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Whenever we are set to see a superhero on the big screen for the first time, there is always a great deal of weight put how the costume looks. How well does it translate from the comics? Is it a faithful adaptation? Does it look cool? These are all a big part of how quickly audiences may or may not take to a character. One of the heroes making his big screen debut soon is Shazam, and his costume has been the subject of much speculation and hullabaloo. We finally got to see the costume a couple weeks back in a surprising way, but it turns out that what we saw wasn't the costume's original design. Shazam! director David F. Sandberg explained how the costume evolved, saying:
Yeah, there were a few iterations. And you sort of have to keep changing stuff even after we started shooting because you realize things... You shoot the first scene and Zach is like, 'You know, I can't move my hands properly with these gauntlets.' So we had to redesign that, or like the boots kept falling apart so it's like, 'Oh well, I guess we have to do something different there.' It was sort of a constant process of updating and making it work better.
This makes sense, and I can't imagine the majority of superhero costumes we see onscreen are identical to the original designs. Not unlike a superhero testing out web shooters, goggles or fabrics, it is all about seeing what works best, and just because a costume looks great on paper, a computer screen or a hanger, that doesn't mean it is perfect for an actor to wear. It sounds like the original Shazam gauntlets hindered Zachary Levi's maneuverability, and we certainly don't want a magical hero onscreen whose boots are falling apart. These are things that you find out as part of the process and sometimes during filming. Functionality is a key thing, and as David F. Sandberg told The Film Riot Podcast, that involves a lot of trial and error. Finding the right balance of making everything work while still looking cool and staying true to the character is the challenge with designing a superhero costume.
Who knows if we'll ever see the original Shazam costume, but perhaps it will show up in an art book or on some behind-the-scenes or making-of video for the film. We've only had a limited glimpse so far, but the final Shazam costume looks to have hit the mark with bright colors, a glowing lightning bolt and that textured fabric that all the superhero costumes seem to have (just plain spandex isn't very cinematic).
Of course, as with any of these things, leaked set photos and even official marketing aren't a true test of the success of a big screen superhero costume. Ultimately we need to see how the costume looks in action to judge how good it is. Shazam! has recently wrapped filming, so hopefully a tease or a sizzle reel where we'll finally be able to see some of this movie isn't far off. At San Diego Comic-Con perhaps?