Adi Shankar talks about his Netflix series The Guardians of Justice and the difference between adapting stories and telling original stories.
With all its moving parts, who better to explain the vision of The Guardians of Justice as the creator of the series. In an interview with CBR, Adi Shankar discussed his goal of crafting such an eclectic superhero story. He broke down his myriad of ideas and delved into the inherent styles associated with prestige films and B-movies.
CBR: There’s so much going on in Guardians of Justice. What was the biggest challenge in bringing such a unique story to live?
Adi Shankar: I really had to believe in myself, believe in this vision, and believe that at the end of the day everything would work out. It’s one thing to watch the show and then it’s really hard to describe what you saw. So think how hard I had to try to explain Guardians of Justice before it even exists. I really had to reject all forms of self-doubt.
Where did the idea come from? Guardians of Justice comes from? What made you want to create the show?
As much as superheroes have dominated cinema for the past 10 years, if you grew up in the 90s, it was also a dominant cultural force. I grew up in a time when superheroes, comic books and trading cards were very important. I didn’t grow up in America, but I came here for two years and was just kind of inundated with western popular culture, western nerd culture. I got a little taste and got enraged. I wanted to take my appreciation for that kind of culture and do something unique and personal.
You are arguably best known for your work on Castlevania. How has this project influenced Guardians of Justice? What was the biggest difference you felt while working on the two?
Guardians of Justice is clearly a very, very personal project. I was intimately involved in every aspect of it. I also asked: “How do you perceive his gaze and his tone? I really don’t serve anything. There’s no public sitting there claiming a faithful generation of Guardians of Justice. So I think the question then becomes if I’m doing something, am I taking a me-centric approach or an audience-centric approach? What are the limits with intellectual property? It’s not like all the brands are in exactly the same place. Some brands need to be reinvented. This reinvention can be tonal. It could be visual. It could be a complete reboot of the franchise. Some brands don’t have lore but they do have iconography. It’s different from project to project.
What were some of the biggest inspirations behind Guardians of Justice? He’s pulling on so many strings.
Guardiansyou might look at it like, “Oh, it’s the Justice League, isn’t it?” [In] so many ways, on so many levels, that’s not it at all. It uses superhero designs to tell a different type of story. Simultaneously, Guardians of Justice is a tone. It’s a very specific tone to capture, that low-budget campy stuff but then cross-pollinated with broader social satire. So Guardians of Justice isn’t really an IP address or based on anything. It uses IP as a starting point and entry point for the audience. It starts almost as a cover before switching to something completely different. So it’s no different than a rapper using part of a melody from a song from 30 years ago.…
What I’ve realized in my journey as a filmmaker is that it’s not like a “One Movie” treatment is better or harder to do. It’s literally just a choice. There’s a reaction to the pulpy stuff of the era that wasn’t looked down upon. things like carried away by the wind are proclaimed art. One of the things I wanted to achieve with Guardians has been [to] challenge that, challenge the idea that just because something looks like a so-called “B-movie” means it’s less artistic than an “A-movie”. OWhat is good acting? Well, good acting is inherently emotional realism. It’s true. You can bring the truth with a subtle performance or you can bring the truth with a big performance. One of the dualities I was trying to play with in Guardians asks everyone to have very, very, very great performances, but to bring this emotional realism, this emotional honesty. Then we get that tonal contrast.
What is the dream adaptation? If you could work on any IP address, what would it be?
You know, it’s not like I have a central dream. I think there are parts of a dream, right? So do Guardians of Justice this way, with this tone… [It’s] a dream. I don’t look at it, like, “Oh, what do I want to work on?” Everything I tackle, everything I work on, it’s part of a dream. I don’t even commit if it’s not part of the dream. For me, dreaming taps into the inner child within me.
The Guardians of Justice is now streaming on Netflix.
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