The DC movie-verse is getting a little bit smaller.
Long gestating DC Comics adaptations “New Gods” with director Ava DuVernay and screenwriter Tom King, and “The Trench” with director James Wan and producer Peter Safran are not moving forward at Warner Bros., the studio announced on Thursday.
“As part of our DC slate, some legacy development titles including ‘New Gods’ and ‘The Trench’ will not be moving forward,” the studio said in a statement. “We thank our partners Ava DuVernay, Tom King, James Wan and Peter Safran for their time and collaboration during this process and look forward to our continued partnership with them on other DC stories. The projects will remain in their skillful hands if they were to move forward in the future.”
The decision is certain to raise eyebrows with some DC fans as it comes just a few weeks after the debut of “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” which officially closed the book on the “Snyder-verse” — i.e. the director’s unified narrative involving several of DC’s biggest characters. “New Gods” — which DuVernay and King have been developing since early 2018 — involves the “Fourth World” characters created by DC artist Jack Kirby that were heavily featured in the Snyder cut, first among them the totalitarian villain Darkseid.
Earlier on Thursday, Ray Porter, who plays Darkseid in the Snyder cut, even tweeted to fans to “please stop pestering” DuVernay about the movie and the character. DuVernay responded thanking Porter, and all but announcing that she wasn’t moving forward with “New Gods.”
“I hope our paths cross one day, sir,” DuVernay tweeted. “If not in the Fourth World, then in another.”
Thank you, Ray. You’ve been nothing but gracious towards me. Appreciate you. And fans who supported. I’m told the studio will be speaking about their recent decision about NEW GODS characters soon. I hope our paths cross one day, sir. If not in the Fourth World, then in another. https://t.co/3Ncrqk1cXf
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) April 1, 2021
“The Trench,” meanwhile, was meant as a horror-inflected one-off set in the dangerous oceanic abyss filled with the ravenous aquatic creatures first seen in Wan’s 2018 blockbuster “Aquaman.” Noah Gardner and Aidan Fitzgerald had written a script for the film, which Wan was producing with Safran.
In its statement, the studio made clear that it may revive these projects at a later date, and DuVernay and Wan would effectively have right of first refusal to continue with them. Both filmmakers are also staying within the DC fold: DuVernay is developing the teen superhero show “Naomi” for the CW, and Wan is preparing to direct “Aquaman 2” for Warner Bros.
So why would “New Gods” and “The Trench” not fit within DC Films’ vision? Both projects involve relatively obscure DC comics characters to a general audience; more importantly, both also have connections to the Snyder cut, “New Gods” through Darkseid and “The Trench” through Jason Momoa’s Aquaman.
By contrast, most of DC Films most recent new projects — including “The Suicide Squad” with director James Gunn, “The Batman” with Robert Pattinson, “Black Adam” with Dwayne Johnson, “Blue Beetle” with director Angel Manuel Soto and “Static Shock” with producer Michael B. Jordan — chart a brand new course for DC Films separate from the direction established by Snyder.
A look at the rest of the “Snyder-verse” also makes plain the studio’s desire to clear the decks. In order to keep the increasingly disparate and occasionally contradictory characters contained within the same storytelling domain, DC Films is using “The Flash” with Ezra Miller — first introduced in Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” — to establish the DC multiverse. Ben Affleck is expected to appear again as Batman in that film, and then retire his cowl. Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins are set, in the words of studio chief Toby Emmerich, to “conclude” the “Wonder Woman” trilogy. Ray Fisher will not reprise his role as Cyborg due to his ongoing dispute with Warner Bros. over misconduct on the “Justice League” set. And J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot is moving forward with a new “Superman” film series written by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
It’s all part of a strategy outlined by WarnerMedia Studios CEO Ann Sarnoff in an interview with Variety in March, in which Sarnoff made clear that DC Films will differentiate itself by veering away from a single, unified storytelling vision, a la Marvel Studios’ chief Kevin Feige.
“We want different voices in the mix,” Sarnoff said. “For certain fans that want singular voices, they may be disappointed, but we would ask them to be patient and see what we’ve got in store because perhaps the newer voices in the mix will have just as compelling stories to tell.”