Why did Batgirl get cancelled? That's the question many DC fans are asking recently after Warner Bros. Discovery unceremoniously cancelled the upcoming Batgirl film.
Batgirl starred Leslie Grace in her first outing as the titular superheroine, and the movie was about to pave the way for the resurgence of the DC Extended Universe. MIchael Keaton reprised his role as Batman, and J.K. Simmons was back as Commissioner Gordon Brendan Fraser was about to make a big return to the big screen as the movie's pyromaniacal antagonist.
The movie had been shot, but despite it being deep into post-production ahead of a planned HBO Max bow, Discovery cancelled Batgirl, canning the $90 million production and shelving the film without a theatrical release. The movie will not be made available for streaming online, either.
Batgirl was also seen as a big win for representation, with Leslie Grace being the first Latina to front a DC Extended Universe movie, transgender actress Ivory Aquino playing a supporing role and Bad Boys for Life (2020) directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah having a unique background as Muslim, Belgian Morrocan filmmakers.
So, what went wrong with the Batgirl movie? Why exactly was it canned? Let's take a look at how it led to the movie's demise.
Why was Batgirl cancelled?
Batgirl was originally planned to be a straight-to-streaming title. Back in 2020, after a previous misfire with Joss Whedon, the movie was going to be an HBO Max release, and was given a $70 million budget and a script from Birds of Prey writer Christine Hodson, and was envisaged as another part of the DCEU. However, by the time its budget soared up to over $100 million, there was no going back. Warner Bros. Discovery had put a lot of big cash behind its next superhero movie, and according to multiple sources, they were beefing it up into a 2023 theatrical release.
However, insiders say it was far from it. “The leaders of the studio determined ultimately, in spite of reshoots and increased budget, that the movie simply did not work,” insiders told The Wrap. Batgirl wasn't considered a big enough movie to justify a theatrical release.
According to Hollywood Reporter, an early version of the movie was test screened, with score and temp VFX, and it scored in the low 60s and is said to have only tested once. Executives and film producers have long noted that test screenings are best used to determine whether audiences are engaged or disengaged during certain parts of the movie, not as a final judgement call for a film.
Releasing Batgirl on HBO Max wouldn't also work since a healthy subscriber increase wouldn't be close to bringing back that $100 million. According to multiple sources that told The Hollywood Reporter, Discovery CEO David Zaslav opted to shelve Batgirl in order to take a tax write-down on the $90 million project.
What did Warner Bros. Discovery and CEO Zaslav say about the cancellation of Batgirl's release?
Shortly after controversial news of Batgirl's cancellation came out, it didn't take long for it to spread online, prompting Warner Bros. Discovery to release an official statement:
“The decision to not release Batgirl reflects our leadership’s strategic shift as it relates to the DC universe and HBO Max,” they explained. “Leslie Grace is an incredibly talented actor and this decision is not a reflection of her performance. We are incredibly grateful to the filmmakers of Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt and their respective casts and we hope to collaborate with everyone again in the near future.”
During the company's Q2 earnings call on Aug. 4, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav addressed the company's controversial decision to cancel releases for Batgirl and Scoob!: Holiday Haunt.
“We’re not going to launch a movie until it’s ready,” Zaslav said during the Q&A portion of the call, when asked directly about Batgirl getting canned. “We’re not going to launch a movie to make a quarter and we’re not going to put a movie out unless we believe in it.”
“These are brands that are known everywhere in the world,” he said of the DC properties. “And as part of that, we’re going to focus on quality. DC is something that we think we could make better and we’re focused on it now."
As Variety reported, Zaslav mentioned “quality” repeatedly when talking about DC, strongly implying that Batgirl was not up to a standard that he believes is necesssary for adaptations of the wider comic book property.
“The objective is to grow the DC brand, to grow the DC characters,” he added. “But also, our job is to protect the DC brand. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
“This idea of expensive films going direct to streaming — we can’t find an economic case for it, we can’t find an economic value to it, so we’re making a strategic shift,” Zaslav said.
What did the directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah say about Batgirl's cancellation?
Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, the directing duo of Batgirl, shared their reaction on social media.
“We are saddened and shocked by the news,” they said. “We still can’t believe it. As directors, it is critical that our work be shown to audiences, and while the film was far from finished, we wish that fans all over the world would have had the opportunity to see and embrace the final film themselves. Maybe one day they will insha’Allah.”
El Arbi and Fallah went on to praise the cast and crew of Batgirl.
“Our amazing cast and crew did a tremendous job and worked so hard to bring Batgirl to life,” they wrote. “We are forever grateful to have been part of that team. It was a dream to work with such fantastic actors like Michael Keaton, J.K. Simmons, Brendan Fraser, Jacob Scipio, Corey Johnson, Rebecca Front, and especially the great Leslie Grace, who portrayed Batgirl with so much passion, dedication, and humanity.”
What did Kevin Smith say about Batgirl's cancellation?
American filmmaker Kevin Smith condemned Warner Bros. Discovery for cancelling the release of the Batgirl movie. Speaking on a recent episode of his Hollywood Battle-On series, Smith recognized the talents of directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah as he struggled to find a reason as to why the $90 million film had been scrapped when it was already so far along in post-production.
"It's an incredibly bad look to cancel the Latina Batgirl movie," Smith said. "I don't give a sh** if the movie was absolute f***ing dogsh** — I guarantee you that it wasn't. The two directors who directed that movie did a couple of episodes of Ms. Marvel, and it was a wonderful f***ing show and they had more money to do Batgirl than they had to do an episode of Ms. Marvel and stuff."