Holy déjà vu, Batman! Only last week I was writing about the announcement that a new member of the Bat-family has been given their own movie among Warner Bros’ already-jam-packed DC Extended Universe slate. Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing, was the chap under discussion then.
Last week, on top of that, the news broke that Joss Whedon is writing, directing and producing a Batgirl movie as part of the DCEU. Warners is clearly serious about expanding out from Ben Affleck’s Batman to tell other stories about cowl-loving caped crusaders.
Here’s everything you need to know about Batgirl, mixed with some possibly-useless fan speculation about casting, villains and more…
Who is Batgirl?
As with most major superheroes, a few different people have held the mantle of Batgirl. But one of them is the most iconic by far: the rest of them sort of fade into the background next to Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl. The Variety article that broke the movie adaptation news only mentioned this version, so it seems safe to assume she’s the one we’re getting in the DCEU.
Barbara Gordon is the daughter (adoptive in a previous comics continuity, but genuine offspring in the current one) of the iconic moustachioed police commissioner Jim Gordon.
In the original comics timeline, she sewed herself a Batgirl costume for a masquerade party, and wound up embracing vigilantism when a genuine villain crashed the event. In a more recent rebooted timeline, her origins were rejigged to be less accidental and more ‘deliberately following in Batman’s footsteps having been inspired by him since childhood.’
Batgirl has popped up in a couple of animated movies recently. In the adaptation of The Killing Joke (where Tara Strong voiced Barbara), her relationship to Batman was reimagined as a romantic one, which caused a fair bit of controversy online. And in The LEGO Batman Movie, Rosario Dawson voiced a version of Barbara who took over her father’s role as police commissioner before embracing the costumed superhero thing.
Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl was created by William Dozier, Julius Schwartz and Carmine Infantino in 1967, following a suggestion from the producers of the 1960s Batman TV show. They felt that a female presence should be added to the Bat-team, “to attract new audience members, especially idealistic young girls and less high-minded older men”. That’s how Les Daniels put it in his 2004 book, Batman: A Complete History, anyway.
Yvonne Craig played the role alongside Adam West’s Batman, and despite the questionable motivations behind her creation, Barbara went on to become a feminist icon.
DC Comics has rebooted the character twice in recent memory. Entertainment Weekly reckon that Gail Simone’s edgier run from 2011 will provide more inspiration for the film than the more comical, social media-savvy Batgirl Of Burnside series from 2014. (Those links are to the comics, if you fancy checking them out.)
How would she fit into the DCEU?
“It’s good to see you playing well with others again”, intones J.K. Simmons’ Jim Gordon in the trailer for Justice League, providing the latest in a series of teases that Ben Affleck’s Batman has had at least one sidekick or co-hero before.
The existence of a bullet-ridden Robin costume covered in Joker graffiti, in the Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice Batcave, was the biggest prior hint, and it proves that Bruce Wayne’s previous team-ups haven’t always ended nicely.
If the comic book canon is being followed closely, the Robin that got shot to bits by the Joker should be Jason Todd, the second dude to hold the mantle. And the recent announcement of the Nightwing movie is proof enough for me that Dick Grayson has been around for a while in this universe, at least long enough to do a stint as the original Robin before branching out on his own as Nightwing.
But where does Barbara Gordon fit into things? How old is the daughter of J.K. Simmons’ Commissioner Gordon at this point in the timeline? Will her movie take place years in the past, in the previous era when Batman ‘played well with others’, or will it take place in the modern day?
I’d be inclined to guess the latter, just because the timeline doesn’t need to become overcomplicated. We’ll already be visiting different eras thanks to Wonder Woman, after all, and possibly Justice League.
Also, Whedon would be less constrained on the scripting side if they set Batgirl in the modern day. If it was a movie set in the past, viewers would already know that Barbara’s days in the Batcave are numbered, because Batfleck was riding solo when we first met him. Whedon would have to write within that limitation, which could cause problems.
In a present day Batgirl story, though, Whedon could do whatever he wanted and set up sequels gallore if he fancied it. Surely that’s a more exciting prospect for the powers that be at DC and Warner Bros.
So, this is my guess: Barbara is in her teens or her twenties at this point, and she’ll be inspired by Batman’s resurgence (in Batman V Superman, Justice League and maybe even The Batman, depending on how DC decides to order everything). She’ll eschew her father’s official channels of justice to join Bats in pounding the streets of Gotham. Or, if they can’t get Affleck in the movie, she’ll have to act alone.
Who might the villains be?
When you think of villains that Batgirl has faced, there’s one name that springs immediately to mind: The Joker. In Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Killing Joke book, The Clown Prince Of Crime shot Barbara, rendering her paralysed from the waist down. This ended her career as Batgirl, and Barbara was forced to reinvent herself as the tech genius Oracle, who uses her computer savvy to support other heroes.
The Joker’s goal in The Killing Joke was to try and turn Jim Gordon insane, to prove that “one bad day” is enough to turn anyone from an ordinary citizen into a deranged lunatic. It’s widely considered to be the greatest Joker story, but, in all honesty, it wouldn’t really work as a Batgirl-focused movie. The story is more about the Joker, Jim and Batman, with Barbara being the victim caught in the middle.
Jared Leto’s Joker could work nicely as a villain for Batgirl, though, especially since he has his own female sidekick in the shape of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. That could provide a neat slice of symmetry, with Bats and Barbara being the non-evil reflections of the chaotic clowning couple. But yeah, The Killing Joke wouldn’t work at all as a story that’s actually about Barbara.
And as much as I’d like to see more of the Joker and Harley, I do feel that it would be better, and allow Barbara to feel like a more independent character, if she had a villain of her own to face, not one that we’ve seen before in association to Batman.
They could go for a street level assassin villain to match the expected edgier aesthetic (someone like The Huntress, perhaps?) or an evil tech villain to challenge Barbara’s considerable intellect (someone like The Calculator?) or they could do a bit of both, or they could do something utterly unpredictable. We’ll have to wait and see.
Who’s making the movie?
As I’ve already mentioned a few times, Joss Whedon is the man making this movie. He’s writing a script, directing the finished product and producing the whole thing along the way. He’ll bring experience of penning female heroes from Buffy The Vampire Slayer and the Avengers movies, and he has a hardened cult following from projects like Firefly and Dr Horrible’s Sing-along Blog. (As if you need an explanation of who Joss Whedon is!)
Mr Whedon hasn’t yet given any quotes to the press about his Batgirl film, so we’ve no idea which direction he’s planning to take it in. Judging by his previous work, we’d expect to see a blend of razor-ship quips and hefty action sequences. You’d expect this to be on a far smaller scale to his Avengers films, though. Batgirl surely suits a street level story better than city-levelling one.
Interestingly enough, this isn’t Whedon’s first film project at DC. Although he’s mainly been known as a Marvel man for the last few years, he actually worked on a Wonder Woman movie before he landed the Avengers gig. He was attached for two years (2005-2007), and found trouble nailing down a story.
“Besides [Wonder Woman’s] great origin story, there’s nothing from the comics that felt right 100 percent, no iconic canon story that must be told”, he admitted to EW, a few months before stepping down from the project. It later came to light that Whedon had an outline for Wonder Woman written, but the studio kept asking for changes and the film ended up languishing in development.
Even longer ago, Whedon pictched a Batman movie. This was back when Warners was looking to reboot the franchise following Batman & Robin (a job which Christopher Nolan ended up with, of course).
“My heart was on the table, I was so into it. And I could tell the executive I was talking to was just completely thinking about their schedule and their window and it was like I was talking to a wall”, Whedon later told FlavorWire.
Hopefully, this time, Joss Whedon will be able to get his DC movie idea all the way from the page to the screen. Following the billions made by the Avengers films, you’d expect less people to stand in his way.
Who could be cast?
Okay, this one is tricky. Going on my earlier assumption that this will be a movie about a young Batgirl at the start of her heroic journey, they’ll need someone in their teenage years or early twenties to play the part. The comics demand a red haired hero, but there’s this amazing thing called hair dye that means we don’t really need to worry about that.
Given that this is a Joss Whedon brainchild, it seems fair to assume that they’ll need an actress who can dispense zingers as well as handling the physical demands of the role.
One of the best ideas I’ve heard so far is Hailee Steinfeld (pictured), who showed a surprisingly massive emotional range and a winning way with delivering witty lines in the high school comedy The Edge Of Seventeen. She’s also a pop star, who does dancing and stuff, which could help with the physical side of things. (I guess?)
Rumours have also suggested that Lindsey Morgan of The 100 could be playing the role. She’s even retweeted some of those rumours herself. I’m not sure if that makes it more likely or less likely to be true, though.
Anya Taylor-Joy of Split could fit the bill, as well, but there have already been very strong rumours that she’s set for an X-Men role in The New Mutants.
Chloe Grace Moretz has been mentioned, as she often is, but since she’s already done Kick Ass and moved onto non-superhero projects, that seems like a very long shot.
Rinko Kikuchi, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Olivia Cooke, Eliza Dushku, Zoe Kravitz, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Summer Glau (because Joss Whedon) have also been mentioned around the web. At this stage, it’s unclear if the role has already been cast or how far along Whedon is with developing the characters.
When will it come out?
The exact timeline of the DC Extended Universe’s upcoming movies is yet to be confirmed, so there’s no easy answer to that question. All we really know is that Wonder Woman, Justice League and Aquaman will come next, which will bring us up to the end of 2018.
The Batman, Nightwing, Gotham City Sirens, Suicide Squad 2, The Flash, Cyborg, Green Lantern Corps, Justice League 2, Lobo, Shazam and another solo Superman film were all mentioned in the press before Batgirl, and it’s utterly unclear which order they will arrive in.
The hot rumour is that DC wants to get something in front of cameras before the end of 2017. If Whedon already has a script ready, and if it’s a cheaper film that would need less pre-production time than some of the others, perhaps Batgirl can jump the queue and make it to cinemas in 2018 or 2019.
Of course, we’ll keep you posted as more news comes to light…