Now that my jaw has met up with the rest of my face, let’s examine some key bits of the story. Quotes from the Variety piece are in italics, emphasis mine.
- “The superheroine is getting her own standalone movie from filmmaker Joss Whedon. Whedon is nearing a deal to write, direct, and produce an untitled Batgirl pic for Warner Bros. as part of its DC Extended Universe.”
The operative word for me here is standalone. Given Whedon’s issues with the what-happens-next nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies (“That’s the danger of this sort of serialized storytelling, turning the motion picture experience into episodic TV. Because we have episodic TV, and now you don’t even have to wait to watch it, you can binge it. So that’s to me a dreadful mistake”), I can imagine him wanting to make this movie as standalone as humanly possible. A beginning, a middle, an end. No setting up the next thing. Just a really good movie about Batgirl with maybe some various Gotham City supporting characters.
- Whedon would be making a big move from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to its DC counterpart, having written and directed “The Avengers” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” for Disney-Marvel. He also created the television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Firefly,” “Dollhouse,” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Boy howdy, is it. When Whedon very publicly got cranky with Marvel in 2015 (comments he somewhat walked back in 2016), it seemed like he was done with bringing corporate superhero fiction to the screen. Which is interesting in that contemporary live action superhero fiction pretty well starts with “Buffy.”
Which is why it felt so perfect when Whedon started steering the MCU back in 2012 or so.
The mix of melodrama and humor, the fantastic fights, the epic feel — Whedon did it better than anyone. He did an incredibly good job with “The Avengers” — less so with the according-to-him-much-more-personal “Age of Ultron.”
- Warner Bros.’ DC Extended Universe launched with 2013’s “Man of Steel,” followed by last year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.”
You might have noticed that while the last two films did well financially — “Batman” did $873 million worldwide, “Suicide Squad” did $745 million worldwide, — but critically reviled does not begin to describe the bile (rightfully, IMHO) launched at these films.
Hiring Whedon seems an attempt to reverse this trend, or at least try to stop the bleeding. He is a longtime critical darling, and one imagines (and this is pure speculation) that Whedon gets if not literal final cut, something awfully close.
This move comes at an interesting point in superhero stuff on TV and in movies.
Out of nowhere, the best live-action superhero fiction around is being made by Fox.
After the dire “X-Men: Apocalypse,” Fox’s “Logan” is one of the strongest superhero movies ever made (and, not coincidentally, most stand-alone). And Austin resident Noah Hawley’s “Legion” doesn’t just feel like a next step for superheroes on TV, it’s one of the best shows on TV, period. Are things looking up for live-action comic book stuff?
Well, not so fast.
The idea that Aaron Sorkin, who is capable both of greatness (the script for “A Few Good Men,” “The West Wing,” “SportsNight”) and, you know, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and “The Newsroom,” was in talks with Marvel and DC to work on TV and movie ideas for them made me hold my dome. (See also the “How Comic Book Movies Are Making Comic Books Worse” piece above for my fears about a Sorkin –> Bendis —> Sorkin feedback loop.)
Also, considering Sorkin’s shock at the treatment of women and minorities in Hollywood, it would be good of DC and Marvel to remember that the very last thing comics and comic book movies needs is more white guys who don’t understand that lack of representation is a thing.
Two potential steps forward, one potential step back. One hopes for the best.