There are not many A-list superheroes waiting in the wings to be adapted into movies, so attention has turned to the B and C-list, with varying degrees of success. Ghost Rider recently proved that a superhero movie doesn’t need to have brand recognition to succeed. Or a good script, acting or action scenes, for that matter.
That all bodes well for the prospects of one Captain Marvel, who most people know better as Shazam, even though that’s not his name. See, the Big Red Cheese, as he’s known (because he’s big, wears a red suit and is cheesy), can’t use his own name on a comic book cover because Marvel Comics has the rights to do so. Even though the character predates Marvel by decades. It’s complicated.
Captain Marvel is the superhero identity of one Billy Batson, a precocious kid who, when he shouts ‘Shazam!,’ turns into an adult with power levels comparable to Superman – but with a kid’s mind. It’s a good gimmick, and it’s easy to see how a film with this premise would stand out in the crowded superhero market. New Line definitely thinks so, and according to lots of rumors, which recently found their way to the New York Daily News, the studio is willing to spend hundreds of millions (two, to be exact) on getting a Captain Marvel/Shazam franchise off the ground. And the biggest rumor of all has Jake Gyllenhaal starring as Marvel.
Once upon a time The Rock was rumored for the role, and physically I like him (although to be honest, I like him for Captain Marvel villain Black Adam better), but Gyllenhaal seems ideal for the ‘gee whiz, I’m a dweeb who turned into a superhero’ vibe of the story. Captain Marvel is essentially Big with super powers, after all.
Of course these rumors butt against another set of rumors, which is that Sony is looking to nab Gyllenhaal to play Peter Parker in Spider-Mans 4 through infinity, should Tobey Maguire make good on his threats to hang up the webs. Gyllenhaal won’t be signing on to two different superhero franchises, so the rumor goes that New Line needs to sign his Heath Ledger-smooching ass like ASAP.
One imagines that Gyllenhaal could go either way: Peter Parker is a better character, at least if Sony continues on the path that Sam Raimi has laid for them, where the personal life of Spider-Man is as important as the superhero life – but Gyllenhaal would be stepping into someone else’s role. Way back when he was rumored to be doing just that when Maguire wasn’t playing ball for Spidey 2, it made more sense, but Gyllenhaal’s star has since risen. On the other hand, Billy Batson’s just not a great character, and the Shazam films would be inherently goofier – one of Captain Marvel’s main villains is a tiny worm from Venus named Mr. Mind. Cap hangs out with a talking stuffed tiger! You can see why DC has not been able to turn the character into a modern success – he’s so of the 1940s, when he was created, that he feels out of place today.