Friday, January 20, 2017

Black Adam Bombshell

On January 19, 2017, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news of what went on during those meetings between Dwayne Johnson, Seven Bucks Productions, and DC:  Black Adam will get his own solo movie, which will have priority over the Captain Marvel movie. It is speculated Beau Flynn has jumped on as a producer and Johnson's recurring collaborator Brad Peyton will be announced to direct the film from a reworked and rewritten version of Darren Lemke's script.  I knew it was time to worry when it was revealed Geoff Johns was in on the meeting. Black Adam is sure to go on to be a major player in the DCEU, as Johnson has often hinted at Black Adam's arc going from slave to superhero to villain to anti-hero.  Things started to solidify when Johnson's manager Dany Garcia made comments about insuring the Black Adam character be developed perfectly, and then a social media pic of Johnson with Garcia's other client, Henry Cavill, sharing a New Year's drink, sent the internet in a frenzy of a Superman-Black Adam showdown.

But what of Captain Marvel? It was announced Henry Gayden has taken over as script writer for the World's Mightiest Mortal movie, and that Black Adam will be mostly absent from the film, if he appears at all.  Optimistically, Sam Raimi may still be in play to direct, and Alex Ross brought on as creative consultant.  I'd like to see the neophyte Gayden teamed up with a seasoned writer, like perhaps Dan Schneider (Henry Danger).  This is a great development in that Dr Sivana (who was missing in the rejected John August script) and Beautia will be the main antagonists, with possibly an appearance by Ibac, who was Captain Marvel's evil counterpart in the original Fawcett comics rather than Black Adam.  And, of course, without Black Adam hogging the spotlight, the focus will surely be on Billy Batson and Captain Marvel, and we should have plenty of screen time to develop their characters properly. But pessimistically, and more realistically, the Captain Marvel movie may continue to hit roadblocks and be pushed back, until the decision is made that Black Adam can fill Captain Marvel's role in the bigger DCEU, and the Captain Marvel movie is finally and officially cancelled. I kind of see it going that way.  Considering how divisive and poorly the DCEU has performed to date, it may actually be a blessing in disguise that Captain Marvel sit it out. Besides, if Geoff Johns has any say, and it looks like he does, they would probably give us New 52 Shazam instead of Captain Marvel, and I really don't want to see that.  Stay tuned for the official announcements.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review: Batman '66 meets Wonder Woman '77 #1

The first issue of the latest Batman '66 miniseries sees the return of writer Jeff Parker and artist David Hahn, with new writer Marc Andreyko (from the Wonder Woman '77 comic book series), as Batman encounters the Lynda Carter version of Wonder Woman.  The story begins with Catwoman III hired by Talia and Ra's al Ghul to steal a book.  The Dynamic Duo apprehend Catwoman III, but Talia escapes with the book.  Batman and Alfred then recount for Robin how, some 20 years earlier during World War II, Bruce first encountered a younger Talia and her father during an auction in which that same book was present. Also at the auction were Col. Steve Trevor, Yeoman Diana Prince, and Etta Candy.  After Nazis crash the party and steal the book and its sister volume, Diana turns into Wonder Woman, witnessed by Bruce and Talia, and comes to the rescue.  Bruce is able to sneak the targeted books out to safety, only to find Talia's father is not one of the good guys.  The script is impressive in the way it works in the WWII era Wonder Woman from that show's first season, by the flashback to 20 years earlier.  As such, we get a good glimpse of a young Bruce Wayne, Adam West style.  At first, I felt including Ra's al Ghul and Talia was another attempt to force the 66 Universe into conforming into the standard, generic DC Batman (something Parker's scripts seem to have a lot of, in contrast to other writers in this franchise), but upon thinking about it, there really isn't any other villain that would work considering the 20 years of time sweeping this plot. The art is good, but on the generic side.  After Matthew Dow Smith's epic artwork with picture perfect likenesses in the previous miniseries, anything else is going to pale in comparison. There were some online reports that Ra's would be drawn in Christopher Lee's likeness, and Talia in Caroline Munro's likeness, but Hahn only gives the barest hint of that possibility, opposed to Dow Smith, who would have been far more definitive.  One thing in Hahn's favor is he gets the "comic book" style of action and motion better.  Dow Smith, for all his art's beauty, didn't quite nail that, perhaps being too slavish to the concept of live actors on a limited sound stage.  This first issue earns a B+.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

An Open Letter to Hiram Garcia about "World's Mightiest Mortal"

Over the last couple days, through social media, Hiram Garcia, a top executive at Seven Bucks Productions and a producer on the Captain Marvel movie, and Dwayne Johnson, co-founder of Seven Bucks, and actor to portray Black Adam, have hinted there will be major announcements coming in the next few weeks or months. So, as I have done in the past with my Shazam Manifesto posts, I will give one final push to Mr Garcia, Mr Johnson, and the powers-that-be, for my hopes for what could and should be the definitive cinematic Captain Marvel.

One of the things both Garcia and Johnson, as well as now-former New Line head Toby Emmerich have assured us is that the movie will have a tone unto itself, inspired by the classic Fawcett comics of fun and optimism.  Recent comments in the last couple days have reaffirmed that, and even hinted the fun and optimism will spread to the rest of the DCEU, exorcising  Zack Snyder's overtly morose and despaired vision. Could it be too much to hope that Captain Marvel could be at the very center, the heart and soul of a semi-rebooted DCEU?
The definitive film needs to have a good balance of fun and humor with action-adventure and drama and pathos.  Sam Raimi was a master of this with his Spider-Man movies, and a few months ago there were internet rumors he was one of the top choices to direct the film.  I hope those rumors are revealed to be true in the coming weeks or months. I would like to see the film use tilted ("Dutch") camera angles, much like celebrated film maker Orson Welles pioneered, to give it a unique look.

Of course, something else that needs to happen is for Alex Ross to be assigned to be the project's creative consultant, perhaps also a producer. He is one of only a few contemporary comic book talents who really "gets" the World's Mightiest Mortal.  Just as Johnson's manager, Dany Garcia, is working hard to make sure the Black Adam character is perfect, it should be Alex Ross' privilege to do the same for the Captain Marvel character. The film should use Ross' version of Captain Marvel's uniform, but it should not be skintight spandex or muscle enhancing rubber. The model of Tom Tyler's costume from the serial should be used, where the top is more of a jacket, and the pants, while snug, are not actual tights. In addition, I would suggest artist Jerry Ordway be brought in to assist in creating the design for Fawcett City, with its unique blend of Art Deco elegance with Norman Rockwell Americana.

The film itself needs to stay away from the horribly failed Curse of Shazam reboot.  The movie should have its foundation on the works of Alex Ross, specifically Justice and Shazam: Power of Hope and the recent, and very successful Thuderworld Adventures by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart, as well as the Fawcett comics of the 1940s. When Otto Binder and C.C. Beck hit their stride, they produced some of the greatest superhero adventures of all time. Previous attempts at developing the movie over the past decade seemed married to the "Big with superpowers" concept.  This concept keeps the character trapped in a goofy, juvenile stereotype. Cap should not act like a 12 year old. He has the wisdom of Solomon, which should make him more mature and less headstrong than Billy. The movie could use such a Big concept in a subtle way, but to go over the top, as most recent comic book stories featuring Captain Marvel have, will be a failure.

As in the Fawcett comics, Billy should be the star of the movie. Its his adventures we follow. Yet there still must be a lot of screen time and action sequences for Captain Marvel. I speculate the creators of Captain Marvel had the Old Testament book of Tobit in mind as a muse. In it, the mighty archangel Saint Raphael takes the form of a teen, Azariah, while among mortals. I suggest all Captain Marvel fans read this book. If you don't have a Bible with the deuterocanonical books, here is a link for Tobit . Mary and Freddy should be supporting characters the film, but they should not get their powers until the sequels. Needless to say I do not want to see the three new52 kids, Darla, Pedro and Eugene, cluttering up the film. And despite many fans clamoring for it, I do not want to see Superman in anyway in this film.  If there must be a cameo with an established DCEU character, at least go with a less predicable and more creative and interesting choice like Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, or even Ben Affleck's Batman.

The elephant in the living room needs to be addressed.  Captain Marvel's name. I am vehemently against the idea of renaming Captain Marvel with the wizard's name, Shazam. In a perfect world, the film makers will just call him Captain Marvel, as it should be, and let the chips fall where they may.  But I fear some backdoor politics may cause that name to be off limits. If that's the case, I would advocate for Captain Marvel to be nameless in the movie. We all know who he is, despite what Geoff Johns thinks. The end credits should credit the actor playing him as "World's Mightiest Mortal", and leave it at that. In fact, "World's Mightiest Mortal" should be the title of the movie.

Perhaps the most infamous Captain Marvel fan was/is Elvis Presley. The definitive Captain Marvel movie must have an Elvis soundtrack. "If I Can Dream" would be a perfect theme song. Many of his under appreciated 60s tracks would fit the film perfectly, like "Long Legged Girl" for Beautia, "What A Wonderful Life" for Billy, "That's Someone You'll Never Forget" for Billy's crush on Beautia, "Kiss Me Quick" for Beautia's longing for Captain Marvel, etc.  Perhaps Duane Eddy's hit instrumental "Shazam" could be incorporated into the score.

Casting suggestions, other than Johnson as Black Adam:

Captain Marvel - Derek Theler.
This 6 foot 5 actor auditioned for Captain America, but lost out to Chris Evans. Currently on the sit-com Baby Daddy, Theler has shown charisma and screen presence, and has an innocent quality to him that would be perfect for Captain Marvel.  He could go toe to toe with a certain charismatic former pro-wrestler, and make the World's Mightiest Mortal relateable and likable.
Alternate pick:  Lou Ferrigno Jr.

Billy Batson - Colin Critchley.  
This talented young actor would not only be perfect for Billy Batson, but in his recent film Legends of the Hidden Temple, he exclaims "Holy Moly", and in that instant, he became Billy Batson.

Shazam - James Caan.
This Hollywood legend would give the role prestige and gravitas.
Alternate picks: F Murray Abraham, Max von Sydow, or Tony Shalhoub.

Dr Sivana - Jackie Earle Haley
This talented character actor would bring the Rightful Ruler of the Universe to life and be bad news for Captain Marvel.
Alternate pick: Michael D Cohen

Beautia - Virginia Gardner.

This bombshell-in-the-making would be perfect for the World's Sexiest Woman.
Alternate picks: Haley Bennett or Genevieve Morton.

Uncle Dudley - his royal majesty Micky Dolenz .
This is my #1 casting pick! Dolenz is Dudley incarnate and would be a highlight of the movie and a real scene stealer. If nothing else, I want Dolenz cast as Dudley.

Mary Bromfield/Batson - Jade Pettyjohn.  
Although she's a couple years older than Colin Critchley, her range is as young as 13, and her personality would bring Mary to life.
Alternate choices: Breanna Yde or Reagan Strange

Sterling Morris - Jon Voight.
This acting legend would be perfect to bring the owner of station WHIZ to life.
Alternate pick: Dan Aykroyd.

Mr Tawny - Jim Belushi.
I could really see Belushi in the role, whether it be him in extensive make up, or a CGI character based on Belushi's looks and mannerisms, with him doing the voice.  Just perfect.

Freddy Freeman - Levi Miller
 
A talented young actor who can bring the darker, more serious counterpart to Billy to life on the silver screen.

Freddy's Grandpa - Alan Alda.
This TV legend is sure to bring gravitas and likability to the character, and really set the audience up for heartbreak when the inevitable happens.

UPDATE: Just one week after this post was published, it was announced Black Adam would get his own solo movie, and the character has effectively been removed from Captain Marvel's movie save for a possible small cameo.