When DC decided to mimic marvel by creating their own cinematic universe (which was something they should have done a long time ago. As a subordinate of WB, DC didn’t have to go through the Legal gymnastics that Marvel did to bring their most famous characters together on screen. But I digress), DC tried to distance themselves from the comparison by following an internal motto of “NO funny business.” Meaning they would forgo the clever quips in favour of gravitas and seriousness.
It didn’t quite work out as they planned.
The first film in this attempt, Man of Steel, tried to evoke a feeling that what you were watching was realistic and more honest in its depiction of an alien on earth with powers far beyond those of mortal men. It took its inspiration from the Dark Knight films (Which people forget are funny) and its “Realistic” Portrayal of Batman.
But the film was critically panned, especially that ending, and no one knew how to fix it.
Then came the abomination of Batman V Superman, and the less said about that movie the better.
It’s been previously written how DC failed in its marketing and it’s storytelling and how Justice League, which should have smashed box office records but came and went like a summer breeze, failed to turn on audiences. What hasn’t been written is how DC plans to right the ship and hopefully find success by moving away from the Zach Snyder vision of bombastic imagery and shallow characterization, into a more modern, honest, hopeful approach. The same approach that made Wonder Woman such a success.
And they are doing it by adapting the two most unlikely company saviours, Aquaman and Shazam!
The Man who Talks to Fish is Pretty Badass
Aquaman, the upcoming film directed by James Wan, tells the story of Arthur Curry, A Half Breed Atlantean born of royalty but reluctant to take the mantle. He must stop his half Brother, the Ocean Master, from lashing out at surface dwellers for their perceived polluting of the Oceans.
Aquaman has always been a punchline to the public, ever since he was portrayed in the Super Friends Cartoon serious as a useless superhero who’s only power was talking to fish. DC Comics spent years trying to rehabilitate Aquaman’s image, portraying him as a strong, angry leader of Atlantis who could hold his own with any member of the justice league. He even once lost his hand in a battle with Black Mantis and had to make do with a harpoon for an appendage.
But much like Batman before the 1989 Tim Burton film, Aquaman still couldn’t shake the stigma brought on by those early cartoons. The hope is that the new film, with Jason Momoa as the title character, can change that perception and make people rethink the idea of Aquaman as a joke.
And if the trailer is any indication, DC hopes to portray Atlantis as an underwater wonderland that may rival the galactic scenery of Guardians of the Galaxy.
What Do You Get When You Mix Superman with “Big”? Shazam!
Another character with an interesting back story and a misunderstood reputation is Shazam. The character, originally named Captain Marvel, was the main character for a series of stories published by Fawcett Comics back in the 40s and 50s. Striking very similar powers to Superman, DC sued the publisher for copyright infringement before eventually buying the publisher outright and folding the characters of that universe into DC proper.
The character history of Shazam, formerly Captain Marvel, is thus: a young orphan by the name of Billy Batson wanders into a cave where he meets an old wizard who deems him worthy of great power. By saying the name Shazam the young boy is transformed into the mighty Captain Marvel, which allows him to fight crime and do good in the world.
The joke of the character is that he retains his youthful innocence, which makes for awkward encounters with actual adults.
The trailer for the film gives you the sense that they are really going to go hard on the fact that Shazam, when grown, still acts like a teenage kid who would rather play PlayStation than save the world. It seems as if the Film is trying to combine the playful fun of BIG with the hopeful super heroics of Superman.
Zachary Levi plays the title character, the Big Red Cheese himself, and it’s an interesting choice. No doubt Zachary has the comic timing to play the role, but Shazam has always been drawn as a big burly bodybuilder, and Levi doesn’t really exude that kind of intimidating frame. But as always, I remind those who question his casting that once upon a time, People thought Michael Keaton was a terrible choice to play Batman. And now people think he was the best one.
For me? Zachary Levi will always be Chuck.
DC Taking Risks with Unknown IP
It’s not a stretch to say that DC is taking a risk with these films. But what do they have to lose, really?
For far too long DC has taken its cues from the success of the Batman films and have demanded that other films in that universe match the Tone. It’s taken them some colossal failures to realize that taking each character as they come and treating the IP with respect brings about long-term gains.
I’m hoping that both Aquaman and Shazam kick ass in the theatres. And I’m hoping they give Superman another shot at being a cinematic hit.
DC shouldn’t be the little studio that could. They should be on the same level as Marvel. They have been in the Comic business.
It’s time they level up in the film business as well.