Back in the heyday of the comic book medium, when legendary artist Jack Kirby (co-creator of the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the X-Men, and basically every other key comic book team) got utterly sick of having to see Stan Lee’s face every day, he quit Marvel.
Kirby then went off to join Marvel’s biggest rival, DC, where he was essentially given free reign to do whatever he wanted. The result was the New Gods, a collection of big, all-powerful comic book characters that are, without a doubt, larger than life.
Thus far, Warner Bros’ DC Extended Universe has been somewhat shy around many of the weirder and more wonderful elements of their comic book canon. We’ve got Steppenwolf, Mother Boxes, and parademons, but a lot of the really awesome cosmic stuff has been toned down as much as possible.
There’s a reason why so many DC villains are big, grey CGI monsters, and that’s because the studio is really afraid of their movies looking inherently silly and over-the-top. Essentially, they’re making comic book movies that are embarrassed by themselves.
All that seems to be shifting now. Warner Bros has announced a whole host of new DC movies (arguably too many considering the fact that they’re struggling to get more than one movie to actually work), and among that mix is now a film all about the New Gods, from “A Wrinkle in Time” director Ava DuVernay.
“A Wrinkle in Time” is not a universally beloved movie, but it certainly does show potential. The colorful character design and worldbuilding in particular stand out as something special in the midst of a Disney movie lineup that’s still inexplicably obsessed with gritty reboots.
Hiring Ava DuVernay for the “New Gods” film feels like DC’s way of proving their commitment to changing the DCEU from a drab, joyless hellscape into something a little more light and fun – it’s the same kind of thing they’re trying by getting the “Lego Batman” director to film “Nightwing”.
Frankly, if Ava DuVernay is allowed to really let loose with the kind of creativity she showed with “A Wrinkle in Time”, but she’s doing it with the inherently bombastic New Gods, there’s nothing to lose.
The worst thing that happens is that the movie is bad. Most of DC’s movies in the past few years are bad. At least this one will also be colorful and fun.
Perhaps the biggest problem that this produces, though, is the fact that, along with movies like “Aquaman” and “Shazam!”, the DCEU’s current tonal shift makes for a confused cinematic universe. For “Batman v Superman” to take place in the same continuity as anything resembling “A Wrinkle in Time” is going to be very strange, and Warner Bros isn’t ever going to be able to escape the more problematic elements of this canon.
In this universe, Superman’s dad once told him to let a bus full of children drown rather than risk looking like he was different, and he literally died so that Clark could continue acting normal in front of a group of complete strangers. This is a terrible lesson for children.
With any luck, this “New Gods” movie will come with a more upbeat, positive message for its audience. Ava DuVernay is certainly the person to make this happen.
Who knows? Maybe DC will stick the landing with this violent gear shift. At least we won’t have to watch any more films where everything looks like it’s been passed through the world’s most obnoxious Instagram filter.