When adapting a character as iconic as Lester Dent's Doc Savage, the temptation is always present to update said hero for a more modern age. But, like any true fan worth their salt, co-writer/director Shane Black knows that Clark Savage Jr. isn't one of those characters you bring into a more modern context. The reason is simply because he was one of the first of his kind, and truly a product of his time.
Black addressed the matter during a recent interview with IGN, as The Nice Guys director and co-writer drew his big and bold line in the sand for his involvement with the Dwayne Johnson franchise started. Shane Black's explanation dictates the following terms:
It has to be. I’m not going to do it otherwise. And if it doesn’t happen for that reason it doesn’t happen. People say ‘Well, we have all these tie-ins we want to do with merchandise and we can’t do them if it’s 1930s, can’t you make it present day? He’ll fight Al-Qaeda.’ No! That’s not who Doc Savage is. What sets him apart is that he was the first of the Supermen. With all the attendant mythology about being trained from birth to be perfect.
You have to admire an artist that can stick to their guns like Shane Black can, as his prowess with the pen and the director's chair have proven to be consistently rewarding for the audiences that take a gamble with his work. And certainly, Black's recent remarks about how studio tampering altered his original approach to Iron Man 3 have refreshed his attitude towards how much of his creative vision makes it onto the screen. While Marvel may have had their say with his entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you can bet that the man who brought us Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang will take advantage of the lack of that same oversight with Doc Savage. So rather than adapting a classic pulp hero for a more modern sensibility, Black can focus on the most important part to any film adaptation: getting the character right.
As the Doc Savage series is both older and more obscure than the comic book superheroes being adapted for the screen today, Shane Black could be assumed to pretty much has carte blanche when it comes to the big decisions being made behind the scenes. With a lower budget, and a more focused demographic to cater to, the adventures of the jack of all trades adventure enthusiast can be as unique as they always have been. Though, to be fair, Doc Savage has always been a harder sell with modern audiences, so rather than focusing on producing a four-quadrant hit for all audiences, those involved creatively would be better served to make the best product they can and to sell said product on its own merits. Oh, and the fact that landing Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Doc Savage himself helps a lot in marketing this flick as well.
Shane Black's unique sense of action and dialogue are just what Doc Savage needs in order to appeal to a modern audience, so the source material really doesn't need to be altered too much from its original content. We'll have to wait and see what his initial draft with The Nice Guys co-writer Anthony Bagarozzi produces, as they are already hard at work on bringing Doc into fruition as we speak. Though you can always show your support by throwing some money towards their current project, The Nice Guys, which is in theaters now.