— by BEN FOWLER —
If you think its hard getting a Superman film to the big screen, have some sympathy for the team behind the proposed “Shazam!” film. New Line Cinema began development of a live action “Shazam!” film nearly 10 years ago with screenplays from William Goldman and Bryan Golubuff. Then John August took over writing duties, with Peter Segal attached as director. They even had Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in negotiations to appear as Black Adam, our hero’s arch nemesis.
When New Line Cinema became part of Warner Bros, the studio, following the success of “The Dark Knight” and the commercial failure of family-friendly “Speed Racer,” wanted to take the story down a more serious, darker path.
The project is currently in development with Bill Birch and comic book writing legend Geoff Johns attached to pen the screenplay. Peter Segal is still attached as director.
For those of you thinking “Who the Shazam! are you on about?” the comic book character first appeared in “Whiz Comics” #2 in 1940. Shazam! is actually a misnomer. The hero’s name is Captain Marvel, but due to legal wranglings with Marvel Comics over the use of the name, the Captain Marvel comics can only be published and sold as “Shazam!”
“Shazam!” incidentally is the word that 12-year old Billy Batson has to speak to become his alter ego, Captain Marvel. Shazam is also the name of the wizard who grants Billy the ability to transform into the hero. But I fear I may be losing you at this point …
The question is: Can this property really make it to the big screen? Geoff Johns being on board certainly ups its chances phenomenally, but it still has a vast mountain to climb. I fear I may incur the wrath of Captain Marvel’s most loyal fans but … the guy is seriously outdated. Everything about him just screams “camp.” And that’s coming from a Superman fanboy.
Captain Marvel’s outfit would need to be modernized drastically. And in so many DC adaptations of late onscreen, Captain Marvel is portrayed as a mindless drone who is usually positioned into place just to have an “epic” smackdown with the original Captain Marvel — Superman.
The big issue is the fact they may be trying to go “The Dark Knight” route now with a darker tone. Seriously? Does anyone see Captain Marvel being dark? The story is pure wish fulfilment: 12 year old boy utters a magic word and –ahem- Shazam! he’s a superhero! If this film is going to work it needs to be directly squarely at the kids.
The “adult” comic-book fans will still enjoy it, but if WB doggedly keep trying to recreate the success of “The Dark Knight” regardless of the franchise, “Shazam!” will never see the light of day.
(Captain Marvel illustrations by Alex Ross.)
Follow Ben Fowler on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Localboy99.