After making the jump to blockbuster studio filmmaking with her 2018 Disney adaptation “A Wrinkle in Time,” Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay is preparing for the next stop on her ascent up the Hollywood ladder: a DC superhero comic book adaptation with some serious cosmic energy. The “Selma” and “Middle of Nowhere” director was hired into the DC Extended Universe fold in March of 2018, where she will take on a long-hinted at side of the DC world.
“The New Gods” is based on the comic book series of the same name, the brainchild of creator/designer Jack Kirby. It first appeared in 1971 and focuses on the warring inhabitants of two planets: New Genesis and Apokolips. Highfather rules the former in relative harmony, whereas Darkseid lords over its dystopian neighbor.
While news about the project has been relatively slim since DuVernay came on board last year, the social media-savvy creator has recently started letting more information about her planned vision loose. Here’s everything we know about the project so far.
Publicist-turned-director DuVernay moved behind the camera in 2010 with her beautifully crafted drama “I Will Follow,” followed two years later by festival hit “Middle of Nowhere,” which earned her a best directing prize at Sundance. In 2014, she delivered her Best Picture-nominated MLK biopic “Selma,” and that’s when things really exploded for DuVernay.
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In the five years since, the filmmaker has created her own television series with OWN’s “Queen Sugar,” which, quite notably, has made a mandate out of hiring female directors at every level in their careers; directed the Oscar-nominated Netflix documentary “13TH”; and moved into the blockbuster world with her fresh take on Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time.” This year, DuVernay again teamed up with Netflix for the fact-based Central Park Five miniseries “When They See Us,” which recently earned 16 Emmy nominations.
“The New Gods” will be DuVernay’s biggest film yet, a multi-million dollar superhero epic that fits inside one of Hollywood’s biggest franchises, and with a literally out-there premise to boot. And yet the film isn’t just another case of a massive Hollywood franchise knocking on the door of a hot director, DuVernay herself asked DC for the gig, as she revealed during a Twitter Q&A last year, likely spurned on by her well-known affection for New Gods superheroine Big Barda.
DuVernay will write the film alongside Tom King, an Eisner Award-winning comic book writer who has penned books for heroes as diverse (and well-known) as Batman, Green Lantern, The Vision, Nightwing, a relaunched spin on Omega Men, and Mister Miracle (himself a major part of the New Gods world) for both Marvel and DC. (Fun fact: He was also a CIA counterterrorism operations officer for nearly a decade.)
The film will be King’s first foray into the filmmaking world, but he’s got the comic book bonafides and knowledge base to make him a natural fit for such a complex story. And he’s also apparently one hell of a team player. In a recent panel at Comic-Con, as reported by ScreenRant, King explained that DuVernay asked him to assemble a crack team of Jack Kirby experts to help craft the film. While there’s no word yet on just who King brought into the fold, King explained that it is already “one of the best storytelling experiences I’ve ever had.”
“The New Gods” has not yet locked down any stars, but DuVernay’s recent statements about what characters we can expect to see in the film (more on them to follow) hint at a chance for a large cast with juicy roles for a variety of performers.
DuVernay and King have not yet let on the plot of their film, but Kirby’s creation — best known as DC’s “Fourth World” — is filled with intriguing characters, sprawling storylines, and a classic battle between good and evil. In short, it’s got the makings of the franchise’s first true space opera, a series that can stand alone with decades of storytelling to unfold.
But here’s the short version: in the cosmic side of the DC universe, the eponymous “New Gods” are the residents of a pair of planets known as New Genesis and Apokolips. Even comic book neophytes can clue in on the distinct differences between those names, and while the two planets were once one, they are now two very different habitats.
Highfather rules the idyllic New Genesis in relative harmony, whereas Darkseid (who often goes up against the Justice League) lords over its dystopian neighbor, best described as “nightmarish” and “horrific.” The two worlds have been battling for millennia, and their forever war eventually comes to ensnare all kinds of compelling characters and, yes, Earth itself.
The Bad Guy
Darkseid was originally expected to play a big part in 2017’s “Justice League,” which ultimately uses his traditional righthand man (and occasional foe) Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds) as the film’s big bad. While Zack Snyder’s original vision for the film included a final scene that made Darkseid’s (rumored to be played by Ray Porter) involvement much more pronounced and hinted at sequels in which he would take over as the primary villain in the franchise, those scenes were ultimately cut.
The removal of Darkseid was disappointing for a number of DC fans — it’s a bit reductive, but imagine if Marvel hinted at Thanos and then pulled back on him, only to lean more into his less interesting and less powerful soldiers instead — but DuVernay has recently given them a hefty dose of hope.
Of course a “New Gods” film needs to involve Darkseid, but DuVernay isn’t interested in toying with fan expectations even this early in the process. Earlier this week, DuVernay confirmed on Twitter that Darkseid will indeed be in her film, along with his badass (and, yes, perhaps a bit evil) group of female soldiers known as The Female Furies.
The big question: Will his arc tie into Steppenwolf’s misdeeds in “Justice League”? (And who is DuVernay going to cast? DC fans are already taking to Twitter to beg for the inclusion of Porter.)
Its Place in the DCEU
Which leads to a more pressing query: is “The New Gods” part of the DCEU? As ScreenRant notes, that major question isn’t quite clear. A 2018 Deadline article on DuVernay’s hiring said the film has “no connection to the other DC worlds being exploited for film right now,” while Variety’s report on the same topic said the film is indeed part of the DCEU.
While DC has begun pulling away from hugely interconnected storylines, the franchise has yet to fully embrace purely standalone stories. Will “The New Gods” do just that?
The Release Date
The film has not yet locked in a release date, but at Comic-Con, co-writer King revealed that he’s about to get down to scripting business with DuVernay. The multi-hyphenate has always kept busy, but in one strong sign for “The New Gods,” she hasn’t locked down another film directing gig for the coming months.
Earlier this month, however, the cast was announced for her upcoming OWN anthology series “Cherish the Day,” but while DuVernay created and wrote the series, she is not currently on hand to direct it. Emmy season will keep her somewhat preoccupied — “When They See Us” pulled in 16 nominations — but DuVernay hasn’t stacked her schedule with other film projects. She’s focused.
The DCEU has films lined up though 2022, including “Birds of Prey,” “Wonder Woman 1984,” “The Batman,” “The Suicide Squad,” and “Aquaman 2.” At the earliest, “The New Gods” could hit theaters in 2022.