We’re pretty confident Jena Malone will play Barbara Gordon in Batman v Superman, partly because the European magazines that have reported it are a hilarious source, and partly because Malone’s background as a second-tier hero in films like Sucker Punch and Catching Fire have primed her to lead DC films about Batgirl and her later identity, Oracle.
Batgirl, who begins in the comics as Commissioner Gordon’s fiery daughter and ends her career as the head of the Birds of Prey, is a rare superhero role with an opportunity for growth, and Jena Malone has the chops to change with her. Batgirl is, arguably, the most important character in Gotham, because she happens to play a huge role in many of DC’s changing tides. When Batman agrees to train her as his protégé, his amicable relationship with Barbara’s father suffers a huge blow, which pushes the superhero even further underground. Then, in the controversial and critically acclaimed comic The Killing Joke, Batgirl was shot through the spine by the Joker, who was looking to hurt both Batman and the Commissioner.
Introducing Batgirl into the DCU also suggests the later introduction of her friends and allies: Black Canary, several iterations of Robins and Nightwings, the Birds of Prey crew, and Cassandra Cain, a later Batgirl trained by Barbara Gordon herself. It seems unlikely that BvS would include a character like Batgirl without intending to use her role in Gotham to its full extent: as a game-changing cornerstone for several storylines. Without a Robin working alongside Batfleck, Batgirl’s introduction is the first time the cinematic hero has appeared with a sidekick since 1997’s Batman & Robin.
Batgirl is yet another sign that DC is in it for the long haul with its films, as her story spins off from the Justice League, following her efforts to take down smaller-scale crimes in Gotham alongside chaotic-good characters like Black Canary and Spoiler. If Jena Malone gives a memorable performance in BvS, she may lead a JV team of superheroes in the DCU, which will allow the company to keep some of its characters young and complex (as opposed to their very strict and morally unambiguous Justice League sticks-in-the-mud).
In the comics, Batgirl is much more likely to use humor and feel conflicted about other characters’ intentions. In her current, contemporary run, the character works as a computer science student and app programmer while fighting criminals in Burnside, Gotham’s version of Brooklyn. Even if Malone can’t quite pull off her own series of films, she could most certainly helm a live Birds of Prey reboot, or a Jessica Jones-style dark series of her own. As always, DC appears to be throwing ideas at the wall in order to compete with Marvel’s ingenuity. In the case of Batgirl, however, they may have finally stumbled upon a character who can give them what they want: an expanded, likable universe full of characters whom we genuinely want to follow.