An unbelievable megaton bomb has gone off in the world of the DC Universe. Following a New York Post report that everyone assumed was false—their track record isn’t great, and they recently falsely reported that Johny Depp was returning as Captain Jack Sparrow in an enormous deal—the trades have weighed in, and the rumor is true: Warner Bros.’ “Batgirl” film is getting shelved and won’t be released theatrically or on HBO Max.
Yep, that’s right; Warners is killing the “Batgirl” film entirely and scrapping a movie that reportedly ballooned to a $90 million budget because of COVID, according to The Wrap (originally, it was meant to be a more modest $70-$80 million intended for HBO Max only).
“Batgirl” was supposed to star “In the Heights” breakout actress Leslie Grace in the title role of Barbara Gordon. Filmmaking duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah directed “Batgirl,” and the film was set to include both Michael Keaton as his original Batman/Bruce Wayne role from the Tim Burton movies and J.K. Simmons as Police Commissioner Jim Gordon (it was meant to be a post-‘Flash,’ post-multiverse merger film).
The reason? Seemingly a change in management and a change in creative direction. Originally, “Batgirl” was intended as an HBO Max-only movie under Jason Kilar, the former CEO of Time Warner Inc. The new WB owners and leadership of Warner Bros Discovery, led by CEO David Zaslav, have a totally different plan and remain committed to the theatrical experience, thus doing away with the old design of movies made just for streaming (“Blue Beetle,” also originally intended as an HBO Max movie was upgraded to a theatrical film somewhere in the middle of that process).
THR has weighed in, also re-confirming the news and saying that “Batgirl” and a new Scooby-Doo project called “Scoob” has been scrapped out of “cost-saving measures.” THR writes, “Insiders say that big budget films made directly for streaming no longer make sense under the company’s new strategy.”
This is the second DC Universe project that was killed once Warner Bros Discovery took over and Zaslav closely examined the slate. A planned “Wonder Twins” film was nixed earlier this year, even after actors were already cast.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, “Batgirl” is totally dead and isn’t being saved for HBO Max or any other streaming platform, according to Variety. While New York Post stories tend to be super hyperbolic, their original report said the film was “irredeemable” and unworthy of either a theatrical or HBO Max release.
Variety has a different take and says, “Studio insiders insist the decision was not driven by the quality of the film or the commitment of the filmmakers, but by the desire for the studio’s slate of DC features to be at a blockbuster scale,” suggesting “Batgirl” was much smaller and not much of a spectacle movie.
Either way, the news is massively damaging to the DC brand, reputation, and the notion that this movie universe is a huge mess and in disarray (DC recently was wholly outshined by Marvel at the recent Comic-Con, which didn’t help). Though really, it appears that Zaslav and company are trying to fix, scale things back and potentially return to “normal.”
There are already legitimate reports out there that Zaslav wants Superman back into the DC Universe, which points to a potential further major undoing of the current DC plan that connects to “The Flash.” That picture is a multiverse film that was set to re-introduce Michael Keaton’s Batman into the DCEU, allowing Ben Affleck the opportunity to bow out gracefully. It was also meant to introduce Supergirl into the DCEU and retconning Superman out of the picture, so to speak. But now that Keaton’s entire role in “Batgirl” is getting deep-sixed, one has to wonder what that means for “The Flash” and all the ways that film was originally intended to reset the DC Universe. You got all that?
From an optics point of view, this is all a disaster. “Batgirl” was a very BIPOC-friendly release, with a Latinx lead and Middle Eastern directors, and meanwhile, “The Flash,” led by the toxic and embattled Ezra Miller, still gets released. Some fans will undoubtedly be up in arms about this, and with good reason. Either way, Grace’s reps must be fuming.
But then again, don’t be surprised when there are reports that “The Flash” is undergoing major reshoots. You can almost guarantee it at this point. All signs point to Zaslav and WB Discovery dismantling a plan that was made before they got there.
Those that should be worried about the future of the DC Universe project are J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot. Abrams and Bad Robot got several DC projects in the works, including two Superman spin-off films that have taken far too long to come to fruition. I would bet any amount of money that those projects, one from Michael B. Jordan and one from author Ta-Nehisi Coates, are getting scrapped too (which also won’t be a good optics look). He’s also developing a “Justice League Dark” and “Constantine” project, and it won’t surprise if they get killed in this corporate overhaul either.
Keep your eyes and ears peeled for the future of DC because it feels like it’s going to be a bumpy ride on the road to “The Flash” in the summer of 2023. Think this news is nutty? You’re not the only one. Worked in this town for three decades, and this is some unprecedented shit right here,” a rival studio head told Deadline’s Justin Kroll today at the news of “Batgirl” getting scrapped.