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Why an Emerald Fennell Zatanna movie sounds so promising

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As if the Snyder Cut this past weekend wasn't enough, fans of DC superhero movies woke up to another exciting piece of news on Monday. Variety reported that Emerald Fennell, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind Promising Young Woman, is being tapped to write a new movie about Zatanna. Not every announcement like this pans out, of course, but the very prospect should be exciting to anyone who's interested in movies about magic and/or superheroes.

Originally created by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson, Zatanna is a magician superhero who casts powerful spells by speaking backward. So if she says something like "raeppa tibbar!" then she could pull a live bunny out of her hat. Incidentally, Zatanna is also one of the earliest legacy superheroes; her father, Zatara, first appeared alongside Superman in the pages of Action Comics #1. Zatann's superhero costume is often directly inspired by her stage act — bowtie, top hat, and fishnet stockings — though some modern redesigns have given her more practical coats and pants.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; DC Comics

Don't be surprised if she sounds familiar. If you've watched DC TV shows or movies over the past decade, you've probably encountered Zatanna. She was played by Serinda Swan for three seasons of Smallville, she's popped up as part of the revolving Young Justice cast, and she's a leading member of the Justice League Dark team in both its animated movie and comic book incarnations. Given the wide array of enemies and situations superheroes face, it's often useful to have a magical member of the team.

That said, Zatanna has often struggled to secure a spotlight for herself. She's only gotten her own solo Zatanna comic series a few times, one of which was part of the Seven Soldiers event maxiseries. That's what makes the prospect of a Fennell Zatanna script so exciting. This female superhero has not often been written by women; the longest Zatanna solo comic was mostly helmed by superfan Paul Dini, who as a writer for Batman: The Animated Series even integrated Zatanna into the Dark Knight's backstory.

Several aspects of Fennell's previous work suggest she could make a compelling superhero story. Her season of Killing Eve proves that she knows how to write a good hero-villain dichotomy (while playing with the distinctions between the two), and the colorful confections of Promising Young Woman's set design could translate well to comic book material. When it comes to finding herself on the outside looking in at a boys' club, Zatanna could probably empathize with Carey Mulligan's Cassie Thomas.

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In fact, Promising Young Woman has lots of interesting thoughts about the nature of crime fighting. Like many superheroes, Cassie acts like a vigilante in order to secure justice that the established system has failed to deliver. She even dresses up in a colorful sexy costume at one point in order to aid her double life. Vigilantism seems like a topic that definitely holds some interest for Fennell, especially what a feminist vision of extralegal justice might look like. Though she certainly terrifies her targets, Cassie almost always eschews violent retribution in favor of teaching these men lessons and making them better citizens.

Granted, not everyone who saw and admired Promising Young Woman may have wanted Fennell to immediately step into superhero fare. But in today's adaptation-saturated pop culture landscape, Zatanna could make a great opportunity for Fennell to acquire even more Hollywood cachet to make another original film down the line. We certainly want to see it. as the lady herself might say: Evig su siht eivom!

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