– by David Kozlowski

Producer and director Chris McKay (Robot Chicken) is not afraid to offer strong opinions about Warner Bros., the DCEU, and filmmaking in-general as he prepares to move into production on the highly-anticipated, but mostly-secretive, DC Comics’ Nightwing movie. McKay’s career largely entailed animation, shorts, and TV before he directed The LEGO Batman Movie (2017), which hauled-in an impressive $312 million worldwide.

Now McKay’s getting a shot at a live-action superhero film, but he’s got the double burdens of introducing audiences to a grown-up Robin, and somehow fitting the movie into the DCEU at a time where the status of Batman and the future of the connected-universe remains a bit shaky.

Related – Director Chris McKay Is Passionate About Nightwing

Speaking with Metro, McKay explains that he’s a student of the genre and describes what he sees as clear differences between the Marvel and DC approaches. At the heart of it, he cites the WB tradition of director-led projects are the key to his (and future DC films) successes:

“Warner Bros is a more director-driven studio. Period. The end. More than any other studio you’re ever going to work at. Just look at the roster of world class filmmakers that have worked at Warner Bros and made it their home. Warner Bros is a director-driven studio.”

Much of McKay’s time on Robot Chicken was spent roasting DC Comics (in a good way)!

McKay explains that he and the other DC directors are attacking each project as “wholly original” and “wholly unique,” rather than adhering to formula, or forcing the films to fit an larger, ongoing narrative. However, he also believes that WB and DC are committed to building a sustainable product:

“It takes a lot of time and a lot of people banging their heads together trying to figure out what to do. Because it’s hard. It’s hard to get all these people, and all these egos, and all this stuff in one place and get it all to work out. But they are committed to that, and that’s what’s amazing about working with Jon [Berg] and Geoff [Johns].”

While McKay doesn’t have a ton of directing experience, he definitely has the right mindset, and he’s got some intense love for this character. Nightwing is a really interesting property, he can be the daytime Batman, if you will, with a major focus on fun, humor, and optimism as counterpoint to the eternally-brooding Dark Knight. McKay clearly knows comedy from his Robot Chicken work, which constantly skewered DC characters, Batman and Robin/Nightwing, in particular. Combining the acrobatics, Kali/Escrima martial arts, and positive energy of Nightwing could prove to be the right antidote to DC’s frowny superhero slate (seriously, everyone scowls in the Justice League promos).

Do you think that Nightwing should be an active part of the DCEU or focus on being a stand-alone superhero film instead? Let us know in the comments down below!

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  • Weresmurf

    While undoubtedly true this still does not excuse the bad movies and bad choices that were made at first…

    • No doubt. I’m far from a DC apologist, but I think that Wonder Woman pointed a way forward for the DCEU and Geoff Johns elevation to a Feige-like position is going to matter a lot. Obviously, Justice League will be a pretty important test for the DCEU’s viability.

  • Kronx

    If you’re going to be a “director-driven studio” you need to hire people with a bit more experience directing, at least until you get a system in place to help things run smoothly with newer talent.

    And I don’t say this to slam DC. They’re experiencing what Disney’s facing with Star Wars and what Marvel faced a bit in Phase 1.

    Someone has to be able to catch storytelling mistakes in the pitch meeting and in that first script draft.

    Someone needs to be able to say, “What do you mean he snaps Zod’s neck?” I’m all for varying tones and genres in a shared universe, but someone has to drive the ship.

    • That’s a fair point, we’ve been pretty harsh on LucasFilm for hiring directors like Colin Treverrow and Josh Trank.

  • Victor Roa

    it’s nice to want things
    that’s nice if it was 2010 Chris Nolan Inception. But is the studio that brought us PAN,Pan, really PAN? again, PAN, no no no no PAN, how is that director driven film? That’s a reaction towards Disney’s success of Alice in Wonderland 6 years later. Like we can all laugh about Jupiter Accending, but at least that was a director’s vision when they have TERRY GILLIAM ON SCREEN.
    Look, I want a Nighwing film since I was 10, but dude, he needs to keep it real WB owns the licensing rights to the DC comics. The directors just have an idea and then at the end they need to sell T Shirts and Toys. I wouldn’t be surprised a studio head went “Nightwing will be our Deadpool” and then money signs come out of their eye balls

    • Well, you can’t really fault McKay for being positive and supportive toward those writing his paycheck. I agree with you that past WB films fell short of meeting the goals that McKay laid out, but again that’s hardly his issue. Hopefully, the reality for McKay (and others making DC films) is that there’s real creative freedom here, as he describes. That said, I have no doubt you’re right about WB execs seeing Nightwing as their Deadpool. Sigh.

      • Victor Roa

        stuff like Live by Night and Jupiter Ascending are creator driven, but WB has actively sabotaged them. Again the Chris Nolan era was the point where WB could actually say “we are director driven” and it proved it. But the industry has changed so radically in the past 7 years that even TV is ruining movies that would have done half way decent. So they try to fool proof it to the point where the movie looks like Homer Simpsons’ dream car
        McKay is also in a bubble since animation is now an insane success, where it translate well into selling toys and into foreign markets. There’s so much freedom in there compared to a studio system that still has people involved like John Peters.
        But I mean I want a Nightwing film more then anyone, McKay got the one thing everyone has forgot since Batman Animated Series episode “Over the Edge.” Robin is the adopted son of batman, and it’s amazing how everyone has let that slide through out the decades.

  • jonathing

    throw in harley quinn in mix last night watched batman harley cartoon a brilliant pantomime best dc cartoon ever

David Kozlowski is a writer, podcaster, and visual artist. A U.S. Army veteran, David worked 20 years in the videogame industry and is a graduate of Arizona State University's Film and Media Studies.