Superhero franchises have taken over the modern cinematic landscape and brought what used to be a niche fan interest, comics, into the broader cultural conversation. Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe is now in “Phase 3″ and the DC Extended Universe is up and running too, following the release of Man of Steel, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. The DCEU has both Justice League movies and solo DCEU superhero films on the way too; among them, the Batman movie (known as simply The Batman) that Ben Affleck is co-writing, directing and starring in.
With new Batman films come new characters, and fans have been content to speculate about who will appear in Affleck’s film, along with the assassin Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello). One contender is (was?) Talia al Ghul, mother of Bruce Wayne’s son, Damian, and daughter to antagonist Ra’s al Ghul. Though Talia appeared in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, it would certainly make sense to see her again on the big screen in The Batman, especially since Deathstroke is in the film. We discussed this possibility with Teresa Palmer (Lights Out), who said, “If there’s ever an opportunity I would absolutely love [to play Talia]. Put it out there.”
Sadly, for Palmer and fans, a report from The Wrap claims that Talia will not return to the DCEU at any point in the near future. Umberto Gonzalez writes, “Our insider says that neither Talia al Ghul nor her dad will be in The Batman — or any DC film on the horizon.”
This news comes as both a blessing and a curse. Batman’s cinematic history notably lacks compelling female characters (aside from Catwoman – though, in some cases, even that’s debatable), but it might be best to leave the al Ghuls off-screen until Hollywood has its whitewashing problem under control. After all, the comics specify Talia as someone of Arabic and Chinese descent, and she was portrayed by white French actress Marion Cotillard in Dark Knight Rises. It’s possible, if not likely, that the DCEU could make this same mistake if they were to bring back the duplicitous role.
That said, it would be nice to see an on-screen portrayal of al Ghul that is as compelling as her comics counterpart, and her cinematic revival would give the DCEU a chance to show it will feature more complex, interesting roles for female actors of color. It’s certainly disheartening to learn that an interesting female character is off the DCEU table for now, but there are other fan-favorite female DC Comics characters to look forward to. Fan excitement for a solo Harley Quinn movie skyrocketed after Suicide Squad, and the hype for Wonder Woman just keeps on building, so this news doesn’t necessarily represent a step backward for female representation in the DCEU. It doesn’t represent a step forward, either – not yet, anyway.