Come April 5, one of the oldest properties in comics will finally get an adaptation worthy of its scope. Shazam!, starring Zachary Levi, Djimon Hounsou, Mark Strong and Asher Angel and directed by David Sandberg (Annabelle: Creation) will bring to life the story of Billy Batson, a foster kid who gains the power to transform into a full-grown superhero when he utters the magic word, "Shazam!"
Despite the fact that the character of Shazam (nee Captain Marvel) has been around long-enough to have been created as an early Superman knock-off, a three-season live action series and a short-lived animated series have been the only adaptations to date of of C.C. Beck and Bill Parker's 1939 creation.
Star Zachary Levi spoke at length to CBR during New York Comic Con, and among the revelations the star shared, he explained why he believes now is the perfect time for the franchise to make a big-screen debut, both because of its hopeful message and how universally aspirational Billy Batson's story is.
"This premise is kind of almost the most iconic of all wish fulfillment premises," Levi said. "And yet, for whatever reason, only now is this movie being made. But haven’t we all sat around as children wishing we had the ability to just magically transform into our super self? …Some days I wake up and I’m still hoping that my genetics are mutating and I’ll be able to – I was a big X-Men fan. X-Factor, X-Force, X-Everything! And that’s one of the things we love about that franchise, is that is that it just kinda happens. You were normal, and then you mutated.?
"Shazam is the kind of classic – it’s almost Grecian almost in that you’re a normal person who says a word it’s a magic word and all of a sudden now you are imbued with magical superpowers," Levi continued. "[You get] fast and strong and all of these things. I think there’s something so incredibly classic that’s wrapped up in that, but also the very pure, unjaded wish-fulfillment of a pure-hearted kid who really is just trying to make his way in the world, find love, find his family and this all-powerful wizard sees in this kid something no one else sees and therefore because of that rewards him and then he gets to be Earth’s Mightiest Mortal. It’s just so awesome, it’s so cool to get to be able to take that on. And again, being a bit of a man-child, I don’t want to say it’s second nature because I’m still an adult, obviously, but I think it’s something that I feel like I’ve always been, I’ve always tapped into that and really am grateful that however I was created in this world is something that’s lending itself to bringing this character to life."
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Asked what it is about Shazam! that makes it particularly resonant for 2019, Levi went back to the innocent joy of it all. "Honestly, I think the purity of it. While we all like seeing movies that challenge us with their kind of the darker underbelly of life and we need to shine lights on those things and tell those stories, there’s a lot of heaviness in the world and I think that it’s really beautiful when you can go and cheer for that’s just got a good heart that really does mean well and they’re trying to find their way in the world."
"We need heroes," Levi emphasized. "That’s why I think we flock to superhero movies. We wanna see ourselves in them, we do see ourselves in them, but we also feel kind of inspired and more hopeful that there is good in the world that is vanquishing the evil in the world that is standing up for the everyman and going and trying to make a difference. But again also, it’s the wish fulfillment. Other characters, other superheroes you don’t’ necessarily, it’s difficult to see yourselves in those shoes. But Billy Batson is every kid, he’s every kid. Again, we’re 14 or younger, or adults still we’re still having that wouldn’t it be so cool if and Billy Batson is the manifestation of that. Wouldn’t it be so cool if you were transported to a magical dimension and a wizard says I pick you and boom, now you get to go fly?"
Shazam! Comes out in theaters on April 5, 2019.