Film directors and actors in the social media era have an interesting conundrum: they have to engage with fans and the media on an ongoing basis, while giving away little or nothing. Many opt to go relatively quiet, focus on the work, and keep interviews to a minimum. Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson‘s comment on this subject caught my eye recently: “Most directors don’t enjoy interviews. We do it to support our movies. But if we could say what a movie means we wouldn’t need to make it.” An interesting and appropriately Ditko approach to doing work, to be sure. Given this is a case of a director well-matched with his subject matter, it makes me wonder if Shazam director David F. Sandberg is matching his social media mind-set to his film as well.
Several directors have learned how to walk that line between giving us something and giving us too much during a film’s production. James Gunn, Zack Snyder, and The Russo Brothers have all mastered the art of teases, hints, and big reveals over the course of making the film and on through to the debut.
But Shazam director David F. Sandberg is taking an entirely different approach. We’ve seen him throw out some good natured, obvious trolling about the movie such as a fake script page and the now-infamous “Shablam” concept art, only to find that it makes headlines or is even taken seriously anyway. Three weeks ago, with his Shazam work apparently about to begin in earnest, he concluded:
When an entire day can be spent worrying about stuff on the internet and you’re even checking notifications while driving, weeeell then it might be time to step away for a bit… Besides, my life right now is revolving around things I can’t show or talk about anyway. I was going to add an image to my story earlier but then realized this is just going to lead to speculation and articles online that I’ll then feel a need to respond to. So yeah, I might be quiet on here for a bit as I take a break and practice not responding to everything. But I’ll be back.
And back he was on August 28, marking out Day 1, Day 2, Day3, Day 4, and Day 5 of Shazam pre-production on Instagram with those now infamous Coke Zero cans. Five days down, and only… 552 days to go until the March 8, 2019 release date of Shazam. That’ll be a lot of Coke Zero cans. And while I might suggest a different caffeinated beverage over a haul that long, those Instagram photos have finally gotten a little more interesting:
Thank you David F. Sandberg, for finally giving us something we can really sink our teeth into for our speculative articles. Please don’t feel obligated to respond, but I hope you will, because I do have questions:
Tawky Tawny and Mister Mind: The action figures are the most obvious items in the shot, and given Sandberg’s un-serious history on social media, maybe it means something, and maybe it doesn’t. Tawky Tawny is a well-known character from the
Captain Marvel Shazam pantheon (I keep. Typing. Captain. Marvel.) and Mister Mind is one of his most infamous villains, so does this mean they’ll both be in the film? It’s a logical conclusion from every angle, particularly if we take Sandberg’s comments about Shazam being a fun, light-hearted film at face value.
Whiz Comics #18 and #22: The Whiz Comics #22 cover is one of the best-remembered and most classic covers of the run, with Shazam and Billy standing together symbolically. The tone of the story in this issue is tipped off by the gag in the title, “Captain Marvel and the Temple of Itzalotahui”, and has Billy traveling to the jungles of Guatemala, where Shazam wrangles with the giant stone idol of the Monstrous Monkey-God, Itzalotahui.
Edited to add: Joe Musich noted an interesting bit of info in the comments of this post:
“Captain Marvel and the Temple of Itzalotahui” a comic book story that grew out of the same theme as the Adventures of Captain Marvel 1941 Republic movie serial. Whitey makes it into the comic from the movie. It has pointed out to me by the most knowledgeable person alive regarding Captain Marvel. It was also the only story written by an artist way more deserving of credit the he ever gets CCBeck.
The Whiz Comics #18 story is quite a bit more serious however, interestingly enough. This is part of a multi-issue crossover between Shazam and fellow Fawcett hero Spy Smasher, which has them fighting Nazi spies and saboteurs in America. This was published in 1941, in the months prior to America’s entry into World War 2, it’s treated as dramatic wartime superhero adventure, and it’s about as serious as the character gets in the golden age.
I was prepared to dismiss those two covers as just general inspiration for the pre-production process before I checked the stories, but now I’m not so sure (yeah, I see you working, Mr. Sandberg). One story is very serious, one story is very silly. Is the movie a little of both? Hard to say. Even more notably, Whiz Comics #22 ties into Shazam’s 1941 big screen debut, the Adventures of Captain Marvel serial from Republic Pictures.
The King of Sweden in a Viking helmet: Sandberg was born in Sweden and lived and worked there much of his life, according to his bio. I have to admit I knew little about Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden before seeing this photo, a matter which I now intend to correct. Seems like an interesting dude, for a king. Likes to wear silly hats, according to the internet. What can this possibly mean for the Shazam movie? Aside from setting a general tone of whimsy… I got nothin’.
Doctor Snuggles (partially cropped pic which is a bit more visible in the Day 4 photo): Wiki tells me that this is a British/Dutch-produced cartoon series about an inventor, Doctor Snuggles, and his fantastic inventions and a supporting cast of anthropomorphic animals. Is this suggestive of the tone of the film? Is it confirmation that Tawky Tawny and Mister Mind are indeed involved?
Dolph Lundgren “Unavailable” (partially cropped pic which is a bit more visible in the Day 4 photo): It seems that perhaps we’re supposed to assume that they tried to cast Lundgren for this film, with the blurbs underneath Lundren’s pic noting that he’s Swedish, and also including “Can Smell Crime” a reference to an It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode:
As Mac and Charlie excitedly tell Dennis an uneventful story about being trapped in a stairwell, Dee enters, telling them that she has scored a part in an M. Night Shyamalan film. Frank offers to be her agent, and Mac and Charlie decide to write a movie to pitch to Shyamalan while he is in town.
At the film set, Dee tries to get into a trailer. An assistant director tells her that she is not a “featured actress” but a “featured extra”. Back at Paddy’s, Mac and Charlie hack away at their script. They start with the idea of rebooting an actor’s career and choose Dolph Lundgren. They decide to make him a scientist who wears a mesh shirt. Charlie wants him to either be a dog or run like a dog, but Mac shoots down the idea.
In the extras tent, Charlie and Mac show off their poster for the movie “Crime Stinks: The Smell of Penetration”. Dennis reveals that the entire time on his phone he has been writing a movie about Mac and Charlie locked in a stairwell. Convinced it will be a blockbuster, he becomes infuriated when he realizes Frank’s greasy fingers have ruined his phone, destroying the script.
So… what to make of that one? A silly and obvious misdirect one presumes, meant to be so obvious that it can’t be mistaken for real, though if by some impossible chance Dolph Lundren was cast… that would be genius.
And after all that, I do think I see the method to Sandberg’s madness here — because if I have to research all that every day for the next 552 days, I’m going to get pretty worn out. Still, I’m game. Your move, David F. Sandberg.
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