News that Avengers director Joss Whedon is making a Batgirl movie for DC Films and Warner Bros. has set off a wild amount of fan speculation. While it's assumed that the first Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) will be the protagonist, that fact is not confirmed yet - nor has the context of Batgirl's origin and storyline.
While so much of this Batgirl movie is veiled in mystery right now, there are enough other established elements of the DC Extended Universe for us to invite one specific (and juicy) piece of speculation:Could the Batgirl movie be used as the DCEU version of The Killing Joke?
Batman's Death in the Family
The DCEU movies for Batman and Superman have been very specific about which eras of the respective characters they pull from. Man of Steel used a lot of new era Superman mythos (ex: Mark Waid and Geoff Johns stories), whereas Ben Affleck's Batman in Batman v Superman was built from a lot of the '80s-era stories like The Dark Knight Returns and Death In The Family.
The latter story has admittedly only been implied so far. Between Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, we have the implied story of how Ben Affleck's Batman and Jared Leto's Joker had a violent history in the DCEU - one that resulted in the death of Robin (Jason Todd), a major character-changing milestone for Batman, Joker and Harley Quinn.
Fans of DC Comics know that besides Robin's murder in Death In The Family, there's one other big '80s-era Batman event that now defines the hero's relationship with his nemesis: Joker crippling Barbara Gordon in Alan Moore's 1988 storyline, The Killing Joke. It was an event so powerful that DC Comics made it canon, even though Moore's story is set in its own continuity.
It's also a story that DC has recently been testing out for Batgirl...
The Killing Joke Animated Movie
DC is known for using its animated feature line to test out potential blockbuster film concepts. A film called Batman: Assault on Arkham was a litmus test for what became the Suicide Squad movie; Justice League: War will have a lot in common with the Justice League movie - which brings us to last fall's release, Batman: The Killing Joke.
That animated adaptation of Moore's movie was not that well received by the fanbase - primarily due to the massive changes to the story that were made. The Killing Joke animated film tacked on an entire prologue starring Barbara Gordon's Batgirl and her falling out with Batman - before Joker shows up to alter the course of her life forever. It was an awkward and confusing alteration to a classic tale - but maybe it wasn't so random?
If The Killing Joke animated movie was testing ground for how a Batgirl movie could incorporate the storyline, then DC Films and Joss Whedon have plenty to learn from. It's not an impossible task; in fact, with the right thematic approach, Batgirl: The Killing Joke could be a superhero film like we've never seen...
New Kind of Hero
It's no secret that the superhero genre is currently trying to find more room for major female characters (and filmmakers) to have their place in the sandbox. It's also true that darker, more violent material is also becoming a new niche within the genre - thanks to Fox's X-Men films, Deadpool and Logan. DC could kill two birds with one stone by doing a female superhero movie in Logan style.
The story of Barbara Gordon's horrific trauma, the loss of her Batgirl identity, and her subsequent return to superherodom (as the wheelchair-bound hacker/activist "Oracle") was one of the more inspired arcs to come out of late-'80s/90s-era DC Comics; it's not surprising that the character became a fan-favorite. Even the "New 52" reboot found a way to restore Barbara's mobility and Batgirl mantel - yet still "crippled her" (so to speak) with PTSD from Joker's attack.
A film showing that Barbara Gordon is just as strong as Oracle, as she was as Batgirl, would send a good message to some important demographics that don't usually get their voices heard in the genre (women, the handicapable). And Whedon is the type of filmmaker who could deftly deliver a story where the real heroism isn't about tights and physical battles, but rather a mental and spiritual rise to heroism, as a woman discovers that her power isn't defined by the male-dominated rules of strength.
A Batgirl: The Killing Joke movie has some obvious potential for great connections to the larger DCEU Universe - in terms of both adding depth to established characters and introducing new ones:
- Batman: the potential role for Ben Affleck's Batman in the story is obvious, as he would be the secondary supporting character to Barbara, after Commissioner Gordon (which would also allow J.K. Simmons to expand his DCEU presence).
- Nightwing: With a Nightwing movie in development, having Dick Grayson in the films and establishing he and Barbara Gordon's romantic history would help fans get to know the DCEU Grayson better.
- Jared Leto's Joker: Leto needs somewhere better than Suicide Squad to spend all that wild Joker method acting energy. If The Batman isn't enough of a showcase for him, Batgirl: The Killing Joke could be. And since Leto already paid ode to The Killing Joke as Joker early on, let's let him play that story out in full!
- Gotham City Sirens: Suicide Squad director David Ayer and star Margot Robbie are reuniting to start production on this Harley Quinn spinoff. Barbara Gordon has a long history with other ladies of Gotham like Harley, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Huntress, so there's room for Barbara either as Batgirl or Oracle to fit into that franchise.
- Batwoman (or Batgirl II): There have been several other women to pick up the mantle of Batgirl (or Bat-Girl), and there's a major current fan-fav in Kate Kane/Batwoman. No matter what DC Films chose to pursue, this first Batgirl movie, with a Killing Joke storyline, would leave the door open for a new hero to step into the DCEU (Kate Kane FTW!).
NEXT: Justice League
Justice League is directed by Zack Snyder, from a screenplay by Chris Terrio, and features an ensemble cast that includes Ben Affleck (Batman), Henry Cavill (Superman), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Ezra Miller (The Flash), Jason Momoa (Aquaman), Ray Fisher (Cyborg), Ciarán Hinds (Steppenwolf), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Diane Lane (Martha Kent), Jeremy Irons (Alfred Pennyworth), J.K. Simmons (Commissioner Gordon), Amber Heard (Mera), Kiersey Clemons (Iris West) and Jesse Eisenberg (Lex Luthor).
DC and Warner Bros. have a full slate ahead, with Teen Titans: The Judas Contract coming first on April 4, 2017. After that it's time for Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017, followed by Justice League on November 17, 2017. The Batman is expected sometime in 2018, with The Flash debuting on March 23, 2018. Aquaman is set for October 5, 2018, and Nightwing's solo feature is due sometime in 2019.
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