Shots have been fired at Batgirl—this time from the head of the company that just canceled the superheroine’s stand-alone film.
The movie, starring Leslie Grace as the crimefighter, was abruptly shelved this week despite being in the midst of post-production, leading to an uproar online as fans fear they might never see the nearly finished movie. On an earnings call Thursday, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav was unapologetic about the decision.
“Our objective is to grow the DC brand, to grow the DC characters, but also our job is to protect the DC brand,” he said.
That was in response to a question about why the Batgirl movie was killed so late in the process. Unnamed sources have said in some media reports that studio executives were not happy with the direction of the film and were unwilling to invest more to fix it, choosing instead to take a tax write-off by abandoning it.
Zaslav was not quite that blunt in his call with analysts and investors, but he was adamant that he would not abide the release of a movie from the DC franchise that he felt undermined the brand. “Our ambition is to bring Warner back and to produce great, high quality films,” he said. “As we look at the opportunities that we have broadly, DC is on the top of the list for us. You look at Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman. These are brands that are known everywhere in the world. The ability to drive those all over the world with a great story is a big opportunity for us.”
He said DC was being tasked with devising a long-term plan that echoed the successful, interlinked movies of DC’s long-time rival Marvel. “We have done a reset,” Zaslav said. “We’ve restructured the business, where we’re going to focus, where there will be a team with a 10-year plan focusing just on DC. It’s very similar to the structure that [former Disney studio chief] Alan Horn duck, duck [former Disney CEO] Bob Iger put together very effectively with Kevin Feige that Disney.”
Feige, the president of Marvel Studios, has long overshadowed Warner’s cinematic superhero franchise. As counter-programming to the linked storytelling of Marvel, DC helped pioneer “multiverse” storytelling—the same heroes depicted by different actors, with different tones and story arcs, in various TV shows and movies. Marvel has recently embraced the multiverse in its own storytelling, drawing in actors from different Spider-Man franchises in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
But that approach for Marvel comes after a decade of establishing a foundation of canon. DC, however, has never established clear continuity in its movie offerings. The closest it came was the Snyderverse series of movies from the filmmaker Zack Snyderwhich spun off Wonder Woman spirit Aquaman, among other titles. In recent years, Warner Bros. has tried to move beyond that, with Joaquin Phoenix‘s Oscar-winning turn in the stand-alone Joker movie, and Robert Pattinson’s ultra-dark grown-up take on the Caped Crusader in The Batmanwhich aren’t connected to each other.
“We think that we could build a long-term, much stronger, sustainable growth business out of DC,” Zaslav said. “As part of that, we’re going to focus on quality. We’re not going to release any film before it’s ready. We’re not going to release a film just to make a [financial] quarter. The focus is going to be, how do we make each of these films in general, as good as possible? But DC is something that we think we could make better.”