DC and Warner once again snapped up a horror film director for the seventh DCEU movie Shazam, which will be directed by David Sandberg (Lights Out). While Sandberg’s mentor James Wan is currently working on Aquaman, Sandberg has come onto the DCEU bandwagon with bringing forth something not typical of him. Toronto Sun reported that the Annabelle: Creation maker is aiming to make Shazaam lighthearted and less dark.
“In terms of what people can expect, I think this will be one of the more fun or lighthearted movies so far in the DC universe. It certainly will be a departure.”
His words are absolutely in sync with what DC Comics and WB had been planning about their upcoming projects. In fact, these words are reminiscent of what DCEU executive Geoff Johns and producer Jon Berg had earlier expressed their desire to change the dark and complicated world of DCEU. In a 2016 discussion with Wall Street Journal, Johns had said:
“In the past, I think the studio has said, ‘Oh, DC films are gritty and dark, and that’s what makes them different.’ That couldn’t be more wrong.. It’s a hopeful and optimistic view of life.”
The fact is that the dark outlook of the DCEU films is not the problem. There are various other comic book based movies such as Deadpool and Logan that have been darker, yet successful. In fact, the most successful comic book film trilogy happens to be quite dark, and that was Dark Knight by Chris Nolan. The films had only one positive aspect, and that was the certainty that Batman would tide over the chaos to beat the evil, no matter how gritty his villains were. It is appreciable that Sandberg now plans to bring some fun factor to DCEU films, he would be better off trying to do away with the traits that his earlier productions have shown. Shazam must be a story that remains dark and gutsy, and that’s something Sandberg can excellently depict.
There’s Nothing Fun about Billy Batson’s Infancy
Sandberg’s mastery of letting a dark and tragic saga related to children unfold on the screen was seen in Lights Out. The film dealt with the encounter of siblings Martin (Gabriel Bateman) and Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) with a supernatural murderer who is after their family. The story of Billy Batson has a higher percentage of the magic element and not much paranormal as such; it does have a tragic angle.
Once his parents went on an archaeological trip to Abu Simbel, Egypt with the family, but, without Billy who had to stay back as a punishment for his bad grades at school. Theo Adam, their partner, murdered his parents in Egypt, stole a Ramses II necklace and kidnapped Billy’s sister. Billy had no option but to live in the company of his uncle Ebenezer who also was a foul man and after usurping the wealth that Billy had inherited, he threw the orphan out on to the streets as a destitute.
Billy had to work as a paperboy for his survival. Even after becoming Shazam, Billy still works to sustain himself. He is employed as a radio show host and reporter for WHIZ, the local radio station in Fawcett City. He also has to deal with the problems of getting good grades and of course juggling his part as a hero.
Shazam has greed, magic, a little paranormal, and a lot of murder
The 1994 graphic novel, The Power of Shazam by Jerry Odway, showed us the incidents which led to the world’s mightiest being coming down to Fawcett City. There was a quite different tale comprising greed, magic, supernatural and killings that dotted the origin story of Shazam. Unlike the Superman, Shazam is not a farm hand who is parented by kind people since he had no idea about his biological parents who were killed even before he was born. Shazam’s story is sad, dark and tragic. Therefore, Sandberg has to ensure that his light-hearted concept doesn’t deviate from the origin and eliminate the very things that made Shazam’s story compelling.
There’s Always Scope for Fun and Optimism
It’s not bad if DC wants its films to be light and optimistic and the turnaround seems to have been set into motion by Wonder Woman, and the upcoming Justice League is going to shake things up quite a bit. The arrival of Flash played by Ezra Miller assures the fans of a warmer, funnier touch.
Just like Barry Allen, Billy Batson can also do with some optimism. He is a homeless, street smart, hardworking boy who suddenly becomes a mighty being after getting the superpowers and now can exact revenge for his parents. In fact, Sandberg had stated that he took up this film because he found the character of Billy relatable.
“The big attraction for me with that character is the fact that every kid dreams of being Superman, right? I mean I certainly did, and Billy Batson is a kid that gets that chance.”
In any case, the choice comes down to maintaining a balance between the light and dark: while a film based on a comic book that is probably less dark. A revamped look and a teenager who can become a supremely powerful being upon uttering a word certainly provide a good scope for optimism and light moments in the film.
The only thing that is disappointing right now is the two more years that we need to wait for before Billy is seen saying Shazam on screen. Till then, you can watch Annabelle: Creation that released on August 11, 2017, to find out what Sandberg has been up to so far.