The first photo of Zachary Levi dressed in costume for Shazam! has hit the Internet, and even though it's not an official image, and it's a lo-res photo shot from the side rather than the front, there's one thing we know for sure about it. The costume is going to bring about a lot of divisive conversation.
The thing is, we aren't sure whether this is the real costume, or simply some kind of decoy/test suit. However, even looking at it from a poor angle, and knowing absolutely nothing about the context, the costume appears to be absolutely perfect for a live-action Shazam film.
It Can Be Cool to Be Lame
Superhero movies have infamously shied away from leaning too much into their spandex inspiration. The X-Men films decided black leather would be the way to go in order to make them look cool. Spider-Man didn't have his webbed armpits in any of the movies. Warner Bros. even did away with Superman's red underwear. Everyone's obsessed with making superheroes look as aesthetically realistic as possible, and you end up losing some of the charm along the way.
Shazam's costume has to be different. As a boy who magically transforms into a man, Billy Batson wouldn't equip himself with complicated body armor or some kind of intricate costume. Since he can probably conjure up anything he wants, it would be simple, it would be colorful, and it would be silly. That's exactly what we're seeing from Levi's costume right now. It has all the elements there, without the complications DC has tried to introduce in past movies.
Director David F. Sandberg previously told fans that the costume would look something similar to what the character wore in the Justice League: War animated film. While that appears to be technically accurate, the costume doesn't have that unnecessary "cool" factor with the ribbed body armor and intricate details. Comics-wise, the only thing the movie seems to be borrowing from Gary Frank's New 52 redesign of the character is the hood, and with all respect to Frank, this is how it should be for a live-action adaptation.
Why Shazam is Different
You might wonder how and why Shazam is different from all the other superheroes out there. After all, Superman was also around in the '40s, but we don't call for a return to his simpler, de-powered early years. Shazam is different because the character exists as a lasting link to the Golden Age of Comics, unlike any other comic book published today. While most characters got to grow and adapt to changing times, Shazam never did, and there for he was never modernized.
At his peak, Shazam—then known as Captain Marvel—was more popular than even Superman, because the character's childhood charm easily attracted the amazement of kids. Since he missed most of the Silver Age and was never given the time to evolve, attempts to modernize him never seem to work. At this point, fans show up to see the charm that Shazam brings, not how a kid can grow up to beat up the bad guys.
BREAKING: This may be our first look at Zachary Levi as Shazam. Expect an official reveal soon. pic.twitter.com/CIWagDJVcB— Batman-News.com (@BatmanNewsCom) February 27, 2018
For this movie to truly be a success, it needs to drop the self-serious act that the DC Extended Universe has suffered from and embrace the true wonder of a child becoming a superhero. That all starts with the costume. If this is indeed the real Shazam suit, Sandberg and company have done a superb job actually embracing what makes the character unique.
Many may look at Shazam and see him as a simple ripoff of Superman, but he's so much more than that. He's a lonely orphan inside the body of an adult, which can only lead to silly adventures and fun action scenes. The Power of Shazam embraces imagination and hope, and gives us something uplifting to enjoy. A truly silly, dorky costume would embrace the true magic of the character and only makes the movie more in line with what it needs to be.
Arriving in theaters on April 5, 2019, Shazam! stars Zachary Levi as the titular hero, Asher Angel as Billy Batson, Mark Strong as Doctor Sivana, Grace Fulton as Mary Bromfield, Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman, Ian Chen as Eugene Choi, Jovan Armand as Pedro Pena, Ron Cephas Jones as the Wizard and Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans as foster parents Victor and Rosa Vasquez.