In retrospect, it’s pretty ironic that Warner Bros. Discovery shelved the Batgirl movie after it had already finished principal photography in order to claim a $90 million tax write-off. Because if the precipitous drop of the media company’s stock options are any indication, the bad publicity they generated has cost the studio far more.
Yet more than just media bookkeeping, the death of Batgirl is also a small tragedy for the folks who worked on the movie: directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah whose career was on the rise after 2020’s early (and only) box office sleeper hit, Bad Boys for Life; Brendan Fraser whose career is on the verge of a major renaissance with all the Oscar buzz generated by his new movie The Whale, which received standing ovations at Venice and Toronto; and perhaps most especially Leslie Grace, a Latina actress who shined like a light in last year’s In the Heights and who was about to lead a superhero movie that would’ve changed her life.
Perhaps that’s why Grace is still slowly letting the movie go—and letting viewers glimpse what they missed out on. Taking to TikTok over the weekend, Grace shared emotional behind-the-scenes footage of the Batgirl movie that never was, and a small memorial of what could have been.
With what sounds like Grace’s own vocals singing about “batgirls get lonely too,” we see images of the cast and crew working very had on the day-to-day minutiae of making a superhero movie: brief respites of just chilling out in the superhero costume by a blue screen set; doing the physical regimens that turn folks into camera-ready superheroes and villains; we even get a glimpse of the wardrobe Grace’s Barbara Gordon would’ve worn in what appears to be a costume fitting.
Yet for fans who are eager to get a taste of what Fraser’s Firefly might’ve been like, there are several intensely gritty images in Grace’s social media sizzle reel. One is of Grace’s Batgirl running from a burning warehouse set in what appears to be typical superhero movie set-piece spectacle. However, in one moment that really stands out, Grace appears to have recorded off her phone the playback video of a fight scene between Fraser and Grace’s characters, with Firefly in his full flamethrower regalia punching Batgirl in the face hard while flames lick at the walls around them. We then see a different shot of Firefly lifting Batgirl by the throat in what appears to be a rather visceral showdown.
Reports of Batgirl’s demise have been contradictory and at odds with each other throughout recent weeks, but one repeated suggestion for the reason that WBD CEO David Zaslav decided to shelve the movie is that it did not appear as “cinematic” or spectacular as what audiences have come to associate with the DC Comics brand. Maybe. But we can’t help but wonder by what metric this movie was being weighed as “cinematic” by the Warners executive.
The footage teased in the above TikTok admittedly does not look like a glossy CGI event akin to Aquaman or Wonder Woman 1984. But if that couple of milliseconds of a fight scene is anything to go by, it definitely has a visceral, low-to-the-ground quality which looks pretty refreshing when compared to most of the modern glut of glossy CG-superhero movie malaise.
More’s the pity we’ll never see it because WB wanted to save a fraction of what they’ve lost in stock value.