Doc Savage was one of the most popular pulp magazine heroes of the 30s and 40s. So much so that his fictional fame lasted for decades as he inspired countless radio, television, and film programs, as well as several comic book adaptations. As we’ve seen from past aborted attempts at bringing other pulp heroes like The Shadow or The Spirit to the big screen, however, being popular in the 30s and 40s isn’t a guarantee that a hero is going to have the right stuff to make for a successful modern film franchise.
In spite of the semi-recent failures that still linger in the memories of the filmgoing public, Sony Pictures has decided that the package they’ve put together for Doc Savage is worth taking a risk on. The reason they’re so confident is because the guy they’ve got co-writing and directing the new take on this classic hero is Shane Black, and Shane Black just made Marvel over $700 million in a week by directing Iron Man 3.
Not only does Black have a deep, abiding interest in the character that’s seen him attempting to get this project off the ground for the past few years now, and that probably makes him the best choice to handle the material, but he’s also now a bankable, recent success story in the world of blockbuster filmmaking, which has to be the reason why Sony decided to choose today of all days to send out a press release [via /Film] that makes a Black-directed Doc Savage official. How much is a giant blurb that says “from the director of Iron Man 3” going to be worth on the Doc Savage trailers and posters? Potentially quite a lot.
President of Production for Columbia Pictures, Hannah Minghella, said of the big announcement that Savage is go, “We couldn’t be more excited to be building a franchise from the ground up with Shane and this team. Shane and Neal (Moritz) have a fantastic understanding of the character and a great take on the material and we can’t wait to get this production up and running.”
That sounds great and all, but for those of us whose memories don’t go all the way back to the days when Doc Savage was one of the characters little kids ran around in their front yards pretending to be, who exactly is this guy? Sony’s press release describes him by saying, “He is a scientist, physician, adventurer, inventor, explorer and researcher. He has been trained since birth to be nearly superhuman in every way, with outstanding strength, a photographic memory, and vast knowledge and intelligence. He uses his skills and powers to punish evil wherever in the world he finds it.” So basically he’s like Batman, but without the childhood trauma. Unless you consider having a crazy dad and a team of scientists training you to be the perfect peak of humanity all the way from the moment of birth to be traumatic… then he’s pretty much just Batman, but without the pointy-eared costume.
These are the big moments when being a soothsayer would come in handy. Is a story full of high adventure and featuring Shane Black’s newly re-established name going to be enough to sell the public on Doc Savage? Or, like pretty much every other old-timey hero Hollywood has tried to relaunch in recent times, is it going to end up being a big bomb for Sony? If you’ve got a definitive answer, the studio would probably appreciate an email right about now. For the rest of us, let’s just hope that Black comes up with something awesome.