There are many reasons that fans were looking forward to Batgirl, from watching a beloved character star in a Hollywood movie to following In the Heights break-out Leslie Grace as she becomes a superhero. For others, the biggest draw was seeing Michael Keaton don his black rubber suit once again as Batman. But the surprise cancelation of Batgirl, a movie nearly completed and originally headed to HBO Max, means that we won’t see Keaton alongside Grace’s Barbara Gordon or J.K. Simmons’ Commissioner Gordon.
Yet, amid the fallout of the announcement, Adil El Arbi, who co-directed Batgirl with creative partner Bilall Fallah, released a set photo to his Instagram, featuring Grace and Keaton in full costume. Even with El Arbi standing in the center, a soda cup in hand, the image gives us a good look at what the finished film could have been. The two heroes face off on a rooftop, their silhouettes shrouded in darkness, save for the red light illuminating their faces. From that sparse lighting, we can clearly see Keaton’s familiar masked visage, with what appears to be a smile for the younger hero. As Batgirl, Grace looks up at her mentor, her crossed arms suggesting a stand-off between the Bat-people.
Along with the photo, El Arbi has been posting to Instagram notes of support he and Fallah received from fellow creators, such as James Gunn and Edgar Wright (both of whom struggled with studios for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Ant-Man, respectively). Likewise, MCU boss Kevin Feige sent a message to the directors, thanking them for their work on Ms. Marvel and expressing excitement about their future projects. For her part, Grace shared behind-the-scenes images on Instagram, thanking those who helped her through the filmmaking process and ensuring that she would follow her character’s lead and become her “own damn hero!”
But what about Keaton? Thus far, the actor has not commented on recent events, likely because he’s currently still scheduled to appear in a DC movie. The Flash, which was delayed out of 2020, was set to properly introduce Keaton’s Batman to the DCEU and explain his trip through the multiverse, opening the door for the actor to make future appearances in Batgirl and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. But without The Flash coming out first, his further cameos wouldn’t make much sense. That’s why reports indicate that Ben Affleck shot scenes for the Aquaman sequel to replace Keaton.
Unfortunately, The Flash star Ezra Miller’s legal troubles continue, heaping more bad press upon an already heavily scrutinized project. The film’s producer has hastened to assure all that The Flash will come to theatres in 2023, but it’s hard to believe that new Warner Bros. chief David Zaslav won’t also cut that film in his quest to “reset” DC movies.
If The Flash does indeed fail to reach theaters, then images like these may be all we have of one of superhero cinema’s forefathers coming back to the genre. In the meantime, at least we can enjoy Keaton’s first go-round as the Dark Knight in Batman and Batman Returns, as well as his role as the Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming — whatever it takes to forget that Morbius is his last superhero movie appearance.