Was Warner Bros. right to scrap Batgirl? Or does it set a bad example for diversity? Annlyel explores the fallout.
Last weekend the internet was set ablaze when it was revealed that the highly-anticipated Batgirl film starring Leslie Grace, Brendan Fraser, and Michael Keaton was canned by Warner Bros. The shock and disappointment were earth-shattering as people flocked to Twitter to voice their unbridled anger at the loss of a movie people were excited to see. And for once, the excitement didn’t primarily stem from Michael Keaton’s involvement in the story. But from people’s anticipation to see Leslie Grace bring Batgirl to life.
Society has begun to view entertainment differently, forcing the big-time production studios to listen to their audience and champion diversity. And that shift began at the end of the last decade when films starring actors of color began to gain high favor among critics and audiences.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens chose a woman and a Black man as its lead characters. And that film went on to become one of the highest-grossing movies of all time. Moonlight, a film directed by African-American Barry Jenkins and featuring a predominantly black cast, won Best Picture. Get Out, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut was a massive change of pace in the horror genre. That film garnered not only nominations for Best Picture but Peele won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Black Panther would not only go on to become one of the highest-grossing films of all time but would become the first superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture and would win four Oscars. A South Korean movie, Parasite would become the first foreign film to win Best Picture. And so on.
In short, diversity in film and television is the key to great stories in this new era of storytelling. Disney has been making massive strides at creating a world onscreen where everyone can see themselves in some form or another. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power boasts of a cast that is not predominantly white, featuring multiple major characters played by POC. Of course, the decision of such a casting choice was met with backlash. But these are the types of risks studios must take in this new era of entertainment.
And all of these strides in diversity lead us back to Batgirl. A film starring Afro-Latina Leslie Grace and featuring Muslim directors Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi. We’re still in an age where such a casting decision is celebrated because it is so rare to see. And she was going to give little girls that look like her a chance to see themselves as heroes in a world that they once didn’t belong in. People were excited to see her story unfold and for her to become the face of HBO Max’s DCEU originals.
Not to mention that the film was also starring Brendan Fraser who fans were also enthused to see after his hiatus in the film industry. And the movie had Michael Keaton in it as well. It seemed like the film was destined for some form of success with the amount of anticipation surrounding it. But it was canned for reasons like its “poor test screening” and Warner Bros.’s unwillingness to spend roughly $100 million on a tv movie. They’d instead bank on a movie starring Ezra Miller, a public nuisance whose disturbing allegations like being a cult leader in Iceland and being a groomer are rising like the tides.
And yet, over the weekend, it was revealed that Batgirl‘s first screening got the same score as Black Adam and Shazam: Fury of the Gods. A score somewhere in the 60s’. Granted, that’s not great, but when films like Morbius are released in theaters it makes Batgirl seem far more alluring in comparison. Plus, that was just the first test screening. There is such a thing as reshoots.
In comparison, this weekend Hulu released an original film set in the Predator franchise called Prey. The movie boasts a predominantly Indigenous-American cast and features a female Indigenous-American as the hero. And guess what? The film is being acclaimed as not only a revival of the Predator franchise but as a staple in the science-fiction genre.
Just from observing the film Prey seems to have had a budget of no more than $100 million. That sounds familiar considering that that’s probably how much Batgirl would’ve ended up costing to make. But the leaders at Warner Bros. didn’t believe in the story and canned it. They didn’t believe in a story that people were actually excited about and would’ve given HBO Max a bump in viewership. Especially if it turned out really well. No, they ended it before we could even see so much as a teaser.
It’s honestly a shame because even I was excited for Batgirl. She’s a character that has never been properly explored in live-action but finally, we were about to get that chance. The prospect of her fighting bad guys alongside Michael Keaton’s Batman seemed like something out of a Marvel movie. It’s just too good to be true. And now it will go down as the movie that could’ve been but never was.
I hope the director duo, Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi get more work for the MCU because their work on Ms. Marvel was fantastic. I also hope we get to see Leslie Grace still become a superhero at least in the MCU. Maybe she could play Invisible Woman or shake up the world and play a character like Jean Grey. That would be incredible.
Whatever the case, I felt obligated to write this post because what happened with Batgirl and Warner Bros. was not only disappointing but disturbing. I don’t know what Warner Bros. has planned for its future but I can tell you one thing, it doesn’t look great.
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Hello everyone. My name is Annlyel James. I’m a young woman who loves movies of all genres (specifically ‘Star Wars’ and Marvel movies.) I am also a Senior Correspondent for The Future of the Force.