Fans and the press reacted with shock this week when rumors surfaced that the new Warner Bros. studio leaders. Discovery each release of the new batgirl film by filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, starring Leslie Grace (aka Barbara Gordon) in the title role. It soon became apparent that the rumors were sadly true, and the film is the latest victim of wide-ranging cost-cutting and re-imagining of the studio’s future plans.
batgirl was scheduled to release on HBO Max later this year, and previous executives had even considered a theatrical release for the project. Initially, I suspected that the studio was only suspending Batgirl until next year due to continuity issues that recently arose around Batman in the DCEU. And for a brief moment, all the signs seemed logical to point to what was really going on.
The flash reset the status quo for DC movies by replacing Ben Affleck’s version of the Caped Crusader with the incarnation of Michael Keaton. Keaton would continue in the role in batgirl and in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdombut repeated production delays and other considerations forced WBD to shuffle release dates for several films.
As result, The flash now appears a few months after the Aquarius sequel in 2023. This led to the recent news that Affleck was returning one more time to play Batman, as Keaton’s Batman has not yet been introduced to the DCEU. However, batgirl – which is set after the events of The flash and sees Keaton’s Bruce Wayne/Batman interacting with Commissioner Gordon and Batgirl from a different timeline than he’s used to – having remained on HBO Max’s 2022 slate until now.
Which means it didn’t make sense for batgirl to preserve the release date, as it reflects events that apparently take place after Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom like The flash. A batgirl delay seemed inevitable and I had waited for them to announce it. So when the rumor arose this morning that the movie had been canceled, I suspected it was a misunderstanding about an imminent announcement of a postponement.
However, I was also aware batgirl was written and produced as a streaming movie on a lower budget than a typical theatrical superhero release, which contradicts the inbound owners and executive leaders’ vision of refocusing on theatrical productions rather than streaming, especially for the biggest company brand IP. So while my brain was saying, “Take a deep breath, it’s probably the inevitable slowdown,” my gut was worried.
And within the hour the rumors were confirmed – studio leadership decided batgirl doesn’t feel cinematic enough to be released in theaters, and according to the vision of President and CEO David Zaslav, they are determined not to release major brand IP on the HBO Max streaming platform as a lower budgeted rate. So there are officially no plans to release batgirl in its current form, and there are no plans or expectations that it will undergo the kind of extensive and expensive rewrites, edits and re-recordings necessary to turn it into a theatrical production.
It sounds like the main ingredient is indeed scale and spectacle, as the studio seemed – and still seems – happy with the film’s creative team and their work. But batgirl was created under the direction of a studio and plan that explicitly prioritized a shift to streaming and exploiting major brand IP in exclusive streaming content. Which is literally the exact opposite of the desire and focus of the new leadership, who are expressly opposing the creation and release of major brand IP on the streaming service and instead mandate a theatrical approach on major content brands.
Maybe the studio will take a softer approach, without explaining it outright batgirl will never see the light of day, as the press is currently reporting, but that’s frankly impossible to say right now. DC property facts and plans change weekly, especially recently after the studio gained new owners and new corporate leadership with a completely different overarching vision pending hiring someone to actually create and implement a brand new plan for the DC properties.
So forgive me if I doubt if there’s really a final choice being made today about the entire future fate of a movie starring the Bat family and featuring the returning Michael Keaton as Batman, which could be delayed for at least a year before a decision has to become real. rounded up, with room to split it into a miniseries and just add a few million extra bucks to improve the spectacle per episode, or boost it enough to make it a good POVD release ahead of an HBO Max premieres down the road when the theatrical focus might ease the restrictions on occasionally releasing major brand IPs on the streamer. Or any number of other alternative outcomes we could consider, with so much time before even a decision has to be made.
To take batgirl of the slate and not commit to its fate is similar to the “eat your pie and eat it too” position WBD is in The flash – there is still plenty of time before they start seriously promoting the film, there are currently no major contractual obligations between Miller and WBD beyond the completed films already on the release calendar, and there is no legal or narrative conclusion or final statement of all facts regarding Miller’s private life, so the studio is under no pressure to take a strong stance on the news reports about Ezra Miller, nor to make final choices about changing The flash or its release plans.
So I’m hoping Warner gets closer to the following: “It’s canceled for now, we’ll see what we’re going to do with it once we’ve made other choices and plans, but right now it’s just off the release calendar.” Because that takes into account the fact that the film had to be postponed anyway, for continuity reasons, and that a number of things could happen or change in the coming year, so there’s no reason to commit today.
Meanwhile, fans should also take a breath and remember that what you hear today will matter less than what you will hear tomorrow, and that will be just as true when tomorrow comes. No definitive determination of Batgirl’s fate can be expected today as none can be made even by those in charge. With so many moving parts and so many changes already underway, even those in charge can’t be sure what all this will bring in a year.
They definitely feel batgirl does not meet their desire for big budget theatrical releases for IP from major brands. Plus, they don’t want to release lower budget streaming productions from major brand IP if they’re committed to the reverse approach. And since it can’t be released this year anyway for continuity reasons, that made every other debate academic – batgirl had to be cancelled, at least for now, and they don’t have enough information and commitments yet to make a final decision after that.
This also means that it will probably not be a priority to reconsider, as again there is no immediate need to do so. Which tells me that in a year they will have two likely big blockbuster DC superhero movies in theaters – Aquaman and the Lost Kingdomand The flash – and they will sit on a finished one batgirl movie featuring their newly minted and inevitably beloved Keaton Batman. And they will have the option to release it as “planned” (meaning that after resetting the DCEU in The flash), or release it on Blu-ray and PVOD, or spend $60+ million rewriting and re-recording to take it to a theatrical level if possible. But in the end, I don’t see why they would forego the opportunity to recoup expenses, if it does arise. And I’m pretty sure someone will.
So for now there is no batgirl film anymore, and we don’t know if or when it will ever see the light of day. For now, there is no plan to release it – but also technically no plan not to release it. It has been the victim of circumstances so far and circumstances are always changing, so we have to wait and see what the coming months have in store, and everything we see and hear – including from official sources, to be blunt – should be understood as inherently qualified by an endless string of “unless…but…from now on…”
I’ve personally been a big believer in a Batgirl movie, and fans will remember hitting the drum for a few years about Batgirl and Supergirl being both priority projects for the studio (while others insisted neither property was a priority and neither was likely to appear on screen anytime soon), so I have definite biases here and would love to see Batgirl released in some format. And I’m confident enough in DC properties to say I expect next year’s theatrical releases to provide the necessary context for Batgirl to get a reappraisal, and maybe WBD will decide to put it back on HBO’s release schedule after all. Max to put.