backstory.

jason todd
A still from the 2016 film, BATMAN V SUPERMAN

How Many Good Guys Are Left? How Many Stayed That Way?

The confrontation between an individual and their former mentor is an event that has taken place in various iconic films, novels, and television series. Pitting Batman against his former adopted son, who has grown to resent him, would be a dramatic event that has yet to be seen in a Batman live action medium.

The 2010 animated film, BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD, adapts the Jason Todd storyline in an incredibly successful manner. The film received acclaim from critics and fans alike. This reception indicates that audiences enjoy fresh adaptations of the Batman mythos. In turn, they wish to see stories such as UNDER THE RED HOOD adapted to the big screen.

The primary flaw of BATMAN V SUPERMAN and SUICIDE SQUAD was the failure to develop rich characters correctly. Characters such as Batman, Harley Quinn, and The Joker maintain dark histories. For the DCEU to succeed beyond WONDER WOMAN, they must depict these characters beyond what audiences are already accustomed to.

We know Batman is broody and likes to work alone. We are aware The Joker, and Harley Quinn love to kill as if it was a game. What we do not know is why these characters operate the way they do in these films. We do not understand these characters the way we should.

For the DCEU to succeed, we need to be able to identify with these characters and traits. We need to understand their motivations and the way their respective pasts have shaped them into the hero or villain they have become. Without these aspects, the future films of this franchise will remain one-dimensional. Consequently, we will fail to see the rich histories of these beloved characters and some of the greatest, and most controversial, moments of comic book history.

jason todd
Batman v Red Hood

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