I guess when you write about movies on a regular basis, you learn never to expect too much. Movie news is as regular as night and day but not nearly as reliable. I am not a knee-jerk kind of guy when it comes to movie news, but this week something exciting got my attention that also came with a touch of the bittersweet.
The recent news that Joss Whedon was going to helm a stand-alone Batgirl project fills me with anticipation. Batgirl is my favorite superhero, hands down, end of story. This is not new – my love for Batgirl goes back to my days in single digits. Plus – much like The Force Awakens – it is a movie that I never thought would happen. So, yes, I’m excited.
But . . . .
I’m on the front lines when it comes to the fact that the DCU hasn’t yielded a string of greatness. I’ve seen all of their films in a theater, usually opening weekend. Every time I come away feeling burned, yet I keep going. Like a bad relationship, I keep returning even though my love dun me wrong.
Outside of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, this expanded universe has yielded product that has ranged from ragingly mediocre to historically terrible. Unlike Marvel’s line of product, which is consistently good, DC’s lineup of films have flopped over and died more times than a zombie that won’t stay dead. Starting with 2011’s Green Lantern, we’ve suffered the ills of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and the ragingly mediocre Suicide Squad. Given that, I can’t exactly break out the pom poms for Batgirl even if Whedon’s creative hands are at the controls.
I hope it works. Whedon has a special talent for handling female characters and for world-building. He also has a unique talent for reconditioning superhero movies into a narrative that quietly speaks to us about the state of our world. Plus, there’s a lot of potential politically and culturally; there’s hope that he can use this platform to break Hollywood’s quizzical fear of female heroes (I confess that I have no confidence in Wonder Woman) and maybe open up the gates of gender equality that the genre so desperately needs.
And yet, there’s a sticky issue afoot here. Would the movie dig into Barbara Gordon’s disability? Overlooking her paralysis could render a problem, yet dealing with it in the wrong way might make a lie of the character. My guess is that the movie will probably deal with Barbara’s origins and how she came to acquire the cape and cowl. That’s the safer alternative, but those of us who saw the wider scope of Nolan’s trilogy know that the Bat-verse can be more that just action and pointed-ears.
There’s hope for the movie. There’s hope that it will break DC’s pattern of trying to make superhero pictures more “adult” but only succeeding at making them feel like a long car ride on a rainy day.
Moreover, I can hope that the film will be fun. I miss that from DC. Where’s the levity? Where are the jokes? Where’s the great spirit that I got all those years ago from the Christopher Reeve Superman movie, and recently from the Marvel pictures? Who says super hero movies have to be sour and dark? Who says they can’t be fun at the same time? Let’s put it this way: there’s a reason Deadpool grossed $700 million last spring, and if the studio execs can’t figure that out then they might as well clean out their overstuffed desks.
I would like to be more excited about this. I’m settling into a “wait and see” mentality but I’m not expecting the movie to fall on either side of the fence. Maybe it’ll work. Maybe this will be the film to break DC’s deadlock. I can have hope . . . but then, I had hope for Suicide Squad.