Shazam! is something of a departure for the DC film universe in that it's a much more lighthearted story. This is fitting since the hero is ultimately a 14-year-old boy. However, just because our hero is a kid doesn't mean that he won't be faced with some grown-up problems. In the case of Shazam! that problem will come in the form of Mark Strong as Doctor Silvana. I had a chance to interview Mark Strong on the set of Shazam! last year and he feels that because the film has so much humor in it, it's that much more important for his villain to be terrifying. According to Strong...
I don't think it could ever be too dark. I think especially the more lighthearted the rest of the film is, and this one is. I mean there's some great comedy to be had with that idea that a 14-year-old boy in a grown up man's body doesn't really understand or is able to cope with his powers. I had this discussion with [director] David [F. Sandberg] and Peter [Safran] the producer very early on and said I think Sivana should be like heat seeking ballistic evil. The more frightening you make him, the more you feel that the kids are in jeopardy, and therefore the more that morality term of balance of good and evil plays out satisfacually. I think if he ever steps back and takes his foot off the gas of being dark.. it doesn't serve the purpose of the story, which is he needs to be a terrifying nemesis.
In order to balance out the humor that comes with Shazam!'s premise, Mark Strong's job is to be a force of true, dark evil in the story. If he's not, then there's no real sense of jeopardy for the heroes of Billy Batson and his friend Freddy. In short, Shazam! is still going to feel like a superhero movie, as the hero will be going against a truly dangerous opponent.
We learned a great deal about who Silvana will be in the new Shazam! film while on the set. While he's still truly a bad guy, his motives will likely be understandable to the audience, even if his actions won't be condoned.
You can get the most recent look at Mark Strong's character in the newest trailer. Check it out below.
A character like Doctor Silvana would be dangerous to an adult hero, but to one who is technically a teenager, even though he looks like Zachary Levi, Silvana will likely be even scarier. Billy Batson will need to fight Silvana with powers he doesn't even completely understand, stacking the deck against him even more.
Properly combining comedy with moments of suspense or action that are designed to feel truly harrowing can be a delicate balance. Your villain can come across as too comical and thus not feel like a true threat, and make no mistake, while Mark Strong has played some vicious characters in his today, he's perfectly capable of bringing humor to a role when necessary. However, in this case, it looks like Shazam! plans to play to Strong's, well, strength, and make Doctor Silvana the sort of villain who could seem dangerous to any of DC's heroes.
We'll see the final result when Shazam! arrives this spring.