In an announcement that doesn’t seem all that surprising really, Joss Whedon, the man who basically help run Phase 2 of Marvel Studios’ output, directed two of the biggest grossing superhero movies of all-time in Avengers and Age of Ultron, and came in to finish Justice League after Zack Snyder left the production, has stated today that he himself is exited a WB production.

About a year after he was hired to write and direct Barbara Gordon’s journey to becoming one of Gotham’s premiere crime-fighters, Whedon has stepped away with a pretty honest admission…he just couldn’t figure out how to crack the character:

Batgirl is such an exciting project, and Warners/DC such collaborative and supportive partners, that it took me months to realize I really didn’t have a story,” Whedon told The Hollywood Reporter in a statement. Referring to DC president Geoff Johns and Warners Picture Group president Toby Emmerich, Whedon added, “I’m grateful to Geoff and Toby and everyone who was so welcoming when I arrived, and so understanding when I… uh, is there a sexier word for ‘failed’?”

This actually isn’t the first time Whedon has run into some difficulties in translating a DC character to the screen. Back in 2006, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator had been hired to draft a script for Wonder Woman – a decade before her big cinematic debut. It was, as Collider detailed last year, a pretty misguided attempt to bring that iconic character to life.

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But with Batgirl, one has to wonder also how much the tepid reception to Justice League, which Whedon basically co-directed even if he wasn’t credited as such, has anything to do with his exit from this project. One wouldn’t blame either party for wanting divorce themselves from that debacle (again, a movie I like more than Batman v Superman, probably due to Whedon’s contributions), but a fresh start probably helps everyone.

According to The Tracking Board, the studio is moving forward with the Batgirl feature, now looking strictly at women filmmakers to take this character. It’s possible Hollywood is finally learning a lesson for once with the success of both Wonder Woman and Black Panther. Representation matters, both in front of and behind the camera. And there’s no shortage of talented directors that could slot into that position.

This is very good news for all involved.

For those keeping track at home, the DC-based movies we know are coming out for sure are:

  • December’s Aquaman which is in post-production, and even screened for test audiences already apparently
  • Shazam!, which has begun filming, and you should expect a costume reveal very, very soon
  • A sequel to Wonder Woman is a certainty, and is deep in pre-production
  • Matt Reeves’ Batman feature is also in an earlier pre-production phase, but I’d expect to hear more soon
  • Gavin O’Connor is set to direct Suicide Squad 2

And then we have a few more projects in the realm of possibility:

  • Game Night’s John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein are in negotiations to take over Flashpoint
  • Todd Phillips is set to direct the Joker origin movie that may or may not star Joaquin Phoenix
  • Gareth Evans was reported to be directing a Deathstroke film starring Joe Manganiello
  • And Chris McKay is signed up to direct a Nightwing feature

There are a few other productions that may get announced with filmmakers attached, such as Green Lantern Corps, which David Goyer is attached to and/or Cyborg or that long-awaited sequel to Man of Steel that people are clamoring for. But it’s a pretty stuffed lineup of half-starts, hopefully SDCC will provide some serious clarification during their big Hall H presentation on Saturday morning.

8 COMMENTS

  1. “it took me months to realize I really didn’t have a story,”

    When has that stopped movies from getting made? Movies start shooting without completed scripts all the time. Usually a bad idea (unless we’re talking about Casablanca), but it’s pretty routine.

  2. Given the current critical track record of DC films, it probably behooves them to take their time and come up with films that they feel are surefire winners rather than attempt to patch something together from a script that isn’t fully baked.

  3. The Tarr/Stewart/Fletcher run felt like a superheroey version of Black Mirror. So maybe someone who has thought about current technology and society would be a good match for this one?

  4. “And Chris McKay is signed up to direct a Nightwing feature”

    Except that now it looks like Chris McKay might drop out of Nightwing to direct Hasbro’s Dungeons & Dragons movie. Not that I would blame him with WB dragging their feet.

  5. “Movies start shooting without completed scripts all the time. Usually a bad idea (unless we’re talking about Casablanca), but it’s pretty routine.”

    “The Devil’s Candy: The Bonfire of the Vanities Goes to Hollywood” by Julie Salamon from 1992 gives a pretty detailed analysis of why this happens. It’s been a while since I’ve read it, but if my memory is correct it mostly boils down to the fact that, since almost all the players (particularly crew) on movies today are independent contractors (and not studio employees), they are contracted to work for specific blocks of time. Because of this, they turn down other work if they are already booked on another project. So if the contracts are signed and the movie’s not ready to go at that specified time, they still get paid, whether they’re working or not. Similarly, soundstage space is reserved. If the movie’s not ready, the landlord of the soundstage still gets paid. And so on. So if the movie studio is going to be paying anyway, they want to make sure that people are working. Even if they bite the bullet and shut down production, getting the crew, sets, and other players and spaces organized again is a huge logistical nightmare, since most of them will have moved on to other projects.

    A movie production is like a locomotive. Once it starts moving it’s very difficult to stop. So the production just keeps moving and hopes they can fix it on the fly.

  6. Actors are usually signed for big franchise movies (like superhero movies) long before a script is written. The CGI work has to start long before principal photography with the actors begins. Which may account for the generic look of so many of these CGI action/destruction scenes.

    In the past, there were directors like Howard Hawks and Robert Altman who regarded screenplays as a jumping-off point. Once they got on the set, they would typically throw the script away and start improvising with the actors. At least the script gave them an outline — they knew where they would end up, but HOW they got there was largely ad libbed.

    Of course, most directors aren’t geniuses like Hawks or Altman.

  7. “Of course, most directors aren’t geniuses like Hawks or Altman.”

    When I was in my 20s and early 30s I loved Altman. One of my top five favorite filmmakers. The older I get, the less patience I have with his work (although I still love The Long Goodbye and The Player quite a bit).

  8. I also love The Long Goodbye and The Player, and Nashville and McCabe & Mrs. Miller. Some of his later films (like the awful Ready to Wear) don’t work for me mat all, but most of his films are worth seeing.

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