Acclaimed writer-director Joss Whedon is no longer making a Batgirl movie for DC Films, the latest trouble for the constantly troubled DC Films. In the wake of Justice League‘s failure and confusion over the existing slate of DC superhero movies, the studio’s viability is becoming an open question.
Whedon came over from Marvel, where he helmed the first two Avengers films, which were wildly successful, as we all know. (Although Avengers: Age of Ultron had lots of narrative issues.) Whedon took over the writing and directing duties on Justice League when Zack Snyder exited — his departure remains a prickly controversy. Unfortunately, Whedon’s changes were not enough to save that film, and one could speculate this contributed to his Batgirl decision.
Whedon issued the following statement, as reported by Deadline:
Batgirl is such an exciting project, and Warners/DC such collaborative and supportive partners, that it took me months to realize I really didn’t have a story. I’m grateful to Geoff and Toby and everyone who was so welcoming when I arrived, and so understanding when I… uh, is there a sexier word for ‘failed'”?
That’s a remarkably candid explanation, and it’s hard to find fault with Whedon’s logic. But there’s something odd about this decision. Warner Bros. (WB) announced the deal almost a full year ago, wherein Whedon he would write, direct, and produce, according to Variety. Yet he couldn’t find a story after all this time? This says as much about Whedon’s creative process as it does DC Film’s executive wisdom.
While it’s not unusual for open-ended projects to fail during initial development, it’s just the latest blemish on DC Films, which is still trying to find its way and string together back-to-back creative and financial successes.
Another high-profile DC Films creative, David Ayer, also appears to be on the ropes. Ayer delivered Suicide Squad in 2016, under significant duress — he was only given 6 weeks to write the script. The film was critically slammed, yet still made a considerable amount of money. Ayer was expected to helm the inevitable sequel, but opted instead to write and direct a female-centric Gotham City Sirens movie, which would reunite him with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn character. However, WB and DC Films have gone radio silent on this film. Spotting a trend?
After the recent shakeup at DC Films, which saw a host of management and executive changes, there’s speculation that Gotham City Sirens is dead, according to ScreenRant. Neither WB nor DC Films have commented, but CinemaBlend posted a terse statement from Ayer: “Working on it over at Warners. Just kicking it around in development.” That’s hardly reassuring. Apparently, DC Films is considering a competing script for a similar premise, titled Birds of Prey.
This fits with recent news about Ayer, who is actively working on a sequel for his Netflix original film Bright, and he also just announced the launch of an independent film and TV studio. Regarding the latter, Ayer and a partner, Chris Long, are forming Cedar Park Entertainment, and they’ve already got a project underway, as reported by THR — sounds like a very busy guy. Perhaps too busy to mess around with the increasingly messy DC Films.
And yet, for all of DC Films ongoing woes, there’s still some light in the tunnel (although, it might be an 18-wheeler barreling toward them, going in the wrong direction — an apt metaphor, amirite?). Zachary Levi’s Shazam is moving ahead; here’s a picture of Levi getting into character:
Unfortunately, there’s not a helluva lot of buzz for Shazam.
Additionally, there’s positive early word about Aquaman, which hits theaters this December. An early screening netted thumb’s up from at least two attendees (via Batman-News):
Shazam and Aquaman are all DC Films has got in the short-term, and it’s dubious to suggest that either film can breathe significant life into DC Films.
Matt Reeves is working on his Batman film, which may or may not star Ben Affleck. There are sequels in development for Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad, which should happen. Things get much murkier from this point. The Flash keeps swinging and missing on writers and directors. Martin Scorsese and Todd Phillips might be shooting a Joker origin movie this summer, but no one’s nailed down any specifics yet. Chris McKay’s Nightwing movie (aka son-of-Batman) is so far down the road that McKay is considering other gigs in the meantime. Beyond that? It’s anyone’s guess.
The loss of Whedon, the apparent exit of Ayer, and major questions about the statis of the aforementioned DC superhero projects doesn’t bode well for the studio.
The truly incredible success of Marvel’s Black Panther, the stratospheric expectations for Avengers: Infinity War, and the goofy rom-com fun promised by Ant-Man and the Wasp must be truly galling to everyone at WB and DC Films. Maybe someday they’ll get it together… but it’s clearly not today, or tomorrow, or the week after that. But someday. Maybe.