Batgirl, an uber-woke, race-swap superhero movie in which the lead character has a trans best friend, has been shelved by David Zaslav, the new CEO of Warner Bros Discovery. First he deep-sixed CNN+, the offshoot of the progressive 24-hour news channel, and now he’s decided not to release the latest addition to the DC franchise, in spite of the fact that Warner Bros had spent upwards of $90 million on it and it was effectively finished. Zaslov is so underwhelmed by it, it isn’t even going to be released on HBO Max, the studio’s streaming service. Tom Leonard in the Daily Mail has the story.
It may even be the most expensive film ever made that will never see the light of day.
The film had got as far as test screenings and was being slated for release in cinemas and on the U.S. streaming service HBO Max by the end of this year.
However, the audience feedback was so awful that — in an almost unprecedented move — Warner Bros has decided the reputational damage of releasing such a dud would be even worse than wasting the tens of millions of dollars it has already spent on it.
“It just didn’t work,” said an insider. The decision is also a blow for Glasgow, which had stood in for Gotham City in the movie.
Given the low standard of so much of the content on Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming services, and the fact that superhero films have a fanatically loyal audience, it all represents a jaw-dropping failure.
But why was it cancelled so late in the day, and after so much time, money and resources had been spent on it?
Some have alleged the film may have been scrapped rather than released for tax reasons; Warner Bros can now claim Batgirl as a tax write-off — helping it recoup some of its costs elsewhere. However, that doesn’t account for why the film was so bad in the first place.
And here there are certainly strong clues to suggest that Batgirl was only the latest in a long and disastrous line of Hollywood films that have prioritised politically correct values over entertainment. As Robin might say, Holy Woke, Batman!
Fans will remember that in the original comics, Batgirl is the night-time alter ego of Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Gotham City’s red-headed police commissioner Jim Gordon.
The star of the film was a little-known Afro-Latina singer-actress named Leslie Grace. This alone was a big risk as 27-year-old Grace’s only previous major acting role was in the box-office flop In The Heights, a ‘musical drama’ made by woke hero Lin-Manuel Miranda, the man behind the musical Hamilton.
Hollywood icon Michael Keaton was reprising his role as Batman, while Commissioner Gordon — Batgirl’s father — was played by the actor J.K. Simmons, who starred in 2002’s Spider-Man.
The film was directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, young Moroccan-Belgians best known for the TV series Ms Marvel, about a Muslim Pakistani-American teenage girl who is bullied at school until she develops superpowers.
When Ms Marvel was released in June, it received a tsunami of abuse from comic book fans complaining about its unbearable wokeness.
(The series is made by Disney, so progressive nowadays that it applies racism warnings to the crows in Dumbo and offers a children’s show — called Baymax! — which features a scene in which a robot asks a transgender man what sort of sanitary product he should buy for a 12-year-old girl.)
Batgirl’s screenplay was by Christina Hodson, the British writer of ultra-feminist film Birds Of Prey, accused by one critic of “hating on men — all men . . . [and] dull to the point of numbing”.
Batgirl also featured a transgender character, Alysia Yeoh, Barbara Gordon’s flatmate, played by the trans actor Ivory Aquino.
The appearance, critics say, is of a film putting its ‘progressive’ values ahead of all other concerns.
And not for the first time. Superhero films — normally somewhere audiences might go to escape our era’s endless culture wars — have increasingly become major repositories of wokery.
In 2021, Marvel’s mega-budget movie Eternals — starring Angelina Jolie, Kit Harington and Richard Madden — was panned by fans and critics alike as dull and preachy. It included Marvel’s first gay superhero and its first deaf one.
Lightyear, a spin-off from Pixar’s celebrated Toy Story film series, was expected to be one of the biggest movies of this summer. Instead, it bombed.
Critics complained that it substituted liberal virtue-signalling — Buzz Lightyear’s commanding officer is a black lesbian and the film features the first same-sex kiss in a Pixar production — for the simple, unpoliticised joys of the original movies.
By contrast, this summer also saw the release of Top Gun: Maverick, a barnstorming reboot of the wildly popular 1986 film Top Gun, an action film about gung-ho American fighter pilots. It has provided a sharp rejoinder to Hollywood bosses who insist their increasingly right-on output is just a reaction to changing audience tastes and social mores.
What with the victories of Maya Forstator and Allison Bailey, the closure of the Tavistock and the two candidates in the Conservative leadership election desperately trying to out anti-woke each other, this hasn’t been a good couple of months for the intersectionality cult.
Stop Press: Suella Braverman’s War on Woke continues, with a blistering attack on the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion industry in Mail+.