“People of my generation remember Commissioner Gordon as this jolly, ineffectual Santa Claus type, and I think over the years in the comics there’s definitely much more of a badass side to him,” explained Simmons. “One of the things that’s interesting to me is investigating hopefully a little bit more of that badass [side]…You’re living in a universe where it’s pretty tough to be a badass compared to somebody like Batman, but in the universe of non-superheroes I like the idea of Commissioner Gordon as a guy that can take care of himself, a guy that’s a real partner to Batman, not just a guy that turns on the bat signal and goes, ‘Help! Help, Batman!’”
Unfortunately, the Justice League gig didn’t live up to the hype, and Simmons was relegated to a minor role, primarily for a scene in which Batman and the rest of the assembled heroes meet with Gordon in the familiar backdrop of a Bat-Signal-hosting Gotham rooftop. There, he mostly provides some expository dialogue and plays the proverbial straight man in some of the sporadic superhero comic moments.
All of Simmons’s gym work ended up hidden underneath a suit and trenchcoat, leaving his “badass side” in storage for another day that wasn’t exactly promised to arrive. Indeed, it was an anticlimactic result that didn’t even live up to what was achieved by Gary Oldman’s version of the character in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, who at least occasionally got out in the field to fight criminals, and even had his moment to help save the day in explosive fashion when driving the Tumbler Batmobile in the first film.
Now, with Batgirl, Simmons’ 2016 teases can potentially come to fruition, belated as they may be. While no details about the plot have been confirmed as of yet, the definitive dynamic of Barbara Gordon has always prominently focused on how her surreptitious nocturnal flights of fancy affect James, who is initially oblivious to the idea that one of the junior vigilantes in Batman’s stable—with whom he regularly deals in his capacity as commissioner—happens to be his own daughter. It’s a potential powder keg dynamic that has been placed in the hands of up-and-coming directorial duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (Bad Boys for Life), who are working off a screenplay by Christina Hodson (Birds of Prey, Bumblebee).
It will be interesting to see what manifests from this team, especially since the course of the DCEU is now significantly altered from the vision initially set by dismissed story maestro Zack Snyder. Indeed, Snyder not only had grandiose ideas for Justice League to serve as the first part of a time-traversing trilogy, but his plans also involved expanding the roster of solo films, with Batgirl being one of the prominent entries. However, based on what details Snyder eventually divulged in an Esquire interview this past March about his now-nixed version of the story, Gordon’s action hero prospects were unlikely to improve.
“You see, I always wanted Barbara Gordon to come in the movies. Commissioner Gordon would be on the way out, and we’d have Barbara starting to play a bigger role,” explains Snyder. “My idea was that after Batman sacrificed himself [in the climax of his unrealized third Justice League movie], there would be a window where there was no Batman, and I thought Barbara could fill that until the child of Superman and Lois, who has no powers, would become Batman when he was of age.”
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