A Shazam! Movie Update: The Case of a Relative Non-Update and Nuggets

Earlier today, Hiram Garcia, the co-producer on the Shazam! movie, spoke with ComicBook.com about where they are at with the movie’s progress.

And what is the the status? According to Garcia, they are currently:

“… a good way into development. We’re expecting a next draft soon which I think is really gonna put us in the zone that we’re hoping for.”
Producer Hiram Garcia, Director Brad Peyton and Producer Beau Flynn seen at New Line Cinema presents the Los Angeles World Premiere of "San Andreas" at TCL Chinese Theatre on Tuesday, May 26, 2015, in Hollywood, CA. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Warner Bros./AP Images)
Hiram Garcia. Photo by Eric Charbonneau

For those who may not have been following the Shazam! movie’s journey closely, that would sound like good news. Well, to some degree that is true; the movie is still on track to being made, and it sounds like they may be nearly done with the script, and that is good news.

However, for those who have followed the movie closely, they would know that the status of the movie has not changed; the Shazam! movie has been in development since around 2003, and the movie has had many writers and drafts of their scripts since then.

That, and it was not different from the update that Umberto Gonzalez’s un-sourced update from last month where he said essentially the same thing.

So to call it an update is a little misleading.

Still, Garcia gave us a lot of little nuggets in his in his interview that we can glean a lot of information from.

For starters, Garcia talked a little bit about how Kingdom Come changed his perception of Captain Marvel:

“The great thing with Shazam for me as a fan, I was always a fan of Superman and his mythology as I grew up. I remember it was Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come that was the first time that ever made me look at Shazam just differently. I just knew of Shazam, you know the name, you knew the word, but I thought Alex Ross… He portrayed him and drew him in that epic kind of conflict that him and Superman ultimately had. It just made me look at Shazam in way like this is a bad motherf***er.”
Kingdom Come
Kingdom Come

Two things: the first is that Kingdom Come made him consider Captain Marvel as a “bad motherf—er.”

For those like myself who prefer the Fawcett-style charms of the character, we know that “bad motherf—er” is far from being an accurate descriptor of Captain Marvel when it comes to the core idea and core template of the character. Such a description is alarming. It shows a possible indication that Garcia does not quite understand the character. For instance, in Kingdom Come, Captain Marvel gave his life because he saw choosing between humans and meta-humans was a false divide; the only correct choice was both. Only someone who is an optimist makes that choice.

And Captain Marvel is pure optimism. Purely optimistic characters are not “bad motherf—ers.”

Worse, Garcia appears to imply that he did not think much of classic Captain Marvel until Kingdom Come, which is worrying because if that is true, it would indicate that Garcia thinks that classic Captain Marvel might have been lame until that point, as if he did not see Captain Marvel as legitimate until then.

If so, it is entirely possible that he would only want to portray Captain Marvel in a way that speaks to him that does not appear lame, as opposed to the version that people know and love.

And that… worries me, because people who do such a thing, like Zack Snyder a la Superman, enter dangerous waters, critically speaking and they care not for the holistic approach to the characters. If there is any one character above all who not only deserves the holistic approach, but requires and depends on the holistic approach, it is Captain Marvel.

Captain Marvel as he is portray in Thunderworld, and Convergence: Shazam! compared to his New 52 counterpart is proof of that. The former is universally praised and acclaimed, while the other still remains as highly divisive. Guess which one is New Line Cinema’s best bet to success?

Of course, I could be misreading his comments and overblowing this out of context. For all I know, Garcia may understand the character’s core. In fact, Garcia could be exaggerating the contextuality of his words where to him, someone who sacrifices his life is a “bad motherf—er.”

(I will talk about that a little further below. For now, let us address the other nuggets in the above statement.)

By Alex Ross
By Alex Ross

Secondly, note that despite the fact that the character was called Captain Marvel in Kingdom Come, Garcia called him Shazam. That points to Garcia and Co. calling him Shazam in the movie.

I did not have much hope that they were going to call him Captain Marvel in the movie, given that DC Comics called him Shazam in their New 52 and have done so in Injustice, despite still using the Captain Marvel moniker in Thunderworld, Convergence: Shazam!, and the recently released Scooby Doo Team-Up! #16.

I especially lost hope that they were ever going to call him Captain Marvel in the movie when Geoff Johns was announced as the co-runner of the newly created DC Films department of Warner Bros. For those that do not know, it was Geoff Johns who decided to change Captain Marvel’s name to Shazam in the New 52 primarily because, “everybody thinks he’s called Shazam already, outside of comics.”

I do not know how much influence the DC Films will have over the Shazam! movie, but if Johns is around and has any say, you can bet the Captain Marvel moniker is gone.

Before I go further, let me get this off my chest: Calling him Shazam is killing the character, for reasons I will not list here. For some insight as to why I feel that way, refer to my earlier article, Why I call Him Captain Marvel, Not Shazam.

Moving on, Garcia talks about their tone and what they have in Captain Marvel:

“Our take on that world is first and foremost, movies like that can be grounded and can have real stakes but can still be fun. That’s the place we always want it to come from. We have a character in Shazam that is a boy who is in this man’s body who is having the ultimate fulfillment that I think all comic book fans and everyone can associate with. Like, what if you wake up one day and you can just do all this great stuff? And then on the other side, you have this force of nature who is really anchored by what he lost in his family and that thread that he’s bringing with him throughout this journey. There’s a real grounding there. That combination of youth and enthusiasm and being in new to a world and then the place that Adam’s coming from. It makes for a great dynamic that not only allows us to have not only real stakes, real story, and real emotion, but a ton of fun in the process. There’s no reason that there should ever be a version of this story told that’s devoid of that. That’s our goal in doing this: following the path of the films that have been coming out and have done such a good job.”

There’s a few things to glean from that. Positive ones. Let us start with the fact that like everyone from Toby Emmerich and Dwayne Johnson has been saying since 2014 when the movie was formally announced, Garcia said that the movie was going to be grounded, but fun.

Good.

If there’s been one underlying tonal trait to Captain Marvel’s greatest success in his entire mythology, it is that his stories and his world are whimsical. Whimsical and fun.

I am glad that Garcia and Co. sees this.

JLA: Secret Origins
JLA: Secret Origins

Next is another very encouraging statement; Garcia basically says that Captain Marvel is a boy who is the ultimate embodiment of wish fulfillment. By acknowledging that, they show that they understand that wish fulfillment is the very thing that makes Captain Marvel so appealing.

So back to the description of Captain Marvel as a “bad motherf—er,” perhaps the concern above about that is a non-matter. We will have to see. The statement about having a fun tone and wish fulfillment above does give me reason to hope.

Following that, we see where Garcia and Co. want to ground their story: The loss of Billy’s family. It sounds like they may be aiming for either a coming-of-age or a rags-to-riches type of story. Or perhaps they are aiming for both. If so, all are as good a place to start as any, given that we see Billy start from nothing when he became Captain Marvel to become a radio celebrity able to provide for himself.

Lastly, on a slightly different note, I think one takeaway from that statement – the part about Captain Marvel being a boy in a man’s body – is that we can likely expect to see Captain Marvel portrayed from Billy’s point of view. I just hope that they treat that with respect. I do not want to see an immature man-child, not when Billy Batson is inherently mature for a kid his age, and not when he has the Wisdom of Solomon at his disposal in his super-powered form.

Returning to the movie’s tone, Garcia mentioned the source of their inspiration; the Marvel Cinematic Universe:

“Marvel has, everyone knows, really locked into that place where they’re able to tell you really grounded, rooted stories that have real repercussions and there’s a real wake that’s left after what’s done but while through the whole process they still acknowledge that, you have a blast while you’re watching that. They find the moments where you’re constantly having fun and you’re able to go on the ride and that’s the place we’re gonna be playing in”

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As someone who is a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that is a most excellent piece of news, and the only real one in the so-called update.

Marvel Studios consistently puts out superhero movies that are both critical and commercial successes. So much so that they are the most trusted brand in Hollywood.

Captain America: Civil War just became Marvel Studios’ fourth movie to earn more than $1 billion in the global box office. To put that in context, no other studio has ever earned that much with a superhero franchise.

A big reason for Marvel Studios’ success is that they believe that if there is any ‘secret’ to making superhero movies, it is that you need to not just respect the source material, but also understand the source material. From there, any adaptation you make from the source material should be done only to enhance whatever the original pure spirit of the source material was.

That, and they operate under a very clear vision for their interconnected superhero universe.

Also encouraging is that Garcia cares about getting it right with the Shazam! movie and that he has a very clear vision for the story and the movie:

“I promise you dude, we’re not gonna f*** this up! My vision is so clear for this story and this movie. As story tellers, you sometimes get on projects but this has always been a priority. I’ve been carrying the Black Adam torch for so many years before we finally locked it in and I’m telling you we’re gonna knock this thing out of the park. It’s gonna be a blast and it’s gonna be a dope ride, so get ready!”

To see that enthusiasm and the fact that it appears that Garcia and Co. will draw on the important lessons from Marvel Studios’ success and incorporate them into the Shazam! movie is highly encouraging, especially since Marvel Studios’ brand of fun is well, fun.

Now on the important questions as we move forward, Garcia was asked about the Johnson’s promise last year about the Shazam! movie being pushed up ahead of its April 5th, 2019 release date.

He had this to say:

“I think there’s projects that are so strong and so powerful that they have what I like to call the Moses effect where the seas part and they rise to the top. I always considered [Shazam!] of those projects. When this project is ready to go it will definitely be a sea parter where it rises to the top.
“It’s on us. We don’t want to rush the process. It’s a priority to get it right but once it’s right, it’s gonna be hard to hold it back.”

That sounds reassuring. It supports Johnson’s statements last year, and it looks like we can reasonably expect the movie to be prioritized for an earlier release. Whether it does or not remains to be seen, but it does give reason to hope.

If so, that means we should definitely expect true updates within the next year or so.

Speaking of, the other important question – the one that is on everyone’s mind – who will play Captain Marvel? On the casting of Captain Marvel, Garcia said there has been none (yet):

“We kind of float some names around but nothing is locked in. Right now, the focus, the sole focus is getting the story right. Getting the story really, really good and then the rest will be able to fall in line.”

If they really are close to a finished script as mentioned earlier, then it sounds like we should expect to hear casting news very soon, especially if it sounds like the Shazam! has a reasonable chance of being released earlier than it was scheduled to.

As always, call down the lightning, and post your comments and thoughts below.

Shazam!

 

 

2 thoughts on “A Shazam! Movie Update: The Case of a Relative Non-Update and Nuggets

  1. Wow, this is probably the best news yet! The whole concern with the movie never coming out is basically null now, I like to think that by “bad mofo” he meant a more profane variant of “badass”, which *is* what Captain Marvel is.

  2. I wish Captain Marvel would return to the DC Universe. Not just return but to be properly handled by DC. For decades now, DC has mishandled this character. Mainly due to the fact that the idea of a young boy saying a magic word and becoming an adult superhero is the best idea in history! As much as I love Superman, Captain Marvel should be the greatest superhero by far. I truly believe this scares the people at DC

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