I don’t know if its another casualty of the streaming wars or just the result of a radical rethink of the DC movies, but the cancelling of Batgirl, a film mostly completed by all accounts barring post-production work, and having already cost anything between $70 -$100 million depending upon who’s doing the math…
…maths is always a bit weird in Hollywood. I suppose an industry that throws millions around like normal people toss pound coins around on corner shop lunches is always an extreme example, a bit like comparing ordinary physics to what happens near the event horizon of a black hole, but I’m reminded, of all things, of the bizarre accountancy surrounding Ridley Scott’s Alien back in 1979, a worldwide financial (and perhaps most importantly cultural) success which 20th Century Fox always maintained didn’t make a profit. Details are vague all these years later but if I recall correctly (and bear in mind I’m thinking back to articles published in Starburst magazine, we had no internet back then), I think some of the players behind the film, most likely the producers and Ridley Scott, had percentage points ((shares of the profits once the film paid back its costs to the studio) in the film but Fox didn’t pay up. Which seemed patently ridiculous considering how big the film was back in 1979.
…but anyway, back to Batgirl. How bad is the idea of a Batgirl movie? How did that even get greenlit? I always thought Batgirl was akin to Superman’s spin-offs Supergirl, Superboy and Superdog and all his other comics super-kin, and indeed Robin the Boy-Wonder to Batman. People often talk about comicbooks etc as grown-up and worthy of adult attention but they seem to forget they were originally kids comics and never intended to be anything more than disposable fun, certainly not massive $100 million+ tentpole blockbuster movies. Probably the biggest thing about Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie was the, quite radical at the time, notion that a superhero character from comics was deemed worthy of a big, serious movie. We take that for granted now (it was a notion likely cemented by Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman) but there was a time when superheroes only called to mind the camp silliness 1960s Adam West tv show.
It possibly suggests how comicbook characters have become so endemic in films and television now that marginal, and frankly ridiculous characters/properties such as Batgirl can be even considered for serious attention. I know why these properties exist, as they ‘target’ other groups than young males (superheroes for girls, super pets for your kids etc) and I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that, but to me the appeal for some of characters like Batman is their gravitas, the idea that in a real world only slightly removed from our own a billionaire nutcase traumatised by a childhood tragedy could dress as a bat to transfer his anger into scaring and beating up bad guys. Its silly but not as silly as some girl relative or daughter of a police commissioner electing to do much the same. Its not all THAT removed from homegrown legends/mythology like Robin Hood, or King Arthur is it?
Mind you, we rationalise that we can take it seriously, but we all know how long a spandex-clad character would survive in an assault-rifle shootout with gangster hoods. And the judicial and political nightmare of some vigilante roaming the streets beating up people said character deems a criminal.
I suppose its all pretty ridiculous, isn’t it, other than all the billions the MCU has made over the years… that’s all very serious, to the tune of $26 billion serious.
The new guy who has taken over the newly-created Warner Bros Discovery seems to have a new, ten-year plan to relaunch the DC line of superhero characters in films with an aim towards replicating the success of the MCU. Which is interesting and depressing at the same time- the DC films have been a mess for a few years now but I’m not certain we need another MCU with its own alternative line of spandex heroes. I quite liked some of the DC films, for all their quirks and mistakes…and definitely enjoyed recent edgy forays like The Joker and The Batman, films the likes of which the MCU wouldn’t go anywhere near. I’m all for making daft nonsense like Batgirl a casualty of this corporate rethink, but much less so if it means losing that darker line of films.