While the DC Extended Universe has had its share of questionable decisions and unpopular choices, perhaps none is as head-scratching as the decision to give Shazam his movie. Currently slated for an April 5, 2019, release, the film will come out on the heels of Aquaman (December 21, 2018) and before the as yet untitled Wonder Woman sequel (December 13, 2019). While details about the project remain scant, here’s what we do know about Shazam! as of right now:
- Shazam will be the seventh movie in the DC Extended Universe. However, there has been no mention of him in the DCEU thus far, nor is he rumored to appear in any DCEU movies beforehand (those movies would be Justice League and Aquaman).
- Shazam! is one of the lesser-known superheroes in modern pop culture, despite having been around for a long time and having his own TV show at various points throughout history. Why is this? Because traditionally, he’s known as Captain Marvel, which is a name shared by a female superhero at DC’s rival studio, Marvel. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has already announced plans for a Captain Marvel movie of their own, featuring Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, which will release March 6, 2019 — less than a month before Shazam!
- Shazam is an unusual superhero in that he manifests from a young boy named Billy Batson, who becomes the Superman-esque Shazam whenever he utters the word “Shazam!” Here’s a brief rundown of the character’s traditional origin story:
- Billy is a young boy (about 12) living in poverty in the city. When Billy encounters an old wizard in a subway station, the wizard explains that he is Shazam, a mystical warrior who has been fighting the forces of evil for 3,000 years using the powers of the gods Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury (a.k.a. Shazam). Because he’s too old to continue doing this, he has to give his power to someone worthy of it, which Billy is. So anytime Billy says the word “Shazam!” he turns into an adult superhero with super-strength, speed, etc.
- The earliest work on a Shazam movie began in the early 2000s when the property belonged to New Line before the company was acquired by Warner Brothers. Peter Segal (Get Smart) was attached to direct at one point and stayed with the project until 2013 when rumors that the property was becoming a TV series surfaced. When the DCEU began picking up steam after the release of Man of Steel, the project gained momentum again before officially being announced on October 15, 2014.
- Most recently, Billy Batson/Shazam and Black Adam were featured in the 2010 DC Animated Universe movie, Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam. While not the greatest movie in the DCAU catalog, it’s a good way to get a quick introduction to the characters and features screen legend James Garner in his final role.
- David F. Sandberg (Annabelle: Creation) has been hired to direct, while Henry Gayden (Earth to Echo) is writing the screenplay. Sandberg has been Instagramming the pre-production process and seems to be having fun. He’s passionate about the character, which is always a good sign. Geoff Johns can also be seen in a recent post.
- The film is currently in pre-production, which began on August 28th. The film is set to go into production — as in, actual filming of the movie — in early 2018.
- There’s been no official word on casting for Shazam. According to a now-debunked rumor from Heroic Hollywood, the leading contenders for the role are Joshua Sassee (Frankenstein’s Army) and John Cena (Transformers: Bumblebee). Cena, in particular, is an interesting choice, as pitting him against Johnson on-screen would be a matchup between two former wrestlers-turned-action movie stars.
- Actors Derek Theler (Baby Daddy) and Alan Ritchson (Blue Mountain State) have expressed interest in playing Shazam. I’m only familiar with the latter, and regarding look, he’s not a bad match.
- Unlike other superheroes, Shazam requires two actors, one of whom would portray Billy Batson. While casting rumors have been hard to come by, keep in mind that Shazam! will be a Warner Bros. movie. The studio just put out the wildly successful movie IT, which featured several talented young actors in the right age range to play Billy Batson. Could one of them end up getting the role?
- Shazam’s most famous nemesis is Black Adam. While Shazam and Billy Batson have not yet been cast, Black Adam will be played by Dwayne Johnson. Announced and confirmed way back in 2014, Johnson will get his own solo movie as Black Adam but will not show up in Shazam!
- Johnson has been attached to play Black Adam since 2008. Shazam director Adam Sandberg revealed recently that Black Adam was in earlier versions of the screenplay.