HBO Max’s Batgirl was killed by the megamerger - The Verge
A new report from Variety suggests HBO Max’s Batgirl wasn’t pulled from the release schedule because it was bad but because Warner Bros. Discovery wanted a tax write-off. When megamergers occur, every buck counts.
In 1989, Alan Moore wanted to write a comic about what a man does when driven to the point of insanity. In the comic book, The Killing Joke, the Joker kidnaps and tortures Jim Gordon to see if he can drive him to the point of insanity that both the Joker and Batman have already reached in their own respective ways. But most people don’t remember the big face-off between the three men. They remember the book because Barbara Gordon, who had just retired as Batgirl, gets shot, stripped, photographed, and paralyzed by the Joker. When Moore proposed the depravity to his editor, Len Wein, Wein supposedly said, “Yeah, okay, cripple the bitch.”
I can only hope Warner Bros. Discovery wasn’t as cruel when it canceled the already completed Batgirl film this week. But the company certainly wasn’t kind. Early reports claimed the film, expected to premiere exclusively on HBO Max, was canceled because it was of such poor quality it was “irredeemable,” as one source told the New York Post. Later in the day, a much more plausible reason for the film’s vaulting appeared. According to Variety, the film was tucked away, never to be seen, not because it was a bad movie but because the massive entity now known as Warner Bros. Discovery wanted a tax write-off. That’s what happens in a megamerger. Potentially interesting projects — anything that bothers the biggest exec in the room — get canceled or delayed or shoved into a vault somewhere, never to see the light of day.
When Disney acquired Fox in 2019, it promptly killed a live-action Lumberjanes show, threatened to get rid of Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit for fear of offending brand loyalists with a happy-go-lucky Adolf Hitler, and shoved the perfectly lovely The New Mutants in the vault. At the time, much was said about how awful The New Mutants was. Not quite “irredeemable” but definitely bad. The film that eventually crawled out was practically devoid of X-Men branding but was also a good spooky yarn about a bunch of teens with superpowers fighting a psychic monster bear.
In Warner Bros.’ last merger (the AT&T one) the genuinely fun Swamp Thing got canceled before its second episode aired because the studio wasn’t getting the tax breaks it budgeted for. The exceptional FilmStruck streaming service got punted, too.
This time around, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav wasted no time, ruthlessly taking out CNN Plus a month after it launched. His company also axed nearly half the entire lineup of The CW. The shows were barely successful on the joint Warner Bros. and Paramount broadcast channel but wildly successful when licensed to one of Warner Bros. Discovery’s biggest rivals, Netflix. Julie Plec, who found enormous success on The CW as the showrunner of The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, and Legacies, called the May 2022 cancellation spree a “Red Wedding,” in reference to the moment in Game of Thrones where a whole family of well-loved main characters was brutally murdered by their host.