In a surprising development, the HBO Max Batgirl film starring Leslie Grace has been cancelled by Discovery and Warner Bros. Pictures.
It appears the overhaul of the DC Extended Universe spearheded by Discovery CEO David Zaslav reported earlier has begun in earnest. After high ranking executives in WarnerMedia connected to the development of projects for the DCEU were let go, it became clear that there would be major decisions in the near future. The cancellation of the Batgirl film may be the first manifestation of these decisions.
But why would Warner Bros. drop the $90 million HBO Max Batgirl film so near to it finishing production? Will this have a major effect on the upcoming slate of DCEU and HBO Max productions already on the horizon? Check out the details below for what has been revealed so far.
The New York Post broke the big news that Batgirl on HBO Max has been cancelled. Apparently, the test screenings conducted for Batgirl had been less than promising. As reported in the news article:
Those tests were said to be so poorly received by moviegoers that the studio decided to cut its losses and run, for the sake of the brand’s future. It’s a DC disaster.
The apparent source from the test screenings was also quoted as saying that Batgirl is "irredeemable".
The news sent shock waves in the entertainment industry, as it is unprecedented for a major studio building a cinematic universe to cancel a project as costly as Batgirl for HBO Max so close to wrapping the production. It is estimated that production for Batgirl has spent $80 million to upwards of $90 million, partly due to the delays caused by the COVID pandemic.
While the cancellation of Batgirl has been a big surprise, Warner Bros. was quick to provide an official response. In a report by The Hollywood Reporter, a Warner Bros. spokesperson released a statement explaining the reason for cancelling the HBO Max Batgirl film:
The decision to not release Batgirl reflects our leadership’s strategic shift as it relates to the DC universe and HBO Max. Leslie Grace is an incredibly talented actor and this decision is not a reflection of her performance.
In a related report, Variety states that sources in Warner Bros. have mentioned the reason for the cancellation of Batgirl is for a tax write-off. The report goes on to say that the sources projected that Batgirl was not going to turn a profit big enough to release it in theaters or economically sound as a streaming exclusive.
Not the only casualty
Batgirl is not the only big project that has been axed. On the same day, the animated sequel to Scoob! (2020) which is already deep into its $40 million production, has also been canned. The Scoob! Sequel was another project that would have been released through the HBO Max streaming service.
In the aforementioned Warner Bros. statement, the company clarified that they appreciate the production and cast of both projects. In addition, that the company looks forward to working with them in other projects:
We are incredibly grateful to the filmmakers of Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt and their respective casts and we hope to collaborate with everyone again in the near future.
This may indicate that the higher ups of the merged Warner Bros. and Discovery are not limiting their overhaul to the DCEU. Given how the stated reasoning for the cancellations is as a form of cost-cutting and perceived inadequate profits to justify pushing them through, there may be more on-going productions that will join Batgirl and Scoob! in the coming days.
Filmmakers shocked and respond
In an Instagram post, directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (Bad Boys For Life) issued a joint statement.
The collaborative duo expressed their shock and sadness with the decision to kill the Batgirl project:
We are saddened and shocked by the news. We still can’t believe it. As directors, it is critical that our work be shown to audiences, and while the film was far from finished, we wish that fans all over the world would have had the opportunity to see and embrace the final film themselves. Maybe one day they will insha’Allah.
The second part of the issued statement was to show appreciation to the hard work of the Batgirl cast and crew:
Our amazing cast and crew did a tremendous job and worked so hard to bring Batgirl to life. We are forever grateful to have been part of that team. It was a dream to work with such fantastic actors like Michael Keaton, JK Simmons, Brendan Fraser, Jacob Scipio, Corey Johnson, Rebecca Front and especially the great Leslie Grace, who portrayed Batgirl with so much passion, dedication and humanity.
Finally, the two directors went on to express their love for the Batman franchise and the DCEU:
In any case, as huge fans of Batman since we were little kids, it was a privilege and an honor to have been a part of the DCEU, even if it was for a brief moment. Batgirl For Life.
As of the date and time of this news, Batgirl star Leslie Grace has yet to issue a formal statement about the cancellation.
What about the rest of the DCEU?
With the cancellation of Batgirl, fans are wondering how this will affect the rest of the projected slate for the DCEU that have only begun production. And could this be limited to just HBO Max and other non-theatrical projects?
And what about The Flash film that has been suffering from production delays and controversies with its star Ezra Miller? Would Discovery and Warner Bros. be willing to cancel it in favor of its revamping the DCEU? Note that Michael Keaton was set to reprise his Batman role for the Batgirl film as part of the soft reboot intended in The Flash.
On that note, could Ben Affleck returning in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom be connected to this development? The news breaking within days of these two major developments involving DCEU projects seem too close to be a coincidence. Fans of the Snyderverse had taken this to mean that the current DCEU plans have been changed to at least continue the overall direction established by Zack Snyder.
For now, the Batgirl project has been completely shelved and there are no plans of releasing it on any platform in the near future.