After years of rumors, DC and Warner Bros. are finally ready to bring Batgirl to the big screen. Though a few names have been floated before, including Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn, it was announced yesterday that Joss Whedon would be helming Batgirl and introducing the character into the DCEU. As well as directing, Whedon will be writing and producing, bringing with him the skills he gained on the two previous Avengers movies, not to mention shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. And while a strong case can be made that the film could benefit from a female screenwriter, there’s no denying that Whedon is a solid get for the DC’s struggling shared universe.
Much like the recently announced Nightwing movie, though, a big question remains about the proposed film. Namely, how can a solo movie involving one of Batman’s sidekicks exist without them first being introduced in a Dark Knight solo film? While both Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson could debut in The Batman, that film has hit a number of roadblocks on its way to production. Even then, can a Batgirl solo movie exist without Batman, or will his appearance overshadow one of DC’s few female superheroes?
Why Batman Is Almost Guaranteed To Appear in The Batgirl Movie
Man of Steel is a bit of an outlier in the DCEU. As a movie released years before its peers, its connection to a larger world was never a sure thing. Since its release, however, DC and WB have coalesced their plans for an MCU-like shared universe of heroes and team-ups. Some of those plans have been concrete, but many remain in an odd state of limbo. Still, assuming Whedon’s take on Batgirl can rise above the rabble and actually make it into production, the inevitable question of whether Batman will factor into the film will arise.
There’s no telling if Wonder Woman will feature any cameos, but Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad have proven that if Warner Bros. can stick a character in a movie, they will. Even Marvel has begun to follow this formula more and more. And of course, Justice League by definition will feature a number of players, and is rumored to have even more characters than we’ve seen advertised at this point. All of this is to say that if something so explicitly tied to Batman as Batgirl were to emerge as a film, it’s almost guaranteed that DC will work the hero into the movie in some manner. The question that remains is how will he factor into the plot and Batgirl’s arc as a character?
How Much Batman Is Too Much?
We’ve heard that the New 52 iteration of Batgirl will be the focus of the new film, meaning we’re likely to get a younger hero more akin to Peter Parker—though likely in her 20s and not teens. If that’s the case, it’s a smart move by Warner Bros. as Whedon has proven he’s capable of handling a more youth-focused superhero story. It will also, like Spider-Man: Homecoming, allow the life of a young adult superhero to be examined instead of another tale of middle-aged heroes trying to save the world with little character development in between.
Barbara has had a long and complicated history, which is why the focus on her New 52 lore is key. Taking bits from her original past, Barbara is the daughter of the famed Commissioner Gordon in the rebooted reality. As a young kid in Gotham, she’s inspired by the appearance of Batman to take up crime-fighting herself as Batgirl. Eventually, she gets to work alongside Batman and Robin, proving a valuable member of the Bat-Family. In a nod to her tragic arc in The Killing Joke, this new Barbara is eventually shot in the spine by the Joker and spends three years recovering before reentering the superhero world.
Already, a number of questions begin to emerge about a movie version of Batgirl. We know Commissioner Gordon, played by J.K. Simmons, will be fairly senior, and that Batman has been operating for some time. Batman’s also clearly gone through a Robin or two. This could mean Barbara would be around the age of Batman at this point, unless her father had her later in life or adopted her. It could also mean she’s semi-retired herself and will appear older than she is in the comics. That said, Joker is much younger than Batman in the DCEU, so his attacks on Robin and Batgirl could have happened around the same time and her youth could be preserved, despite Gordon and Batman’s seniority. Regardless of her potential age or what point she is in her crime-fighting career, Batgirl’s arc is tied into Batman, Robin, her father, and Joker pretty tightly. As such, it’s hard to imagine her movie not featuring some, if not all, of those characters.
It’s also clear that DC needs to focus on female characters more. While Wonder Woman will be headlining her own film, Harley Quinn is really the only other lead female character until Catwoman and Poison Ivy are introduced. Even then, they’re all wrapped up in male colleagues, love interests, and foes. It simply wouldn’t do to have the first solo Batgirl film show her as the sidekick to Batman, but his presence should still be felt. Whether it’s flashbacks or some modern day scene, we need to see her have some connection to the original Gotham vigilante. But she also needs to fight and win her own battles on her own terms.
A great way to accomplish both tasks would be to have the two come to blows and then have a falling out over their differing views of crime-fighting. This way, Batgirl could establish her connection and debt to Batman, but strike out on her own journey that’s every bit as valid as the one the Dark Knight is on.
With so few details on when the film is coming and what version of the character we’ll meet, not to mention how she might play into other films before her solo debut, it’s difficult to guess as to what sort of story we’ll see for Barbara Gordon. And while the appearance of her mentor seems inevitable, there are a lot of ways Whedon could feature Batman without him overshadowing the true star of the film. As the DCEU continues to expand with more and more people tied to the Bat-Family, it will also become harder for Ben Affleck to find time to feature in each one. Therefore, the smartest thing to do is allow his presence to be felt, but never let it overpower the story or plot.
Batman exists in the world of Batgirl and is an important character, but she needs to remain the most important person in the story or else the film is just a glorified spinoff. If DC and WB want to craft superhero movies that feel essential, they need to stand on their own terms without needing to rope in the same two or three major characters from their pantheon. As long as Barbara Gordon is the most important character in the story, then a Batgirl movie will be able to live or die on its own terms.
Do you think Batman should appear in Batgirl? Let us know in the comments.