In its report that Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Mary Elizabeth Winstead had been cast as Black Canary and The Huntress, respectively, in Warner Bros.’ upcoming film ‘Birds of Prey’, Deadline mentioned that these heroes would be operating in “a Gotham that isn’t protected by Batman.” Is this an indication that WB has thrown out the shared universe concept that they had hoped to establish? Or is Batman just away?
Fans have been left wondering what will become of the Dark Knight on the big screen after numerous rumors that Ben Affleck wanted out of the role after the poor box office performances of ‘Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice’ and ‘Justice League’. Affleck was supposed to write, direct and star in the solo movie ‘The Batman’, but after… uh, reasons… he stepped down from directing.
Matt Reeves took over, but his screenplay calls for a younger Batman, so Affleck won’t even appear. There has even been talk that ‘The Batman’ won’t take place in the shared continuity of the previous DC movies, but rather will connect to Todd Phillips’ currently in-production ‘Joker’.
Affleck previously made a cameo in another DCU movie, ‘Suicide Squad’, so an appearance in ‘Birds of Prey’ might have seemed natural. But after the struggles Warner Bros. has been through with their superhero movies, it seems like less and less emphasis is being placed on universe building. Henry Cavill was expected to make a cameo in ‘Shazam!’ but passed. And director James Wan intentionally left out any possible cameos from ‘Aquaman’.
‘Birds of Prey’ will star Margot Robbie, returning to the role of Harley Quinn, from ‘Suicide Squad’, so clearly, there is still a connection to the established shared universe. The heroes will even be battling a Batman villain, Black Mask. Reportedly, Warner Bros. is hoping to land Ewan McGregor or Sharlto Copley for that role. So, it seems as though there is still some connection to Batman, even if he doesn’t appear in the film.
Other than Robbie, Smollett-Bell, and Winstead, there have been no other casting announcements, but the film reportedly includes Gotham police detective Renee Montoya and teenage assassin Cassandra Cain.
Cathy Yan is directing, with a script by Christina Hodson. ‘Birds of Prey’ is due in theaters on February 7, 2020.