It feels like a draft, doesn’t it? A filmmaker has an indie breakout hit, and then they get drafted by one of three teams: Marvel, DC, or Lucasfilm. The latest draftee is Emerald Fennell, fresh off her triple Oscar-nomination and Writers’ Guild Awards win for Promising Young Woman. She has signed on to write a script for a Zatanna movie for DC Films and Bad Robot. (This is the same partnership bringing us Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Superman.) As yet, there is no director for this film, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Fennell do that, too. Zatanna Zatara is a sorceress and a super fun character who fights demons and hangs out with the Justice League. She full-on dresses like a stage magician, recites her spells backwards—should be fun to see how Fennell handles that—and because she does illusions, there is no end to the visual possibilities with this character on screen. Serinda Swan played Zatanna for a few episodes on Smallville, but she has otherwise been entirely absent from live-action DC films and TV shows. I assume it’s because she has been viewed as “too goofy” for the uber-serious DC stuff, even though she isn’t a goofy character, but she is one of DC’s strongest and most prominent female characters. She’s overdue for the big screen treatment. Better late than never, I guess.
One thing I dislike, though, is that the pipeline for filmmakers has grown so narrow. This isn’t a new problem, it’s been happening for the last 20 years, but it really feels like now there is nothing between “low budget indies” and “superhero movies”. Even what qualifies as “big budget” is changing, it’s pretty much synonymous with “franchise film”. You can’t get a big-budget, character-oriented drama made anymore unless some streaming service thinks it will bag them a Best Picture Oscar (see also: the recent works of Martin Scorsese). We’ve been decrying the death of the mid-budget film for a long time, but the big-budget film has died, too, unless it fits into a franchise. I am happy to see Emerald Fennell getting a major opportunity, and I am down for whatever she does next, but I wouldn’t mind seeing what she could do with $200 million for just whatever. I will definitely watch a Zatanna movie, but I would also watch Emerald Fennell’s Nine Figure Drama Bonanza, too, you know?