Ricky Church on why Joss Whedon shouldn’t direct Batgirl…
Earlier this week the internet was filled with a lot of rumours that Warner Bros. was no longer interested in a Joss Whedon-directed Batgirl film. Though Whedon has created some of the best stories for the comic or sci-fi genre, from Avengers to Buffy The Vampire Slayer to Firefly, he is not without controversy, now more than ever. As of now, it has been denied that Whedon has been or will be fired from Batgirl, but would it even be a bad thing if he didn’t direct? In my opinion, he’s no longer the right person to bring Batgirl to life.
Some spoilers for Justice League follow…
After taking control of Justice League in the wake of Zack Snyder’s departure from the film due to a family tragedy earlier this year, Whedon conducted reshoots of the film to help lighten to the tone and add in ‘connective tissue’ between scenes and also fired Justice League‘s original composer Junkie XL, getting the legendary Danny Elfman to fill in for him as he did Tyler Bates on Avengers: Age of Ultron. The changes he brought to the film were numerous with some seemingly for the better and others not so much, especially when it came to some of the female characters.
Just take the scene between Lois Lane and Martha Kent for example. This scene featured the pair discussing their personal lives in the wake of Clark’s death and how they each have trouble moving on from his death. It’s a good scene that builds on their characters grief between Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. Then, in perfect Whedon fashion, he includes a joke to go out on the scene: Martha telling Lois Clark said she was “the thirstiest woman he knew.” Cue Lois looking awkward and Martha quickly saying “Or was it hungriest?” and you have an incredibly awkward sexual innuendo in a scene that didn’t need it. If you also notice the picture below, it is a completely different setting to what was in the movie, showing it was in fact Whedon’s scene and not Snyder’s original.
However, if any proof exists that Joss Whedon may not be ready to take on Batgirl, it’s his treatment of Wonder Woman throughout Justice League. Now her actual portrayal in the film is pretty great, continuing her evolution from Wonder Woman and Gal Gadot shines once again in the role, but it’s how she’s treated in the additional and changed scenes that are problematic. For instance, Aquaman breaking her down to mostly her beauty during his truthful confession was a bit jarring and problematic for a scene where he talks about the preciousness of life.
There’s also a beat during the team’s first encounter with Steppenwolf where Wonder Woman is saved by The Flash only for Flash to accidentally fall into her breasts, a beat that Whedon repeated from Avengers: Age of Ultron when Bruce Banner did the exact same thing with Black Widow (let’s not forget the unnecessary “hide the zucchini” joke from that film either). This issue is raised even further if Grace Randolph’s account of the scene is true; that it was part of Whedon’s reshoots but Wonder Woman is actually a body double since Gal Gadot’s face is turned away in the full body shot and he didn’t inform Gadot what the shot was for when he got her reaction. Not to mention some additional shots featured plenty of Gadot’s behind, up close in tight leather pants.
If Batgirl does get made, its important that the film focuses on the strong character Barbara Gordon is and not have unnecessary sexual jokes and shots showing off her body. As good a director as Whedon has been in the past, even with several of his female characters, sometimes it seems like he can’t help himself from being too crass, especially lately. I already mentioned how Age of Ultron had jokes and lines that undercut Black Widow’s character and her relationship with Hulk, distracting audiences from the growth her character was going through. We don’t need something like that for Batgirl, especially as her portrayal in the Batman: The Killing Joke adaptation, where she was reduced significantly to emotional love interest, damsel in distress and heavily objectified, is still fresh in the minds of plenty fans.
Since WB was reportedly only interested in a Batgirl film after Whedon’s initial pitch, maybe if he goes so does the film, though its hard to tell in the wake of Justice League’s disappointing opening weekend. However, that is one reason why it would be wise for WB to drop him. He was brought onto Justice League as early as January, months before Snyder formally left the film, to add improvements. Now, despite my personal feelings on the film (I gave it 4 stars in my review), it clearly did not click with audiences and Whedon’s changes did little to attract mainstream audiences. Word of mouth has been generally good and we’ll see this upcoming holiday weekend if there’s any positive changes in Justice League‘s box office, but as of now the main reason he was brought on to the film, to make it better and more marketable to mainstream audiences, has failed to an extreme.
There’s also the fact that Whedon himself is an issue. Over Justice League‘s opening weekend, he earned the ire of several fans by actually liking tweets from people citing Steppenwolf as the worst comic book villain of all time, even worse than Thor: The Dark World’s Malekith. Many viewed this as a betrayal to Snyder, DC and WB. After all, he worked on the final cut of the film and wrote scenes to improve it and it seems like his changes are much more than the 15-20% the cast says he added. If Steppenwolf failed as a villain, that’s largely on him, not on Snyder, yet he’s liking tweets that blame Snyder for Steppenwolf’s failure.
There’s also the fact that Whedon’s personal life may prove to be a bigger issue for WB. Earlier this summer, his ex-wife wrote a scathing essay about her time with Whedon and the dissolution of their marriage, saying he hypocritically presents himself as a feminist when he’s anything but. According to her, he cheated on her multiple times, citing his power and authority on film sets as a reason he cheated and manipulated her throughout their marriage all the while preaching feminism. Given Hollywood is currently going through numerous sexual harassment and abuse controversies, it would be in WB’s best interests from a business standpoint to remove Whedon from his role as Batgirl’s director before his involvement draws any more untoward publicity.
Whedon has done some great work in his time, but it’s fairly clear given his recent decisions in his films that he’s off his game. Wonder Woman was a resounding success for DC and WB by bringing the world’s most popular female superhero to the big screen that focused on her character without sexualizing her or adding in unnecessary jokes at her expense. Batgirl should do something similar, especially since she is one of the next popular female superheroes after Wonder Woman and a huge fan-favourite character in both her Batgirl and Oracle guise. Joss Whedon may have a passion for Batgirl, but I believe he is just not the right director to bring her to the big screen after all this.