Back in October of 2014, DC and Warner Bros. made an interesting move in developing their soon-to-be-named DC Extended Universe. They’d spent the prior six years letting Marvel have their way the world audiences, and knew that if they wanted to retain the good faith of fans, they’d have to do something fast.
On their official website, they announced the following film slate:
- BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016)
- SUICIDE SQUAD (2016
- WONDER WOMAN (2017)
- JUSTICE LEAGUE PART ONE (2017)
- THE FLASH (2018)
- AQUAMAN (2018)
- SHAZAM! (2019)
- JUSTICE LEAGUE PART TWO (2019)
- CYBORG (2020)
- GREEN LANTERN (2020)
This announcement wasn’t completely out of the blue. We knew that BATMAN v SUPERMAN was a thing, and we also knew the majority of the JUSTICE LEAGUE cast by that point: We knew that Henry Cavill would return as Superman, Ben Affleck would play Batman, Gal Gadot would play Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller would take on the role of the Flash, Ray Fisher would embody the character of Cyborg, Jason Momoa would portray an intimidating version of Aquaman, and finally, Dwayne Johnson would appear in the DC universe as Black Adam, the villainous antithesis to Shazam.
Hm…one of those things is not like the other.
While the casting of Dwayne Johnson was a great choice, it was a bit strange that they’d cast someone of his caliber this far out — a full five years before the SHAZAM! film was set to hit theaters (and prior to casting the hero, no less). For the longest time, practically every single superhero has seen their time to shine in the media, but SHAZAM! (and everything relating to the character) has largely been a silent beast. Would they, in fact, be making this movie?
It’s now around two years following that illustrious announcement, and we’ve since been treated to two very divisive films set in this universe: BATMAN v SUPERMAN and SUICIDE SQUAD. In fact, to call them divisive is a big generous. One could almost call them universally-panned by fans and critics alike, destroying the hope for many that the DC brand could be recovered. So where does this all leave SHAZAM!? One would expect that this poorly-received DC universe would bode terribly for a film like SHAZAM!, which is based on a character that many outside of comic book fandom don’t know a lot about.
Speaking with Newsweek, Dwayne Johnson’s producing partner and manager, Dany Garcia, told them that she was not concerned at all by what DC has created so far, nor are they worried that the suits at Warner Bros. could potentially throw a wrench in their creative process. Before I get into the quotes, it’s also worth mentioning that SHAZAM! isn’t your ordinary DC beast when it comes to the film rights. While most of the DC Extended Universe pictures are produced solely by Warner Bros. proper, SHAZAM! is set to be a co-production of Garcia and Johnson’s Seven Bucks Productions and New Line Cinema — the latter of which is a division of Warner Bros.
Anyway, here’s what Garcia had to say:
â€œSHAZAM! is to live in the same world [as the other films] but we have incredible autonomy over this brand and franchise. We are working with a different team, different producers, directorsâ€¦ itâ€™s a different set-up.
â€œWe donâ€™t feel fettered by, or constrained by, the successes or failures and challenges of the other projects. That was a key component to our participationâ€”that we be able to control the tone and the voice, and do it the way we want to.â€
This answers a lot of my concerns I’ve had about this property for a while: namely, how can a quirky character like Billy Batson (Shazam’s alter ego) possibly fit into this darker, more deconstructionist version of the DC universe. It sounds like SHAZAM! will exist alongside the DCEU, but likely will have minimal-to-no interaction with the world.
In a way, it almost sounds like how Marvel’s Netflix series DAREDEVIL and JESSICA JONES exist alongside the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They acknowledge the films, but do they interact with them? No, not really. At least not yet.
Garcia expanded her explanation:
â€œIt needs to be of the world. Youâ€™ve got JUSTICE LEAGUE, WONDER WOMAN with a different director, so youâ€™re going to see different points of view. I think by the time we land with [SHAZAM!] weâ€™ll fit nicely within the world thatâ€™s been created, but not such a shorthand relationship. [Itâ€™ll be] enough that people say, â€˜Oh, this is within the family,â€™ but the culture will be a little different.â€
Garcia then told Newsweek about where in the process they were with the development of the film, which isn’t due until 2019.
â€œWeâ€™re getting [script] drafts inâ€¦ itâ€™s important to make sure we get the tone right for Black Adam, which is Dwayneâ€™s part. We donâ€™t mind taking our time. Weâ€™re being very careful with each act and scene to go back and layer in as much as possible.â€
And on walking the thin line between acting on fan reactions to other projects:
â€œWeâ€™ve got so many wonderful superhero franchises out thereâ€¦ we donâ€™t need to run away from them and say â€˜we canâ€™t be that,â€™ but itâ€™s important to understand what are the best aspects of a Batman [movie] versus AVENGERS versus DEADPOOL? What are the elements people are responding to? We want to move the needle.â€
SHAZAM! is slated to hit theaters on April 5, 2019.
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