Friday, February 23, 2018

Batgirl: Seriously, Joss?

Yesterday brought the welcome news that Joss Whedon has stepped down from writing and directing Warner Brothers’ Batgirl movie. As a Whedon apostate—first turned off his work by the needless cruelty of Serenity (who the hell rewards the fans who fought to bring back his show by killing off beloved characters?!), and then vindicated by Kai Cole’s accusations of infidelity—I am immensely relieved that he won’t be screwing up another DC movie, and especially relived he won’t be screwing up a female-led movie.
While many suspect his departure has more to do with bad buzz from the aforementioned infidelity and the failure of Justice League, Whedon’s stated reason for leaving the project is that he couldn’t come up with a story… which is ridiculous. For one thing, all you have to do to come up with a story for a comic book movie is adapt some freaking comic books. I’m pretty sure there’s some good stories to be found in Barbara Gordon’s 51-year history; just bury your damned ego, stop reinventing the wheel, and adapt someone else’s work, asshole. For another thing, Robin and I cracked a basic (admittedly rough) story outline last night during two or three hours of sporadic conversation.
Batgirl is a character with built-in dichotomy—an independent, brilliant woman defined by the way she reflects the men around her. In the comics and on TV, Batgirl began and largely operated her vigilante career by imitating Batman but working independently from him. A film about her can’t ignore that vein of co-dependence.
Graduate student Barbara “Babs” Gordon hasn’t found her purpose in life. Torn between the law enforcement legacy of her father, Commissioner James Gordon, and her own intellectualism, she’s studied acrobatics, criminology, dance, library science, martial arts, and several other fields—but has yet to decide what she’s going to do after school. For now, she lives in the hip Burnside neighborhood of Gotham, working as a community activist and sharing an apartment with her transgender friend, Alysia Yeoh. Barbara’s latest project is saving the historic Burnside clocktower.
Hot on the heels of an inappropriate come-on from her [criminology or computer sciences] professor, Noah Kuttler, Babs learns her father’s been arrested by internal affairs. I haven’t quite cracked what the crime would be, but it probably has something to do with his too-cozy relationship with the recently unhinged Batman. In any case, Batman appears to be doing nothing to help his erstwhile friend.
Babs begins to investigate. She discovers one of Batman’s batarangs and begins practicing with it. She has an angry encounter with Batman, during which he dismisses her concerns; she fashions the “Batgirl of Burnside” costume in retaliation (and maybe defeats the flashy if ridiculous Killer Moth). Babs discovers Clayface impersonated her father during the crime; this leads two set-piece fights, one of which Babs uses her wits to barely survive and the second of which she handily wins using her new-found vigilante skills and brilliant mind. Eventually, she discovers the plot was set up by Noah Kuttler, secretly the criminal mastermind the Calculator.
Babs uses money reappropriated from the Calculator to purchase the clocktower. If the film is released prior to the Nightwing movie, the film ends with a handsome young delivery man showing up at the apartment to deliver an unexpected package. Alysia comments that the delivery guy had a nice butt; Babs opens the package to discover a proper Waynetech Batgirl suit. If the film isn’t going to beat Nightwing to theaters, then the suit is delivered by Alfred (or maybe an apologetic Batman). A montage of villains and heroes across Gotham reacts to the emergence of this new vigilante (Catman is intrigued, the Joker is menacing, Black Canary is enthusiastic). Batgirl stands triumphant among the computer monitors in her refurbished clocktower.
The End
Again, it’s rough and missing most of the plot points in the middle bit, but we came up with that last night. (And it leans heavily on the Batman: The Animated Series episodes "Shadow of the Bat" and "Holiday Knights.") Give me a year (Whedon was hired last March) and I could have a full script. It ain't hard, Joss. 


And here's a couple of scenes I couldn't help myself from writing up.


Inside a garishly-decorated disused warehouse or factory—filled with buzzing, blinking pinball machines, smoking acid vats, evil-eyed dolls and other paraphernalia—the JOKER stabs a stiletto into the picture of Batgirl on the front cover of The Daily Planet.


Bat…girl? Bat-GIRL? BATGIRL?! Batman’s my toy! Mine!

He continues to stab away as a bored HARLEY QUINN flops onto the couch and turns on the TV. A news talk show comes on. Footage of Batgirl fighting Clayface plays. Graphics ask “Who is Batgirl?” and show her favorability rating.


Puddin’! The TV’s talkin’ about Batgirl!

The Joker spins, pulls out a revolver, and shoots the TV—which explodes in a crackle of light.


The blazing lights of the studio shine down on LOIS LANE, CAT GRANT, and VIC SAGE, debating the meaning of Batgirl.


This “Batgirl’s” debut is definitive proof of the Superman Theory. The government is recruiting—creating—building super heroes as part of covert efforts in the first step of a fascist overthrow—


Superman was not created by the government. He’s a refugee from an alien world—


So you claim, Ms. Lane. And we’re supposed to take your word for it?


Lois is intimately familiar with Superman, Mr. Sage.


What’s that supposed to mean?

Our POV slides around to view the squabbling commentators through a camera monitor.


The talk show continues to play, reflecting in the mirror over the sink in a really crappy hovel of an apartment. THOMAS BLAKE, a ruggedly-handsome, athletic man in his early 30s, lifts his head into view as he washes his face. Three ragged, claw-mark scars run across his broad chest.


Everyone knows you’re the world’s foremost Supermanologist, Lois. Vic, do you really think this Rule 63 Batman is part of a government conspiracy?


Is there any doubt she was trained by the same program that produced the Bat? Look at her gear, at her techniques—

A cat yowls near at hand. Blake looks down. An upset black-and-white tuxedo cat glares back at him.


I heard you.


Early photos of her showed what looked to me like a homemade costume. This someone inspired by the Batman—


Sisters are doing it for themselves!

The cat yowls again. Blake picks him up and nuzzles him.


It’s OK, Sylvester. I’m not going to be out all night.

Blake puts down the cat and goes to the bed. A Kevlar vest, a yellow-orange sweatshirt, and matching orange cape, cowl, and gloves lay on the bed. We see Blake is already wearing boots, tights, and a utility belt. The camera lingers on his body as he puts on the rest of his costume. Sylvester the cat hops onto the bed.


Um… Thanks, Cat.


It’s a prototype, not homemade. A field test of the new agent before she’s fully commissioned.


Is it so hard to believe private citizens could be inspired to do good?

Sylvester yowls again.


I hear you, buddy. I’m going to pick up the good stuff for you tonight. Chicken pâté.


So you’re suggesting this “Batgirl” is a copycat vigilante—another unsanctioned, untrained lone actor?


Would that make you happier, Mr. Sage? You don’t seem to like government oversight.

Blake crosses to the window, opens it, stops for a moment half-in and half-out. He pulls on his Batman-like cowl.

Daddy just has to rob a few people first.

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