Some real Good News, Bad News in the world of superhero movie-making today, as Variety reports on two big cancellations from WarnerMedia and DC Films’ upcoming schedules: Ava DuVernay’s New Gods, a highly anticipated exploration of the existential strangeness of Jack Kirby’s venerable Fourth World blend of mythology and comics, and The Trench, a movie about a bunch of CGI monsters you probably don’t remember from a five-minute segment of Aquaman. One of these films will be mourned for the loss of the ambition, potential, and imagination that was poured into it by one of Hollywood’s most exciting filmmakers; the other was The Trench.
DuVernay addressed the news on Twitter earlier today. (That is, the New Gods news; she didn’t step in to issue a statement on behalf of The Trench.) Noting that she was “upset” that the saga of many of Kirby’s iconic characters “ends this way,” DuVernay praised co-writer Tom King for his work on their collaboration. (King responded in kind, while also teasing fans about a scene between Mr. Miracle and former Darkseid soldier Big Barda that we’ll now, sadly, never get to see.)
The cancellation of New Gods comes at a typically confused time for DC’s ever-befuddled superhero franchise. The profile of chief villain Darkseid has never really been higher, courtesy of the hype surrounding Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and yet DC and Warner seem dedicated to pulling back from whatever fan enthusiasm that bizarre exercise in consumer engagement might have bought them. Really, though, it’s just disappointing: DuVernay is an ambitious filmmaker, and the thought of what she could have done with the elemental concepts Kirby played with in his Fourth World books—simultaneously mythic and very human—could have been something special. (Kirby fans will just have to keep their fingers crossed that Marvel’s Eternals turns out okay.)
Meanwhile, The Trench remains the single weirdest pitch we’ve ever heard of for a superhero spin-off film: Take a group of anonymous, personality-free monsters from a vaguely horror-ish action sequence in an otherwise lighthearted superhero flick, and then try to build an entire movie around them. Despite the attachment of Aquaman director James Wan, it’s the sort of thing that’s more fun to speculate the existence of than it would be to actually watch: Did some DC Films executive just really like the look of those particular fish monsters? Did Joker convince the whole studio that any movie about any villain might do well? Did someone come up with the name, and then try to reverse engineer a film into existence? It’s totally bizarre, and now, apparently, totally canceled.