Ava DuVernay’s “New Gods” movie is going to be very interesting.
The New Gods were creations of Jack Kirby, an artist who designed the look and feel of most of the Marvel comic heroes you know and love. Towards the end of his career, he got sick of Stan Lee and instead moved over to DC.
There he was given free reign to do whatever he wanted, and so he made up the weirdest, wackiest, most elaborate pantheon of deities that anyone could ever imagine.
All of this seems like a perfect fit for Ava DuVernay, whose most recent cinematic contribution is the beautiful if slightly messy “A Wrinkle in Time”.
Alas, the movie didn’t get all of the attention it deserved, but that doesn’t make its gorgeous worldbuilding any less impressive.
News of the Ava DuVernay “New Gods” movie was exciting to me on its own, as there’s no filmmaker alive who’s demonstrated a better grasp of how to make larger-than-life characters feel relatable and believable.
What makes this even more enticing, is the new revelation that apparently, DC didn’t approach DuVernay about the project. She petitioned for this film herself.
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) June 3, 2018
That’s right: part way through making “A Wrinkle in Time” for Disney, Ava Duvernay rocked up at Warner Bros and demanded that they let her make a movie about some of the weirdest, most obscure characters in DC comics history.
Bear in mind that, at the time, the DCEU was still primarily known as a washed-out Zack Snyder dystopian nightmare. The franchise was gritty and dark to a fault, but DuVernay was expecting the studio to let her bring her A-game to brightening things up.
No doubt this offer came at the perfect time for DC, who’d been looking at the fallout from “Batman v Superman” (plus the unexpected success of “Guardians of the Galaxy” for Marvel), and were looking for ways to make their movies feel less exhausting.
Nevertheless, it took some real guts for DuVernay to convince the studio to let her make this movie.
The Importance of Enthusiasm
I am all for movie directors making passion projects on this scale. It’s thrilling to know that DuVernay is personally invested in this movie to this degree.
It’s hard not to, yet again, compare this with the rest of the DCEU.
I can’t say I’ve ever got the vibe from Zack Snyder that he really cares about Superman as a character. It almost feels like “Man of Steel” was a means to an end for the director, as he was more eager to adapt Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” into “Batman v Superman”.
There’s a weariness in Snyder’s Superman that feels out of place. As much as he argues that his suit is a symbol of hope, this Superman didn’t seem all that hopeful until Joss Whedon got his hands on the character.
This isn’t to say that passion is everything.
Bryan Singer is an enormous Superman fan, and wanted to make a movie with the character so badly that he peaced out from the “X-Men” franchise when the opportunity came to him.
In spite of this, “Superman Returns” is still a difficult watch. It plays out like fanfiction for the early Christopher Reeve “Superman” movies, but Singer still doesn’t entirely nail the hopeful, joyful aesthetic that has come to define Superman in the comics.
It’s almost as if, in addition to enthusiasm for source material, a director’s personal vision also needs to be a good fit for the property they’re adapting.
Hence, my optimism for “New Gods”. Ava DuVernay knows how to do big, bombastic characters, and she’s eager to get this movie, her own passion project, right.
I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.