DC Comics “expanded movie universe” get flack from viewers who prefer a lighter touch to the buttoned-up serious of the Snyderverse and from fans who see any form of humor as an egregious overstep in a mega-franchise concerned with woes of superheroes. The clash between two warring beliefs over what DC films should be on a molecular level has led to animosity and conspiratorial thinking (“Zack Snyder never would have put jokes in his cut of Justice League!”), but the head honchos at Warner Bros. Pictures have their own feelings on the matter.
Enter: Shazam! — DC’s first comedic superhero movie.
Star Zachary Levi (Chuck) was on hand at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con to premiere the first footage from the comic-book adaptation, which does for magical, flying, super-strengthed heroes what Big did for New York businessfolk of the 1980s. In the comics, a Wizard grants 14-year-old orphan Billy Baston the power to turn into the towering “Captain Marvel” by uttering one word: “Shazam!” To steer clear of confusion with Marvel Studios, the movie made the name of Billy’s alter ego synonymous with the call to action. That’s the major change. The debut trailer prepared audiences for something as silly and wild as the setup.
The trailer follows the familiar origins of the character, with Billy bouncing around foster homes, and eventually crossing paths with the Wizard, played by Djimon Hounsou. After being imbued with the power of Shazam, the kid transforms into the hero for the first time... but has no idea what he’s doing. Together with his comic-book fluent buddy, Billy learns the extent of his might: deflecting bullets, shooting electricity (to charge phones...), and beating criminals senseless.
According to director David Sandberg, who debuted with the horror film Lights Out before helming the Annabelle: Creation, Shazam’s suit is an amalgamation of nearly every incarnation of the Captain Marvel character. “I wanted to keep the shorter cape as a throwback to the original because that’s something that sets him apart from Superman or Batman,” he told Entertainment Weekly in the lead up to SDCC. “It makes him feel a bit more Golden Age superhero, which is the vibe I’m going for.” The movie design also includes a hood from DC’s 2011 New 52, and the gold gauntlets from his DC Animation appearances.
In the comics, Shazam’s main nemesis is Black Adam, a character Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has long discussed brining to screen. Could he pop up in Shazam!?
Shazam! arrives to theaters on April 5, 2019.