Can officially confirm: Shazam! looks delightful AF. A few days ago, Warner Bros. invited Collider and a few other journalists to the studio’s Burbank lot to watch some extended footage from the upcoming superhero flick starring Zachary Levi. Director David F. Sandberg and producer Peter Safran were on hand to introduce the footage, and really emphasized that the film is continuing DC’s lighthearted streak started by Wonder Woman and Aquaman.
“It gives you a sense of how we leaned in on the comedy and the fun, especially as you see Billy Batson exploring his powers,” Safran said. “We’re just excited about Shazam! We think it’s something so different, so original from anything that’s been offered by DC or, frankly, anybody else in the superhero world.”
“Different” is the operative word here, for sure, as the tone of this footage is light year’s away from the dour darkness of Batman vs. Superman and the odd tonal mishmash of Justice League. The footage we saw was, above all else, genuinely funny, with Levi working really well opposite his incredibly game young co-star, Jack Dylan Grazer.
But first, the footage itself: The clips opened with the younger Billy Batson (Asher Angel) and motor-mouthed Freddy Freeman (Grazer) in their school cafeteria, debating between the power of flight and invisibility. Freeman concludes, correctly, that flight is for heroes and invisibility is for pervy people. Grazer’s character is an obsessive fan of the superheroes that exist in the DCEU, and his prize possession is a bullet that was smashed against Superman’s body. (The Man of Steel and Batman are very much a presence in Shazam!, even if they don’t actually appear.)
After school, Freddy is accosted by a pair of bullies, but Billy bats them away with his friend’s crutch. He escapes on to the Philadelphia subway, which immediately starts to magically fritz out; the other passengers disappear in an almost Infinity War-like dust cloud and Billy is taken to The Rock of Eternity, the “source of all magic.”
For anyone who likes their comic book movies mystical, this will be the highlight. Sandberg and Co. are going all in on the origin story’s more fantastical elements, and Djimon Hounsou strikes a very fantastic, Gandalf-like figure as The Wizard. Hounsou’s character relates the story of his power to Billy, including a person in the past who used it for evil ends. (We see this caped figure outlined in swirling mist, and it’s maybe, maybe Black Adam? Sandberg and Safran would neither confirm nor deny.) The Wizard tells Billy to simply say his name, “Shazam”, to harness this power himself. After a chuckle, Billy obliges, and one very sudden thunderclap later—shoutout to Sandberg and the jump-scare skills he honed on Annabelle: Creation—and Billy is back on the subway in the body of Zachary Levi, and a fellow passenger is complimenting his flamboyant tights and cape. (Low-key my favorite comedic moment of the footage is Billy, not used to being so tall, absolutely nailing his head while exiting the subway.)
From there, Billy seeks out Freddy because he’s “better at this Caped Crusader stuff than I am.” In the alleyway outside Freddy’s house, the duo discover that Billy can’t fly (yet) and can’t turn invisible, but he can shoot lighting from his fingertips, which he accidentally uses to knock out a power line. While experimenting with lightning powers on a playground at night, Billy and Freddy come across a mugging taking place. Billy accidentally uses super-speed—another power on the list!—to knock the mugger out, and then struggles to explain what his superhero name is.
Freddy: His name is Thundercrack.
Billy: That sounds like a bathroom thing.
Freddy: Philadelphia Man.
Billy: That’s a cream cheese thing.
From there, Billy and Freddy head to a convenience store to buy beer. (Freddy: “We don’t have a fake ID.” Billy: “I am the fake ID.”) This scene, in which the convenience store just happens to get robbed, has been shown the most in the first trailer, but there’s a great bit where Billy discovers he’s bulletproof and hands the guns back to the criminals to shoot him some more. This was followed by a quick look at the second trailer which showed a lot more of Mark Strong‘s villainous Sivana and a charming moment where Billy learns he can fly, and that was all she wrote.
It’s hard to say what kind of reaction Shazam is going to get. Like I said, this footage was a blast. All the expectations touting this film as more of an action-comedy than anything are certainly true, and it’s legitimately funny, not just “funny for a comic book movie.” Grazer is going to break out in a big way thanks to this; he plays a great 80s-style motormouthed nerd, and his energy alongside both Angel and Levi crackles just as much as the lightning. Plus, it’s just so refreshing to watch a superhero who is so gosh darn hyped to be a superhero.
But I also know that the O.G. DCEU as directed by Zack Snyder has a lot of fans—very, very passionate fans—and a Zack Snyder joint Shazam! is most certainly not. It’s not quite Marvel shiny, but this feels completely different from even Man of Steel, far more in the same vein as Aquaman. If you like your DC Comics heroes mopey and mad—which can be cool!—you might not like where Shazam! is flying the franchise.
Either way, we’ll find out when the film hits theaters on April 5. Until then, check out a new featurette that sees Levi, Angel, and Grazer taking you behind the scenes of the film.