Light the Batsignal, because it’s not over for Batgirl just yet.
While promoting Rebel at the Red Sea Film Festival, directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah opened up to outlets like The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline about their canceled DC superhero film, Batgirl. While DC parent company Warner Bros. Discovery was uncouth about the axing, the directors say they haven’t severed their ties with the studio. In fact, they have a meeting set with James Gunn, who was recently named co-chair of DC Studios.
Naturally, the directors didn’t divulge details. But the fact that a formal conversation will happen between DC and the directors, whose credits include the FX series Snowfall and the Disney+ series Ms. Marvel, means they aren’t shut out from the DCU.
“Yeah, we’d still work with them,” Fallah told THR. “But on the condition that the movie comes out. I mean, if Warner says, ‘Do you want to do the next Batman or Superman?’ of course we’ll say yes. Just so long as the movie comes out!”
The summertime axing of Batgirl, originally set for this fall on HBO Max, sent shockwaves through Hollywood as the industry desperately tries to split the difference between ambitious box office paydays and a streaming-centric ecosystem. Streaming isn’t going away, of course. But David Zaslav, who ascended to CEO and President of Warner Bros. Discovery this year, has been adamant about Warner’s ability to make money in theaters.
After control of Warner Bros. changed hands this year, Zaslav sought cost-cutting measures. This led him to cancel Batgirl, which was deemed too pricey to be a streaming exclusive, but not big and splashy enough to rake in Bruce Wayne levels of theatrical revenue. As Zaslav explained in an August investors call:
“We’ve seen, luckily, by having access to all the data, how direct-to-streaming movies perform. And our conclusion is that expensive direct-to-streaming movies, in terms of how people are consuming them on the platform ... is no comparison to what happens when you launch a film in the theaters. ... And so this idea of expensive films going direct to streaming, we cannot find an economic case for it.”
Aside from a private screening of Batgirl held for employees, it’s legally impossible to release Batgirl. Even if that were to change, it would still cost a pretty penny to complete its VFX.
Fallah and El Arbi say they have little hope their work will see the light of day, although they did point out that Brendan Fraser, Batgirl’s villain, is suddenly getting Oscar buzz.
“There’s nothing that we can do to influence them, but you know when you see Brendan Fraser, who’s maybe going to win an Oscar for The Whale, it’s like maybe that’s going to help us out because he gave an Oscar-winning performance,” El Arbi told Deadline. “Should it maybe be released, there’s still a lot of work to be done, and I don’t know if they are really going to go back for that.”
With the directors heading back to the Warner Bros. Discovery offices for a coffee with James Gunn, fans should probably put aside their Batgirl dreams, and instead hope for a new project where the directors can apply their skills to the reforming DCU. El Arbi even addressed an Instagram post that sparked rumors of a Batman Beyond adaptation, where a senior Batman trains a new vigilante to take up his mantle in a dystopian future.
“Batman Beyond is really super cool,” El Arbi said. “And I just saw that and thought that’s really badass. So who knows? Maybe in the future one day if they ask us to do that, we wouldn’t say no. But you can dream, right?”
Whatever they dream up, Adil El Arbi and Billal Fallah can be sure that people will actually see it.