Shazam! ends with the protagonists' school cafeteria being visited by none other than Superman. While this cameo was well received, behind-the-scenes problems meant that someone ther than Henry Cavill ended up in the tights and cape, and the Man of Steel was subsequently only shown from the neck down.
Despite the teasing nature of the cameo, it actually turned out far better than what was originally planned. Let's take a look at how the scene would have played out, how it was shot and why the latter was the superior version.
RELEASE THE #CAVILLCUT
The film's director, David F. Sandberg, recently revealed how the scene was originally meant to play out. After making his presence known to the school, namely Freddy Freeman, Superman would've sat down to eat with him.
After making small talk and jokes about bad school lunches, Freddy would lean into the superhero, stating the he had "so many questions." Given that Henry Cavill was supposed to be on the other side of the table, this scene would clearly showcase The Last Son of Krypton in all of his glory -- evident by the fact that the suit used is the same theatrical Superman costume used since 2013's Man of Steel.
The version of this scene in the film's release was a head shorter. Literally. Instead of having the character sit down to eat, the film ends with Freddy gasping at the sight of Superman. Superman himself is only shown from the neck down, and never says anything. Superman is also not played by Henry Cavill, but by Ryan Handley, the stunt double for Zachary Levi in Shazam!.
A CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
The superiority of the filmed version of the scene lies in its comedic timing. In other words, brevity is the soul of wit. Having Superman shock fanboy Freddy, and nothing else, is funny just as it is.
The fact that Freddy would then bum rush Superman with a litany of questions goes without saying, making that section being cut all the better for the flow of the joke. Beleaguering the scene with bad jokes about school lunch or stating the obvious is overreaching for comedy.
It's also a joke that plays out its comedy to get to a punchline not worth waiting for. The pure majesty of Superman's presence is underlined in his silence. Having him sit down to make awkward small talk would run the risk of robbing him of his mystique.
THE HERO SHAZAM NEEDS
The sad consequence of having to shoot the actor from the neck up is unfortunate for fans of Cavill's portrayal of Superman. It does have the effect, however, of making him seem larger than life, especially compared to a cafeteria full of kids. This brief moment, along with Freddy's previous fanboy-ism, also displays a reverence for Superman only hinted at in previous DCEU films.
Man of Steel, and especially Batman v Superman, were criticized for their decidedly darker take on Superman. Though some of this was arguably necessary, if only to get away from the character's outdated live-action predecessors, the pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction. The result was a universe built on the power of Superman, but not necessarily his goodness.
Shazam! instead shows a world that looks up to Superman, as opposed to fearing him. The power of his iconography alone is exemplified in the aura that simply seeing Superman's chest gives off. It also gives the sense of a universe that is much more organically based around Superman's heroism, as opposed to simply saying it is, like in 2017's Justice League.
WHY SOME FANS STILL AREN'T HAPPY
The biggest criticism of the way the scene was filmed was it not having Henry Cavill. Fans of his take on the character feel that he has been wasted in controversial to poor films.
This isn't aided by the fact that the John Williams theme from previous Superman movies is heard during the scene. The cut "I have so many questions" line may also be a reference to the aforementioned Man of Steel, further severing connections to the universe that Zack Snyder helped build.
The highly uncertain future of Cavill in the role points to a soft reboot of the DCEU, with the success of Shazam! and Aquaman meaning that, going forward, a lighter and more adventurous tone will likely be standardized for the Universe.
While this may excite those fonder of those qualities for these characters, it's obviously at odds with what came before. The DCEU is also meant to have a looser continuity going forward, making the need to keep old cast members even less of a necessity.
KEEP READING: Shazam! Teased Black Adam In a Deleted Scene