DC's Shazam movie is happening - but even as we today confirmed that Dwayne "The Rock Johnson" is playing Black Adam, the film's villain, there have been other details surrounding the project that are raising a few questions.
One noticeable anomaly is that the film is being produced by New Line Cinema - the subsidiary of Warner Bros. Pictures that has housed films like Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. While Warner Bros. has partnered with studios like Legendary Pictures to produce films like The Dark Knight trilogy and Man of Steel, New Line is a new player in this superhero game; why they are housing Shazam (and if that's the only film they're producing) remains unclear.
The other big anomaly is that Johnson made the announcement of his Black Adam role without the studio providing additional info like a release date, director, or casting announcement of the actor(s) playing the titular hero, for that matter. It's still early, but one would think something more official would have come from the initial casting reveal.
Well, EW has spoken to New Line president Toby Emmerich, and the Shazam film he describes has us mulling over even more questions. Read closely at Emmerich's description of the Shazam film New Line is envisioning:
“It feels to me like Shazam will have a tone unto itself... It’s a DC comic, but it’s not a Justice League character, and it’s not a Marvel comic. The tone and the feeling of the movie will be different from the other range of comic book movies... [It] will have a sense of fun and a sense of humor. But the stakes have to be real.”
Okay, so a couple of things immediately come to mind:
"Not a Justice League Character"?
Um... What? DC Comics has gone to great lengths to position Shazam in the fully-connected, Justice League-centered, DC New 52 comic book universe. In fact, the New 52 Shazam was actually first introduced in the Justice League comic book, and the character (a longtime member of the League) was also recently featured in the DC Universe animated adaptation Justice League: War as a controversial replacement for Aquaman (who will be featured in the next Justice League animated movie).
Even before the New 52 reboot, Shazam was partnered with Superman for an animated short called The Return of Black Adam - a seeming test run for the character's effectiveness onscreen (as well as that of his nemesis).
Point being: This is a character who has long been part of the League, and was clearly being groomed for the new Justice League multimedia brand DC/WB is creating.
In that sense, there are only three ways to read Emmerich's comments: 1. He doesn't know his comic book history (totally possible for a studio exec); 2. He misspoke (a publicist's best defense); 3. He just revealed that the Shazam movie is not connected to the upcoming Justice League movie.
Additional facts lend that latter theory a bit more credit...
A Varied Schedule
A couple of months back, online scoop-chaser Nikkie Finke leaked a rumored DC/WB superhero movie release date plan, which read like this:
- May 2016 – Batman v Superman
- July 2016 – Shazam
- Xmas 2016 – Sandman
- May 2017 – Justice League
- July 2017 – Wonder Woman
- Xmas 2017 – Flash and Green Lantern team-up
- May 2018 – Man Of Steel 2
In the months since, additional sources and even official announcements from the studio itself have lent credit that some (if not all) of the above is pretty likely to happen. Now, as then, the question remains: how would the studio pull off a shared universe THIS rapidly? Ambition isn't the word for it.
However, a closer look reveals some interesting new possibilities: Sandman and Shazam, the two other movies rumored for release in 2016 - the same year as Justice League launchpad Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice - COULD conceivably be their own things, apart from the Justice League universe. That would explain how DC/WB will build a superhero universe very rapidly (through subsidiary studios and independent creative teams) - while also taking advantage of both sides of the "solo films vs team-up films" debate that fans (and the Screen Rant staff) have been arguing over all along.
We recently breakdown the issue of Superhero Movie Overload in the film industry, and our speculation was what you see unfolding right in front of you.