You won’t be seeing a big screen adaptation of Shazam hitting theaters anytime soon, as the project is now officially dead. Screenwriter John August has posted an in depth article on his blog explaining how the writer’s strike, New Line being merged into Warner Bros, and the back and fourth between various studio execs eventually killed the project. If you have a few minutes it’s well worth the read, and it’s very typical of the hilarity and frustration of the Hollywood studio system. Here is an excerpt:
“When we turned the new draft in to the studio, we got a reaction that made me wonder if anyone at Warners had actually read previous drafts or the associated notes. The studio felt the movie played too young. They wanted edgier. They wanted Billy to be older. They wanted Black Adam to appear much earlier. (I pointed out that Black Adam appears on page one, but never got a response.)”
At the end of the day, August places blame on the failure of Speed Racer and monster success of The Dark Knight. Hollywood executives don’t spend a lot of time trying to analyze why something was a success or failure, they just try to replicate the good. And for The Dark Knight, that meant that a comic book movie must be dark and real.
“The first flopped; the second triumphed. Given only those two examples, one can understand why a studio might wish for their movies to be more like the latter. But to do so ignores the success of Iron Man, which spent most of its running time as a comedic origin story, and the even more pertinent example of WB’s own Harry Potter series. I tried to make this case, to no avail.”
Warner Bros wanted “a much harder movie, with a lot more Black Adam,” and not the action-comedy project that August initially signed on to develop. August wrote a draft which he “could envision getting made”. The producer and director liked it but somehow, for some reason, the project fell into development heck.
Honestly, I was never interested in a Shazam movie. I’m a big fan of August’s screenplays. I know I’ve over praised August’s debut script Go, directed by Doug Liman, many times in the past. August was the only real reason why I was interested in the project in the first place. And I’m sure the project will someday find its way out of Development heck with some hack writer/director like Paul W.S. Anderson attached, ready to give the studio their “dark comic book movie”.