The news that “Batgirl” has been canceled by senior executives may be a significant sign that the rebellion against suffocating wokery is gaining steam, or maybe it is just a case of entertainment management finally figuring out sunk-cost fallacy. In any case, I asked Emina Melonic to bring her astute powers of cinematic perception to bear on the news:
Variety reports that Warner Bros./Discovery CEO David Zaslav has decided to completely scrap the release of a new DC film, “Batgirl.” This came as a shock to many, especially the directors of the film and the general movie community that appeared to be in full support of the film’s release. It’s not yet entirely clear why the film has been shelved, as it won’t be released either theatrically or on a streaming service.
Some report that the initial film screening of “Batgirl” went badly, and that the screening audience allegedly compared the film to “a bad episode of TV.” Whether that is enough to cancel a movie is open to debate but since the news came out, Zaslav was forced to make an explanatory statement about his decision.
“We’re not going to launch a movie until it’s ready,” said Zaslav. “We’re not going to launch a movie to make a quarter and we’re not going to put a movie out unless we believe in it.”
In addition, Zaslav said that the company “will fully embrace theatrical as we believe that creates interest and demand, provides a great marketing tailwind, and generates word-of-mouth buzz as films transition to streaming and beyond.” The strategy for making and promoting DC films appears to be changing, and people don’t like an upset of that kind.
The question that undoubtedly comes up is whether there were any political, cultural, or social reasons why “Batgirl” was canceled. In the grand scheme of things, one more superhero movie being scrapped is hardly a cause for sadness. Recent spate of DC Comics films has been showing poor imagination and wokeness all put together in one trail mix bag of dullness that has gone stale.
Women in roles of superheroes generally don’t have a lot of success. 2020 “Wonder Woman 1984” received poor reviews as well, singled for out its mediocrity and spectacle. Is it because society is so overwhelmed with that awful “toxic masculinity” that we are not ready for “strong women” characters? Hardly. For the most part, the roles of a superhero are generally reserved for men not because a writer is a misogynist but because there is a certain level of expectation and reality of what the differences between male and female are.
To be sure, superhero films have plenty of women characters but they usually go beyond woke amalgamation of male/female that is supposed to render women just as strong and heroic in the same way men might be portrayed in the film. Think of the gorgeous and sexy Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, starring opposite Michael Keaton in Tim Burton’s 1992 “Batman Returns.” Pfeiffer is not just a villain in a superhero movie. She is a femme fatale that teases out Bruce Wayne’s/Batman’s dark desires. While Bruce Wayne is trying to rid Gotham City of a criminal element that wreaks havoc on unsuspecting citizens, Catwoman is seducing Batman to join her feline game. Keaton’s character, much like any film noir hero, is torn between erotic desire of giving into the woman and maintaining his masculinity intact. This is what makes the story compelling.
Superhero movies have lost their charm altogether. Remember when Christopher Reeve’s Superman fought for “truth, justice, and the American way”? That was something filmmakers and producers embraced at the time because “American way” was something everyone could get behind. Even if one disagreed with the sentiment, there was something permanent and solid in Reeve’s statement.
Now, the movie industry has embraced either woke politics or general lack of definition. There is no specificity to the characters anymore, and their interior struggles are either irrelevant or completely disregarded. We live in a culture that abhors existential conflict but thrives on hatred, fights, and close encounters of the Twitter kind.
Legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese compared DC Marvel superhero films to amusement “theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being,” said Scorsese, who is quite correct in his assessment.
A superhero film can be done well, and can even have cinematic value (like Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns”). But audiences (even if they are not deep thinkers who watch Ingmar Bergman’s films) need an authenticemotional and psychological story. They need to know why they should care for the hero or the villain. Perhaps, in the end, “Batgirl” affirmed the pervasive boredom and malaise of our culture.