It’s not everyday that a $90 million film is shelved, but this could be one of those days. According to multiple sources, Warner Bros. has decided to shelve the near-complete Batgirl movie starring Leslie Grace, Michael Keaton, and Brendan Fraser, even after several reshoots, because it appears it’s so bad it risks damaging the DC brand. I have some doubts about this story, and I suspect there’s a lot more going on here than just a bad movie.
First off, we’ve all seen Wonder Woman 1984, right? Look, don’t get into my mentions in defense of the DCEU, and I promise I won’t search (much) for the Snyderverse, but can we all acknowledge that Warner Bros. has been putting out awful movies for almost a decade? How much damage can Batgirl possibly do to the brand once we’ve all seen Suicide Squad? Even the good ones like Shazam and Birds of Prey are barely passable. Something tells me that Black Adam isn’t exactly going to set a high bar for superhero movies either. If it’s really that bad, it sounds like something we all need to see.
Warner Brothers’ The reasons given for stopping the film don’t really make any sense. The first source to report it was the right-wing New York Post, which claimed test screenings for the film went so poorly that the studio decided to cut its losses. Other outlets such as Variety report that it has nothing to do with quality, but rather with the studio’s desire to only release “blockbuster-scale” films. Batgirl was meant for streaming, not theater, and the new regime at WB just wants the world to see the biggest and best DC movies moving forward.
But this justification hardly follows. $90 million is on the low end of the DCEU budget, which typically ranges from $200 million to $300 million, but Birds of Prey and Shazam were both made for less than $100 million. Even though Batgirl should only ever stream on HBO Max, why not put it there? The logic that WB only wants DC projects to move forward on “blockbuster scale” isn’t confirmed when A. Peacemaker is already confirmed for a second season on HBO Max and B. Warner Bros. has never revealed that he DCEU has any plans for that. Why suddenly take this firm stance against meager $90 million movies? Lower-budget projects have turned out to be pretty good too, so that notion of prestige sounds like a lot of nonsense.
I suspect the answer has a lot more to do with the behind-the-scenes politics of this regime change than the film or the studio’s plan for the DCEU. Expanding the franchise into HBO Max with movies and shows was part of DC Films President Walter Hamada’s plan to take over the MCU, but thanks to the pandemic, there have been several false starts, including a Ben Affleck-directed version of The Batman that Allegations by Ray Fisher directly implicating Hamada and other DC executives, and not to mention what the heck is going on with Ezra Miller and The Flash, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the new leadership break away from the Hamada-era of the wanted to distance DCEU. Does that justify shelving a nearly finished film and giving it and its creators a reputation for being so bad it should never be seen? Obviously not. I’ve been watching the new Tom & Jerry and Space Jam: A New Legacy, so I know what kind of garbage WB is ready to dump on HBO Max. #ReleaseBatgirl, people deserve to see it.
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