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In the coming years, moviegoers will find themselves uttering the true magic word: Shazam! Part of the DC Extended Universe's upcoming film slate will be the story of youngster Billy Batson, who with one simple word can turn into the superhero Shazam, formerly referred to as Captain Marvel, an adult hero with powers ranging from super strength and flight to various forms of magic. For kids who pretend to be superheroes on the playground and around their house, being able to turn into one instantly is the ultimate wish fulfillment! Okay, let's be real, a lot of us who are adults would love this opportunity as well.
Captain Marvel/Shazam has been fighting crime on the comic book pages for over eight decades (though he was put on ice for 20 years), and has been one of DC Comics' most popular characters since the 1970s. Aside from a film serial released in the early 1940s, this project will mark Shazam's full-length theatrical debut after years of appearances in cartoons, video games and even a live-action TV series. The film is still a little under three years away (though that may be subject to change), but there is still enough to chew on, both about what's already been announced, like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson playing main antagonist Black Adam, and what we may end up seeing. Here's everything we know so far about Shazam.
When Is The Shazam Release Date?
Shazam was originally expected to hit theaters on April 5, 2019. At the time, that was placing it right after the unnamed DC film being released on October 5, 2018, but before Justice League 2 comes out on June 14, 2019. However, the DCEU has gone through numerous scheduling changes since late 2014, and now it's unclear whether Shazam will keep that spot or be moved down. Assuming it stays, April is an unusual time for a big blockbuster movie to come out, but as Captain America: The Winter Soldier proved in 2014, that doesn't mean they can't be successful in that release slot. That may not be as applicable to Shazam, considering that Winter Soldier was a sequel and most people aren't familiar with Shazam the character (the word, much more so). Still, it's more likely than not that slot will be beneficial to Shazam, as there won't be much competition, giving it plenty of room to stretch its legs.
What Is The Shazam Rating?
Shazam hasn't been given an official rating yet, and probably won't for some time. That said, if past DC movies are any indication (and for that matter, most superhero movies), it will probably be rated PG-13 for its action sequences. Shazam is looking like it will be one of the lighter entries of the DCEU, so rather than straddle that line between PG-13 and R, ideally it will be a little less intense. One thing we can safely count on is that Shazam won't come out with an R-rated extended cut for home media...I hope.
Shazam's director hasn't been officially announced yet, but in February 2017, it was reported that David F. Sandberg was "in talks" to obtain the job. Sandberg's moviemaking experience primarily rests in the horror realm with movies like Lights Out and Annabelle 2. Having him helm a movie about a boy who becomes a fully-grown superhero upon exclaiming a word sounds like a weird pairing, but it wouldn't be the first unorthodox pick for a superhero director. Remember, Aquaman director James Wan also has a horror background.
Shazam, Previously Known As Captain Marvel
Billy Batson, a.k.a Captain Marvel, was created by Fawcett Comics in 1940, and at one point was considered the most popular superhero of the 1940s. Like most comic book characters, Billy's origins have been retconned several times, but the basic premise remains the same. Orphaned at a young age, young Billy was led by a mysterious stranger through a subway tunnel. Brought before the ancient wizard Shazam in the Rock of Eternity, he is chosen to receive the powers of Captain Marvel because of the goodness in his heart. Whenever Billy says the word "Shazam!", a magical lightning bolt strikes him, and he becomes the adult Captain Marvel, though he still has Billy's intellect and personality. To transform back into Billy Batson, Captain Marvel just has to say the same word. Each letter in "Shazam" corresponds with one of the magical abilities Billy inherited from various Greek and Roman characters: S for the Wisdom of Solomon; H for the Strength of Hercules; A for the Stamina of Atlas; Z for the Power of Zeus; A for the Courage of Achilles and M for the Speed of Mercury.
The recent name change for the superhero goes back to legal troubles the character faced in the early 1950s. Due to a copyright infringement lawsuit from DC Comics over Captain Marvel's similarity to Superman, Fawcett Comics agreed to stop publishing stories featuring him and the other members of the Marvel Family, and they weren't seen again for nearly 20 years. During this interim period, Marvel created their own Captain Marvel and trademarked the name. So when DC got ahold of Captain Marvel and his supporting cast in the early 1970s, although they could still call him Captain Marvel within their published stories, they couldn't publish a comic book called "Captain Marvel." As a result, the various series over the years starring him have had titles circling around the word "Shazam!"
When the character was rebooted in 2012 as part of the New 52, writer Geoff Johns decided to rename him Shazam since many already associated that word with the superhero. Now Billy shares the same name as the being who gave him his powers, and now it's been retconned so that Billy has to say "Shazam!" with good intentions to become the superhero rather than simply say it. This eliminates the pesky problem of him accidentally transforming back into his child self when introducing himself in his superpowered form.
Unlike Black Adam (more on him later), no actor has been announced yet to play Billy or Shazam. With the film several years away, it may be a while until we get a casting announcement for the titular character, though Armie Hammer has expressed interest in playing him following a social media post from The Rock.
Shazam (The Wizard)
The origins of the entity who gave Shazam and Black Adam their powers are steeped in mystery. In a story from the 1980s, it was explained that 5,000 years ago, he was a shepherd who was chosen to be the ancient superhero the Champion. Centuries later, now going by the name Shazam, the wizard passed along his power to Teth-Adam, but when Adam abused his powers, it wasn't until millennia later that he decided to trust another with his power. That person was Billy Batson, but soon after he transformed the boy into Captain Marvel, he was killed by a falling granite block. Though dead, his spirit remained connected to his lair the Rock of Eternity (where he safeguarded the Seven Deadly Sins and other captured mystical threats), and he served as a mentor to Billy and the rest of the Marvel Family.
In the New 52, the wizard is one of seven beings who controlled magic in ancient times. In the present day, he is the only member of the council who hadn't been killed by Black Adam, and knowing he was near death, he attempted to find a person with purity of heart to inherit his power. After going through several candidates, he finally chose Billy, who helped him realize that no one's heart is truly pure, but knew that the boy has potential to be good. After transforming Billy into Shazam, the wizard passed away.
Now that Captain Marvel has been renamed in the New 52, he shares the same name as the wizard, so it's important whenever discussing these characters to clarify which Shazam you're talking about. As for his role in the 2019 film, it will most likely be the same as in the comics, i.e., giving Billy and Black Adam their powers, as well as possibly serving as a mentor. Expect him to be a major (if not the most important) supporting character.
Millenia before Billy Batson became Captain Marvel/Shazam, the ancient wizard Shazam chose another to be his champion. That person was Kahndaqian (previously Egyptian) Teth-Adam. Adam also shouts "Shazam!" to turn into his superpowered form, but the letters in the word represent the Egyptian gods: S for the Stamina of Shu; H for the Swiftness of Heru; A for the Strength of Amon; Z for the Wisdom of Zehuti; A for the Power of Anon and M for the Courage of Mehen. After he becomes corrupted by his power (in the New 52, Adam actually steals the power from its intended recipient, his nephew Aman), he is banished for thousands of years until he is freed from his confinement in the present. Originally, in the pre-New 52 universe, Adam's descendant Theo Adam said, "Shazam!" to transform into Black Adam, but it was then retconned so that Teth-Adam/Black Adam are their own individuals, though Black Adam rarely transforms back into his human form.
Although Black Adam was originally written as a stereotypical supervillain bent on world domination and all that jazz, over the years he has evolved into an anti-hero who wants to do what's best for his people, but his methods are more brutal than what most superheroes are comfortable doing. This is the characterization we will see in the DCEU. Dwayne Johnson has stated that like the New 52 version, the DCEU Black Adam will be a former slave, which has made him very angry. So while he will be a "bad guy" in the sense that he will battling the protagonist, he can't be classified as evil. He has endured tragedy and hardship, and in his eyes, someone must pay for that. Assuming he makes it out of Shazam alive (which is likely), the moviegoers will see him transition from an antagonist to someone who is keen on doing the right thing... he just happens to get in a lot of fights in the process. Black Adam will also lead his own DCEU movie, though it remains to be seen whether that will be released before or after Shazam.
Right now, no plot details have been revealed about Shazam, but at the bare minimum, moviegoers can expect to see the basic story being told of Billy Batson, a child who can transform into the superhero Shazam by saying the magic word "Shazam." In his superpower adult form, Billy's abilities include super strength, flight and conjuring various forms of magic.
It was originally believed that the film's story would also see Billy fighting Black Adam, his millennia-old adversary from the Middle East. It's vaguely reminiscent of how Superman fought General Zod, an antagonist with similar abilities, in Man of Steel. However, there are (unconfirmed) rumblings that Adam might be saved for Shazam 2 instead. In any case, hopefully we'll also get some details regarding the wizard Shazam's background, and magic as a whole in the DCEU. After Wonder Woman, Shazam is the next best character to go down this path.
Black Adam may be Shazam's main villain, but superhero movies have never shied away from using more than one antagonist. If Shazam goes this route, then the next logical character to pit against the World's Mightiest Mortal is Doctor Thaddeus Sivana, who first appeared in in 1940's Whiz Comics #2, the same book that Captain Marvel debuted. While Black Adam has the brawn to go toe-to-toe with Captain Marvel/Shazam, Sivana relies on his scientific mind, sending his unusual experiments and creations to cause trouble for the hero. You'll rarely see him physically battle because of how weak he is, but make no mistake, he's considered by many to be the Big Red Cheese's greatest enemy.
With Black Adam's Shazam status in flux right now, there are a couple possibilities for how Doctor Sivana might be used. One, he's the main antagonist in the first movie. Two, he's not the big bad, but instead is a behind-the-scenes villain or is set up to be the main villain in a possible sequel. One way they could include him is by adapting his New 52 reintroduction. There, Sivana was responsible for accidentally awakening Black Adam during his search to find a magical solution to save his family from unknown circumstances. Sivana could do the same in the movie, and while Black Adam is fighting Shazam, the mad scientist could somehow be affected by the magic in Black Adam's tomb (or in the Rock of Eternity), setting him up as the primary threat for the next time around.
DC Extended Universe Connection
Shortly before Shazam's release date was officially announced, New Line Cinema president Toby Emmerich mentioned that the movie would have a "tone unto itself." Shortly after in November, Dwayne Johnson sent out a tweet about Shazam that included the hashtag #Independence. This led some to wonder if Shazam would exist separately from the other DC films. DC Comics eventually clarified the situation in December 2014 by confirming that Shazam will exist in the DCEU, so we can expect to see the World's Mightiest Mortal flying in the same world as the other heroes. Given the character's history, we can also expect the film to be more lighthearted than most of DC's cinematic fare.
Despite his connection to many DC superheroes, Shazam will not appear in Justice League. It's possible that he could show up in one of the sequels, especially considering that Shazam was part of the team in the comics, but for now, it looks like he may be going at it solo for a little bit. However, that might not be the same case for Black Adam. Dwayne Johnson teased that eventually we will see a showdown between the anti-hero and Superman, Batman and other Justice Leaguers. If this comes to pass, we might need to start thinking of Black Adam as the DCEU's Loki, i.e. the villain who begins battling one hero, but eventually starts interacting with the others.
Like most of DC's biggest heroes, Shazam/Captain Marvel has a diverse group of supporting characters by his side, several of whom are superheroes in their own right. The two primary members of the Marvel/Shazam family are Mary Bromfield and Freddy Freeman. Mary, originally Billy's long-lost twin sister, was also given her powers by the wizard Shazam, meaning that she utters the same word as Billy to turn into Mary Marvel. In Freddy's case, he was given his powers directly from Captain Marvel after being critically injured by a supervillain, and as a result has to say "Captain Marvel" to become Captain Marvel Jr. Other supporting characters have included Uncle Dudley, a comic-relief old man who pretended to be "Uncle Marvel," and Mr. Tawky Tawny, a anthropomorphic tiger who wore a suit and spoke in a dignified manner.
In the New 52, Billy's adoptive siblings, which consist of Mary and Freddy, as well as new additions Eugene, Darla and Pedro, were briefly given powers during Shazam's fight with Black Adam (as seen above), but these were temporary. Tawny made an appearance in the New 52 as well, though this version is a normal tiger who Billy visited at the zoo after his parents died. While it's not a guarantee we'll see any of these characters in Shazam, given that how much of the DCEU is being inspired by the New 52, it wouldn't be surprising to see the adoptive family approach taken with introducing them (and you can be sure that Tawny won't be talking and walking on two feet). If Mary, Freddy and the others do become superheroes, that will probably be saved for the sequels.
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