Shut off the Batsignal, Batgirl isn’t going anywhere.
In a shocking late Tuesday afternoon news dump, Variety has reported that Batgirl, which stars Leslie Grace in the title DC superhero role and from Bad Boys for Life and Ms. Marvel directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, is no longer being released anywhere. That includes HBO Max, the streaming platform the movie was intended to release on later this year.
Importantly, Batgirl, which finished filming in March 2022, isn’t being withheld because of its quality, at least that’s what Variety reports. Instead, it’s because Warner Bros. is feeling iffy on mid-budget movies for HBO Max and want, instead, big movies for big theaters.
“Studio insiders insist the decision was not driven by the quality of the film or the commitment of the filmmakers, but by the desire for the studio’s slate of DC features to be at a blockbuster scale,” writes Variety.
The publication adds that Batgirl had a modest budget of $90 million, below the standard $100 million figure most superhero movies are produced these days. (The figure was even that high because of Covid-19 delays and protocols, meaning the movie would have been even cheaper without the added costs.)
Variety’s report supports an April 2022 story by Puck, which wrote that Warner Bros., in the aftermath of the Discovery merger, considered making Batgirl a theatrical movie and was wiling to spend more in post-production to give the movie a grander, bigger feel than it was originally made.
A counter-report published by New York Post suggests the quality is, in fact, a factor why Warner is withholding it for release. The tabloid writes that test screenings were “so poorly received” that “the studio decided to cut its losses and run” to preserve the integrity of the DC franchise.
Just yesterday I mused about Warner/DC’s plans for its cinematic franchise and its increasingly complicated continuity (as if it wasn’t already hard to follow). Batgirl was buzz-worthy for a lot of reasons, not the least of which included the fact Michael Keaton was reprising his role as Batman for the second time. (The actor first returned in a performance for The Flash, which is delayed for release in 2023.)
It’s curious to wonder if Warner Bros. is holding onto Batgirl based on how The Flash performs with Keaton. If The Flash blows up, Batgirl could be a profitable film to release in theaters. If not, it might someday release on HBO Max, or kept in the Warner vaults for who knows how long.
Whatever the case, it’s a strange day when a studio is straight up withholding the release of a major superhero movie — one with a progressively cast lead and no behind the scenes controversy to speak of. Meanwhile, Warner will have to deal with The Flash and its troublesome star in Ezra Miller, who has left a bizarre trail of controversies since 2020. In a June 2022 story published by Rolling Stone, it’s alleged Miller is housing a 25-year-old mother and her children in a home the outlet describes as an “unsafe environment” with “unattended guns strewn around.”
It’s an unprecedented moment for a completed superhero movie, albeit one modestly budgeted, to not release in any way, not even on a streaming platform. It can’t be stressed that Batgirl is by all accounts finished, and could release right now (depending how long it stayed in post-production). Without a home the movie may be left unseen, maybe forever. In an instant, the story of Batgirl has become the stuff of Hollywood legend.