If you ran down a list of directors who you'd imagine would want to step into the superhero game, The Neon Demon and Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn probably wouldn't be the most obvious choice for top of the list. So it might come as a surprise to learn that Refn would jump at the opportunity to do so.
Speaking to Business Insider following the release of his first female-centric film The Neon Demon, Refn expressed an interest in getting in on the highly lucrative comic book game, which has taken contemporary cinema by storm over the past decade and a half.
This isn't the first time he's thrown his name around with regards to entering this genre. Following the release of Drive — his Ryan Gosling starring breakout success and critical darling — back in 2011, Refn told Collider that he'd love to helm the proposed Wonder Woman movie. That job of course ended up going instead to Monster director Patty Jenkins, and is set for a June 2017 release date.
But it seems Refn is still pretty set on his desire to bring a big-name female superhero to the big screen, as he now has his sights set on the possibility of directing a Batgirl movie, as he told Business Insider:
"God, I would love to make [a superhero movie], it would probably be great fun... What ones are left? You know the one I want to do? I want to make Batgirl. Let’s get Warner working on it."
A Refn-directed Batgirl movie? Where do we sign the petition?
This isn't the first time the name Batgirl has been bandied about in relation to the DC Extended Universe. Back when we learned the sometime red-headed Jena Malone was featuring in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice the smart money was on her portraying Barbara Gordon, under either the moniker Batgirl or Oracle.
But the newly released Extended Cut revealed that she was in fact portraying S.T.A.R. Labs Scientist Jenet Klyburn, not Batgirl. Funnily enough Malone also stars in Refn's The Neon Demon alongside Elle Fanning, which makes us wish she was Batgirl even more. So as of yet there's been no sniff of Batgirl in the DCEU, but the solo Ben Affleck-directed Batman movie has the potential to change that.
Batgirl is a well loved but often-mistreated character in DC Comics history. But as The Killing Joke made a heavily critized move in having her paralyzed at the hands of Joker, it also gave writers Kim Yale and John Ostrander the oportunity to reinvent Barbara into the first big-name disabled hero Oracle — and they arguably saved the character from being written off altogether.
If Barbara Gordon does appear in the DCEU it wouldn't be a shock to see her as Oracle, given the already heavily hinted at backstory involving Joker and the Batfamily, and the fact that the Suicide Squad also exist in this universe. But to see her as a fully fledged Batgirl would be brilliant — especially as it would bring the rest of the Gordon family into the DCEU.
So, Could Refn Make It Work?
However, whilst Refn certainly has his fans his work has never been the biggest fiscal draw. 2011's Drive was a massive critical success for the Danish filmmaker, but the pacing-suffering follow up Only God Forgives was met with a much cooler reception both critically and financially. The Neon Demon has been met with similarly mixed reviews likewise.
Sadly it's unlikely that a big studio like Warner Bros. and DC would take a chance with putting their most lucrative franchise in the hands of Refn, whose work is often as contentious as it is gorgeous.
It is apt though that Refn's neon visual style chimes quite nicely with the beautiful color palette employed by J. H. Williams III in the New 52 Batwoman. Not quite Batgirl, but in the same vein.
Visually arresting aesthetic is the one thing that the DCEU is not lacking, with Zack Snyder's strength being in adapting comic book visuals (though admittedly at the cost of, say, a coherent narrative).
Like Refn, Snyder is a divisive director, but Warner Bros. have kept their faith in his work even after the critically disappointing Batman v Superman and that fan-petition to have the filmmaker removed from Justice League. But Refn's work is certainly less mainstream than that of Snyder's, which likely won't chime with the DCEU's target audience.
Perhaps an accord could be reached, say Refn working as director alongside a more corporate-focused screenwriter and producers. But then would that take away from what makes his films unique? As Refn himself said:
"I very much enjoy my freedom creatively, but I also would love to make one of those big Hollywood films that costs a lot of money and has a lot of people running around with cell phones and all that insanity."
His creative freedom is his strength, producing some of the most interesting movies of the past few years. Having Refn tied into a more corporate structure could dampen the spark that his fans find so attractive, or it could birth something entirely new and unique. Whether or not Warner Bros. would take that chance though, that's entirely up to them.