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Kicking off with the debut of James Wan's highly anticipated Aquaman film in December 2018, the DCEU will soon go all in on some groundbreaking solo projects. Within that impressive slate, one of the most intriguing of the bunch is David F. Sandberg's Shazam, which will finally begin production in February. Quite a fuss has been made about whether or not Dwayne Johnson will even appear in the film as the villainous Black Adam, and the Annabelle: Creation director recently revealed that he opted to drop Johnson's big bad from the story to focus on Billy Batson and Shazam, saying:
So, yeah The Rock has been cast as Black Adam, but he's not going to be featured in this film. There have been variations of the script like before I came along where Black Adam was in and out, but now this is about Shazam.
The Rock is arguably one of the biggest celebrities in the world at the moment -- in terms of physical stature, as well as popularity. He has a dominant presence as an actor in the same way that Black Adam has a commanding presence as a villain, so his inclusion in the film could potentially make focusing on the hero harder in the long run. In the same way that The Dark Knight trilogy kept its version of The Joker at arm's length until the second installment, it looks like the intention here is to adequately establish Billy and Shazam before going all in on this fan-favorite action star and iconic villain.
That said, it looks like we can still look forward to seeing Dwayne Johnson chew some scenery as the villainous wizard as the DCEU moves forward. Although he won't appear in the first Shazam movie, he's still attached to the greater DC universe as the character -- and there is even a Black Adam solo movie reportedly in development. Even if he does not appear in Billy Batson's first adventure, he will have a presence in the background as Sandberg lays the groundwork for him to eventually take on Shazam in a mano-a-mano match. He's out there waiting to make his debut, but now it's a simple question of which villain the first Shazam film will have our hero face off against.
David F. Sandberg's remarks to Film Riot about Shazam also seem to give us a bit of insight into the overall direction of the story. If Shazam himself will represent the central focus of the film's narrative, then it stands to reason that we could see a full-blown origin story for the hero over the course of the movie's arc -- which is understandable, given the fact that Shazam is less mainstream than the average Justice League hero. We still have a long way to go until this film finally hits the big screen, but it's abundantly clear that David F. Sandberg has a unique vision for how this should play out.