Although it’s safe to assume that the live-action DC multiverse is constantly changing, on Tuesday, one of its most unexpected changes occurred when it was revealed that Warner Bros. has decided not to show its Batgirl movie in cinemas or on their HBO Max streaming service.
Barbara Gordon/Batgirl (Leslie Grace) would have finally entered the current superhero blockbuster world with the movie, which wrapped up production earlier this year and was apparently in the final stages of post-production before being shelved.
The Batgirl revelation has caused a stir on social media, igniting a flurry of hashtag campaigns and eliciting a wide range of reactions from fans, many of whom find the decision to scrap a finished movie unexpected. Although it’s impossible to predict what Grace’s Batgirl’s future may hold, the choice to postpone her solo movie debut ranks among the most unexpected in the history of superhero movies.
Although Batgirl has previously appeared in films, it has long been rumored that she will soon take center stage in the contemporary DC universe. A Batgirl standalone movie has been in development since 2017, but it wasn’t until Grace, Christina Hodson, directors Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi, and screenwriter Bilall Fallah joined the project recently that it truly gained steam. To some extent, it’s simple to understand why a Batgirl movie would be such a challenge, given the character’s unique background in DC Comics.
Barbara Gordon has undergone a remarkable transformation in the decades since her 1960s début, which aimed to attract more female viewers to the Adam West-hosted Batman television series.
After becoming paralyzed in Batman: The Killing Joke, she changed from being the newest upbeat sidekick of Batman into her own heroine, earned a second chance as the computer whiz Oracle, and eventually joined the superheroine group the Birds of Prey.
Throughout her career, Barbara has gone by the names Oracle and Batgirl depending on the situation, and in the process, she has inspired throngs of followers, especially those who were anxious to see positive representation for crippled characters in mainstream comics.
She has arguably continued to be one of DC’s most well-known female characters because to initiatives like DC Super-Hero Girls, which attracts new audiences. Whether it debuted in theaters or on streaming, the idea of a Batgirl solo picture was intriguing due to its widespread fame and importance.
The movie seemed to have even more potential when combined with Grace making history as an Afro-Latina actress in the starring role following a breakout performance in In the Heights and two directors who have become cult favorites courtesy to Bad Boys for Life and Ms. Marvel. Alysia Yeoh, Barbara’s groundbreaking openly transgender closest friend, was portrayed in the movie by Ivory Aquino, and Brendan Fraser, a beloved actor, continued his career comeback by playing the movie’s main antagonist, Firefly.
The myriad speculations that have surrounded Batgirl over the past year, particularly those surrounding the movie’s potential relevance in the greater DC canon, can also be seen as evidence of that potential. There were rumors that Jurnee Smollett’s character, Black Canary, will appear in the movie, either through Easter eggs or otherwise, and that this would theoretically pave the way for her own standalone production, which is now in development.
Other speculations hinted that Grace’s Batgirl, along with Sasha Calle’s planned portrayal of Supergirl, would end up being a mainstay of the new live-action Justice League. Even before the reports surfaced, it was already known that Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Batman would be appearing in the movie.
This suggests the beginning of a live-action “Batfamily,” something that hasn’t properly shown on the big screen in decades. There’s always a potential that Grace would end up playing Batgirl in another next DC project, but many fans would be wondering what would happen to her solo film.
According to a statement from Warner Bros., the decision to cancel Batgirl was made because of a “strategic shift as it relates to the DC universe and HBO Max.” Rumors suggested that the movie’s $90 million budget made it too expensive to release exclusively on streaming services but not big enough of a blockbuster to open in theaters.
Depending on the legal ramifications, we might never be able to verify whether or not that is the case, but given the greater canon of superhero movies, it’s still a stunning decision. Budgets for several of DC’s previous blockbuster theatrical releases, such as Birds of Prey, which went on to become a cult classic, and Shazam!, which will be getting a sequel this year, were comparable to those of Batgirl.
Even the out-of-continuity Joker from 2019 had a significantly lower budget than Batgirl, despite going on to gross $1 billion at the box office and winning numerous Oscars. Smaller-budget stories are required to maintain things’ thriving, as has been asserted recently across the board of superhero fiction — both to shake things up on a creative level and to prevent the metaphorical “bubble” from bursting.
In addition, canceling Batgirl after filming was completed creates a terrible precedent that has already caused fans to worry about practically every other project that DC is said to be planning. Even the future of upcoming theatrical movies is now being questioned by certain fans, including the Blue Beetle movie from next year, which was already dropped from an HBO Max release before filming even started.
Yes, Warner Bros. Discovery is undoubtedly going through a transitional moment following their historic merger earlier this year. According to sources, they are still determining the direction of their live-action DC world.
But having those choices directly affect the imaginative, eagerly anticipated work of movies like Batgirl definitely does not inspire trust in some fans, particularly since other superhero properties recently promised years of storytelling that fans didn’t even realize they wanted.
It was obvious that Batgirl’s trip to the big screen would be as shabby and unexpected as its titular figure from the moment it was announced that it was in the works, which has only made the news of its cancellation more depressing. Whatever the outcome for the character (and the greater DC world), one thing is certain: this choice will likely continue to be a turning point for the landscape of superhero media for some time.