If you loved the NBC series Chuck and the Tom Hanks movie Big, then DC would like to introduce you to your new favorite superhero film: Shazam!. Warner Brothers and DC premiered the first Shazam! trailer at Comic-Con over the weekend, and it looks weird, fun, and unlike any of the current big tentpole hero franchises that typically dominate the box office.
Starring Chuck's Zachary Levi, the film focuses on a young boy named Billy Batson. After defending his foster brother from bullies, Billy is introduced to an ancient wizard named Shazam — and yes, he thinks the name's silly too — who gives him superpowers that also turn him into a grown man (Levi). It's an odd premise no doubt, but the formula appears to be a winning one.
After watching the trailer, it's easy to see just how committed this movie is to exploring the idea of a young boy who has spent his entire life running from foster homes finding a family and a purpose. There's a sense of innocence inherent in the concept that Levi and the character's younger portrayer, Andi Mack's Asher Angel, sell so well in this first look. Fans of the movie Big starring Hanks as a child who gets to experience life as an adult will definitely feel a sense of deja vu in some places. That's part of the fun though.
One of the best scenes involves Billy and his foster brother figuring out what powers he possesses. They're both downright giddy during the process, and, be honest, when was the last time you watched a superhero movie where the hero was genuinely excited about their gifts?
The world's first look at Shazam! is almost guaranteed to make you grin, especially if you've been following Levi since his Buy More days. As Chuck Bartowski, he perfected the art of playing a character unexpectedly thrust into a strange, scary new world. Like Chuck, Billy seems to lead with his heart and his imagination, making this a superhero film that doesn't need to be dark and gritty to work.
Although the character of Shazam may not be as well-known as Batman and Wonder Woman, he's been around for decades. Originally called Captain Marvel (the name was changed to satisfy a copyright dispute with Marvel comics), Shazam made his comic book debut in 1940. Despite his longevity, the character has never become a part of the wider pop culture conversation the way many of his DC peers have. But that might actually work in the movies favor.
Marvel has found success by building movies around characters that audiences outside of the comic book community aren't familiar with, like the Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther. By now, it feels like everyone knows Superman's origin story, but a character like Shazam seems fresh — even though hardcore comic fans likely know his story by heart. In this way, DC could find success with the hero, as long as they can get non-fans into the theater when the movie premieres in April 2019.
Either way, leaning into the freshness of a character like Shazam could be invigorating for DC. It certainly brings plenty of joy to the trailer. Just try not to laugh when Billy marvels about his total lack of knowledge when it comes to his new suit, "Superpowers? Dude, I don't even know how to pee in this thing."
Shazam! isn't just about Billy's newfound gifts though; it's also about how he uses them. The young hero will be pitted against Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, played by Kingsman: The Secret Service's Mark Strong. If Billy wants to defeat the mad scientist (yes, he's really a mad scientist), then he's going to need to learn how to use his powers responsibly. Think Big with a lesson that goes a bit deeper than adulthood sucks.
While it's impossible to judge a movie based on its trailer alone, there's no denying that Shazam! looks promising, especially if you've been waiting for a superhero movie that might actually make you smile.