We among the entertainment commentariat often bemoan the lack of original genre films. “Remakes! It’s all remakes and sequels!” is the rallying cry of many an Internet article and forum post. While this perspective is debatable, it really is quite refreshing to hear the announcement of potentially smart and ambitious genre projects.
Thus, it is to some delight that Lionsgate Films has begun the process of creating When First We Were Gods, a new science-fiction film that will mull on the personal and societal implications of immortality. Equipped with solid source material and an eager creative team, this will be a title to watch.
Deadline has reported that Lionsgate Films has signed director Daniel Askill and writer Aron Eli Coleite to headline When First We Were Gods. The script will be based off of a short story by Rick Yancey, an American novelist whose The Monstrumologist was a Michael L. Printz Honoree in 2010. Yancey’s original story describes a future society in which the very wealthy have undergone a process that makes them effectively immortal. The plot apparently concerns one such immortal man, who schemes to have his wife murdered so that his mistress may join him among the ageless. If the script stays true to the story, it should riff on themes of class separation (only the rich may become “gods”), how humanity perceives time, and whether love can exist in an endless lifetime.
Until now, Daniel Askill has not been involved in any feature-length films. He has directed many commercial projects for companies such as Sony, Cadillac, and Smirnoff. Askill directed and starred in the short film We Have Decided Not to Die in 2004, which has since been shown in various festivals around the world. He is apparently an accomplished video installation artist, whose pieces have been displayed in Los Angeles, Sydney, and Paris.
Any truly new movie project comes weighted with risk. In the case of When First We Were Gods, one can’t help but note the relative inexperience of its primary creative team. Many a commercial director has been slotted into narrative films only to crash and burn. Additionally, despite his background in television, Aron Eli Coleite’s writing credits are a bit all over the place – for instance, most of his scripts for Heroes are from the excruciating third and fourth seasons of the series.
On the other hand, every future auteur has to start somewhere. For all we know, When First We Were Gods could be the breakout opportunity that Daniel Askill and/or Aron Eli Coleite need to let their true talents be seen. After all, even David Fincher was known as a music video and commercial director before he finally made his way onto the silver screen (which was with the disastrous Alien 3, but let us forget that).
In any event, the announcement of When First We Were Gods is a fine reminder that studios have not entirely abandoned ambitious genre features. With any luck, the flick could be a piece of serious science-fiction commentary in the vein of Gattaca or District 9 - and we'll definitely be following its progress.
For the moment, When First We Were Gods has no firm release date.