Our First Look At 'Shazam!'
To kick off last weekend, we were invited to the Warner Brothers lot to view sequences of footage from the upcoming DC film, Shazam! Director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) and producer Peter Safran (Aquaman) were on hand to take some questions after about 20 minutes of scenes and teasers. What we saw further hinted at Shazam!’s mash-up of body-swap teen comedies with the superhero genre.
Here’s what we saw:
After he’s granted the suit by The Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) during a subway ride straight into the Rock of Eternity, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) transforms into the titular superhero (Zachary Levi) . We caught a longer glimpse of what happens when he and his friend, Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), test some of the superpowers he might have but doesn’t know how to unlock. In the footage we saw, not everyone needs saving, but it’s a very funny first attempt.
Here’s what Sandberg and Safran had to say about the fiilm during our visit.
Although effects and music aren’t completely locked in, the movie is close to set on a runtime (around two hours), has been sent to the MPAA for review, and you can expect another lengthier trailer very soon. Be sure to watch the featurette below for a peek at a few new scenes.
Like James Wan, Sandberg has a horror background. When asked how his horror experience might fit into a specific sequence, a la Wan’s Trench in Aquaman, Safran said, “The Sins will be involved and without getting into how we’ll integrate them into the story, that’s where this will be similar to what James (Wan) did with The Trench (in Aquaman) and where David could flex (his horror muscles) in their sequences that are scary and cool.” Sandberg, wearing custom made Shazam Nikes, smiled and said, “just getting to design those monsters was really cool.”
For the film’s villain, despite pre-production talk about Black Adam, “It’s always been just (Dr. Thaddeus) Sivana since I’ve been aboard,” Sandberg said. “Initially, they played with the idea of the first movie being both Black Adam and Shazam in the first movie but ultimately it was more set-up then you wanted to spend on a first movie.” Safran, the film’s producer, further explained that “Shazam’s origin story is big enough to merit its own film and that’s something we discovered very early on.” Only Mark Strong was ever approached for the role of Sivana.
Safran swears up and down that a conversation with Dwayne Johnson about doing a post-credit sequence as Black Adam never happened, so don’t expect that to be the post-credit sequence.
“It’s not just a kid getting superpowers but also being an adult who can now try out beer and other things,” Sandberg said. “It can really stand out because [laughs] there are a bunch of superhero movies and this could really stand out.”
While DC has moved away from the massive extended universe to more intimate single character portraits, Shazam! very much acknowledges the larger DCEU. “They live in a world where superheroes are real,” Safran said. “They still have the action figures that we have — it’s just based on the real thing.”
Zachary Levi sent in a self-tape to get the role of Shazam. “He sent it in on a Friday on an iPhone and by Monday he was in person testing, and by Tuesday he’d gotten the role,” Safran said. “Zach is this character, he is a 14-year old boy trapped in a superhero body. He brought that to set every day in kind of difficult situations, shooting in Toronto in the winter with a lot of exteriors for weeks on end,, and he brought to it the enthusiasm needed every single day.”
When asked about Easter Eggs, Sandberg said, “There are some pretty deep cuts, particularly when he enters the Rock of Eternity, there are these artifacts from very cold comics.”
Although Shazam! is a film that’s about Billy (and Freddie) learning what his superpowers are and how to use them, Safran says that by the end there’s still a lot for him to learn in terms of his ultimate potential. “When the Wizard endows him with these powers, there’s no manual that comes with (the suit) so it’s all on him to learn.”
When asked who his favorite characters who aren’t Shazam, Sandberg says, “I love the (foster) kids in this movie, the family that he gets adopted into. And one of the favorites is Little Darla (Faithe Herman), the nine-year old from This Is Us.” Safran agreed, “The cool thing about the foster family in this one is that Billy finds his family — which is not what he was expecting or who he was looking for but he finds his family and it’s a surprisingly beautiful and emotional story. People who’ve been test audiences for this film, by the end of it they’re amazed at the emotion that it brought about.”