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Shazam! (film)

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Shazam!
Shazam! theatrical poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid F. Sandberg
Produced byPeter Safran
Screenplay byHenry Gayden
Story by
Based onCharacters
by DC Comics
Starring
Music byBenjamin Wallfisch
CinematographyMaxime Alexandre
Edited byMichel Aller
Production
company
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • March 15, 2019 (2019-03-15) (Toronto)
  • April 5, 2019 (2019-04-05) (United States)
Running time
132 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$80–100 million[2][3]
Box office$363 million[4]

Shazam! is a 2019 American superhero film based on the DC Comics character of the same name. Produced by New Line Cinema and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, it is the seventh installment in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Directed by David F. Sandberg from a screenplay by Henry Gayden, and a story by Gayden and Darren Lemke, the film stars Asher Angel as Billy Batson, a teenage boy who can transform into an adult superhero, played by Zachary Levi. Mark Strong and Jack Dylan Grazer also star.

Development of a live-action Shazam! film began at New Line in the early 2000s but was delayed for many years. The film went into pre-production in 2009 with director Peter Segal and writer John August and Dwayne Johnson considered to star as the villain Black Adam, but the project fell through; Johnson acts as an executive producer on Shazam!. William Goldman, Alec Sokolow, Joel Cohen, Bill Birch, and Geoff Johns, among others, were all attached to the project as writers at various points. The film was officially announced in 2014, with Johnson attached to star as either Shazam or Black Adam. He would later be cast in January 2017 to lead a solo Black Adam development project. Sandberg signed on to direct Shazam! in February 2017 and Levi was cast that October, with Angel joining the following month. Principal photography began in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on January 29, 2018, with most of the film shot at Pinewood Toronto Studios, and wrapped on May 11, 2018.

Shazam! was released in the United States by Warner Bros. Pictures in RealD 3D, Dolby Cinema, and IMAX 3D on April 5, 2019. The film has grossed $363 million worldwide, making it the eigth highest-grossing film of 2019. Despite being the lowest-grossing film of the DCEU, it emerged as a box office success. The film received positive reviews from critics with much praise for Sandberg's direction and the performances of Levi and Grazer, as well as its light tone and sense of fun.[5] A sequel is in development, with Sandberg returning to direct.

Plot

In 1974 Upstate New York, young Thaddeus Sivana is arguing with his father and older brother during a car trip when he is transported to the Rock of Eternity, a magical temple hidden in another dimension. He meets the ancient wizard Shazam, last of the Council of Wizards, who has spent centuries searching for a new champion who is "pure of heart" after the previous champion, driven by revenge, released the Seven Deadly Sins upon the world. Thaddeus is tempted by the Sins, entrapped in statues, and is deemed unworthy and returned to Earth.

In present-day Philadelphia, foster child Billy Batson runs afoul of the law while searching for his birth mother and is placed in a group home run by Victor and Rosa Vasquez with five other foster children: Mary Bromfield, Pedro Peña, Eugene Choi, Darla Dudley and superhero enthusiast Freddy Freeman. Meanwhile, an embittered adult Sivana discovers a way to return to the Rock of Eternity. There, he steals the Eye of Sin, becoming the Sins' vessel and besting the Wizard before returning to Earth and using the Sins to murder his brother, father and Sivana Industries' board of directors.

At school, Billy saves Freddy from bullies and is chased into a subway, where Shazam summons Billy, chosen as the new champion. By calling Shazam's name, Billy is transformed into an adult superhero endowed with the wizard's name; thanking Billy, the Wizard turns to dust, leaving behind his staff. At home, Freddy helps Billy explore his newfound powers: electricity manipulation, near-invulnerability, super-strength, speed, genius-level intellect and flight. Freddy's videos of Shazam testing his powers become a viral sensation, and Billy begins skipping school to use his powers as Shazam for money and fame. Seeing Shazam save a bus on the news, Sivana challenges and easily defeats him, demanding he surrender his powers, but Shazam transforms back into Billy and escapes into a crowd. From the news, Sivana deduces Billy's identity and abducts Freddy to find Billy. At the Vasquez home, the other children also infer Billy's secret and tell him they have found his mother, who lives nearby.

Billy reunites with his mother, but discovers she had abandoned him on purpose, feeling unqualified as a single teenage mother. Billy returns the compass she gave him as a toddler and leaves, telling her he needs to return to his real family. Sivana calls Billy, having taken his foster siblings hostage, and Billy as Shazam agrees to give Sivana his powers in exchange for the family's safety. Sivana and Shazam travel to the Rock of Eternity where Sivana takes the wizard's staff, but the siblings follow and attack Sivana. Shazam realizes that Sivana loses his powers when all seven Sins leave his body.

Sivana pursues Shazam and his siblings to a winter carnival, unleashing the Sins upon the crowd. As Wrath battles Shazam, the other Sins capture his siblings, demanding his powers. When Sivana recalls the Sins, Shazam uses the opportunity to take the staff and stuns Sivana. Remembering the Wizard's words, Billy uses the staff to share his powers, transforming his siblings into adult superheroes like him. Shazam breaks the staff and battles Sivana while his siblings distract the Sins. Shazam baits Envy out of Sivana's body, leaving him powerless, and takes back the Eye of Sin which recaptures all the Sins. Billy and his siblings are hailed as heroes. Returning the Eye and the Sins to their prison, Billy and his siblings realize the Rock of Eternity can be their new lair. Later, Billy arrives at school as Shazam to have lunch with his siblings, revealing he has also invited Superman, to Freddy's shock and joy.

In a mid-credits scene, an imprisoned Sivana is approached by Mister Mind, who proposes an alliance. In a post-credits scene, Shazam and Freddy test if the former can telepathically communicate with fish.

Cast

  • Asher Angel and Zachary Levi as William "Billy" Batson / Shazam, respectively: A troubled teenaged boy who is chosen as the "Champion of Eternity". Given powers by an ancient wizard, he transforms into an adult with superpowers when he calls the sorcerer's name. Batson is chosen as the new Champion, eons after the Council of Eternity selected another hero, who eventually killed all of the Council except for Shazam.[6] The powers given from the ancient wizard to Batson include gifts bestowed upon the sorcerer from various others. These powers include: the Wisdom of Solomon, the Strength of Hercules, the Stamina of Atlas (near-limitless resilience), the Power of Zeus (lightning control and magical resistance), the Courage of Achilles (near indestructibility), and the Speed of Mercury (also provides flight).[7][8] The production team saw over one hundred candidates for Shazam before casting Levi, who originally auditioned to play Freddy Freeman's adult superhero alter-ego[9] before being asked to audition and test for the lead.[10] Angel, cast as Billy, shot his scenes for Shazam! in-between his commitments to the Disney Channel series Andi Mack.[11]
    • David Kohlsmith as 4-year-old William "Billy" Batson.[12]
  • Mark Strong as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana: A physicist who had grown up as an outcast in his wealthy family. Sivana himself was summoned by the Wizard Shazam as a child, but was not chosen as his champion, leading Sivana to spend his life trying to unlock the secret to return to the Rock of Eternity.[13][14]
    • Ethan Pugiotto as Young Thaddeus Sivana.[15]
  • Jack Dylan Grazer as Frederick "Freddy" Freeman: Billy's foster brother and best friend, a disabled, nerdy superhero enthusiast who is the only person who knows that he is Shazam.[16]
  • Djimon Hounsou as Shazam:[18] An ancient wizard seeking a successor, who bestows his powers on Billy Batson so that he can magically transform into an adult superhero. Hounsou previously portrayed Ricou, the King of the Fishermen, in Aquaman.[19][19][20]
  • Faithe Herman as Darla Dudley: Billy's youngest foster sibling at his new home, an energetic and effusive little girl.[21]
  • Grace Fulton as Mary Bromfield: Billy's foster sister at his new home, the "den mother" who helps take care of the other kids and is debating attending college in California.[22][23]
  • Ian Chen as Eugene Choi: Billy's foster brother at his new home, an obsessive gaming enthusiast and budding techie.[24]
  • Jovan Armand as Pedro Peña: Billy's foster brother at his new home, a shy, sensitive kid who has trouble opening up.[24]
  • Marta Milans as Rosa Vasquez: The foster mother of the group home where Billy and his friends live.[25]
  • Cooper Andrews as Victor Vasquez: The foster father of the group home where Billy and his friends live.[26]

The film also features John Glover as Mr. Sivana, the estranged father of Dr. Thaddeus Sivana and CEO of Sivana Industries.[27] Wayne Ward portrays Thaddeus Sivana's bullying brother Sid as an adult and Landon Doak portrays Sid as a teenager. Carson MacCormac and Evan Marsh portray Brett and Burke Breyer, the bullies at the kids' school who torment Freddy.[28] Andi Osho reprises her role as social worker Emma Glover from Sandberg's film Lights Out in an Easter egg appearance.[29][30][31] Natalia Safran was cast as Mrs. Sivana, Doctor Sivana's mother. Safran previously portrayed Rina, the Queen of the Fishermen Kingdom of Atlantis in Aquaman.[32] Caroline Palmer portrays Billy's biological mother Marilyn, who secretly allowed child services to take her son due to giving birth to him as a teenager.

Director David F. Sandberg makes cameo appearances performing as each of the three Crocodile-Men (collaboratively assisted by Steve Newburn and Ned Morill), and provides the voice of Mister Mind for a mid-credits sequence.[33] Sandberg's wife, actress Lotta Losten, portrays Dr. Lynn Crosby, a researcher working with Dr. Sivana who is killed by him.[34] Sound designer Bill R. Dean has an uncredited cameo as the voice of a Batman toy,[35] Ryan Handley, Zachary Levi's stunt double, also appears as Superman in a silent cameo appearance at the end of the film, where the character is only seen from the neck down, due to Henry Cavill being unavailable for shooting.[36]

The Seven Deadly Sins – a supernatural team of villains consisting of the demons Pride, Envy, Greed, Lust, Wrath, Gluttony, and Sloth – were portrayed by stunt doubles in motion capture suits on-set during filming and depicted as CGI characters.[37] Their voices were collectively provided by actors Steve Blum, Darin De Paul, and Fred Tatasciore.

Production

Development

New Line Cinema began development of a Shazam! live-action feature film in the early 2000s, with multiple screenplay drafts, by William Goldman, the team of Alec Sokolow and Joel Cohen, Bryan Goluboff, and John August. The version of the Shazam! script written by August, which went into pre-production in 2008, was an action-comedy which focused on the origin story of the hero, then known by his original name of Captain Marvel, and his young alter ego, Billy Batson.[38] Peter Segal[39] was attached as director and Dwayne Johnson was in talks to appear as the film's villain, Black Adam.[39][40] New Line Cinema was absorbed into Warner Bros. during the course of development.

Following the success of Warner's Batman film The Dark Knight and the commercial failure of its lighter, family-friendly Speed Racer, both during the summer of 2008, August departed from the project, citing pressure from the studio to make the screenplay darker and more serious.[40][41][42] In August 2009, Bill Birch and Geoff Johns, a prominent DC Comics writer, were assigned to write the screenplay, while Segal remained attached as director.[43] In August 2010, the studio considered canceling the theatrical movie in favor of a live-action series for prime time network television.[44] In December 2013, Segal stated that the film would not be happening, as the similarities between Captain Marvel and Superman had become an obstacle after the successful launch of Man of Steel earlier that year.[45]

While development on the Shazam! film was in limbo, DC Comics rebooted the comic book franchise as part of their New 52 relaunch in 2012. Due to ongoing trademark conflicts with Marvel Comics, who owned the trademark for "Captain Marvel" for use with their own character of the same name,[46] DC renamed their Captain Marvel superhero character "Shazam" at this time.[47] DC had been required to market and promote the character using the trademark Shazam!, since acquiring the publishing rights from Fawcett Comics in 1972.[48] Captain Marvel had originated at Fawcett in 1939, but fell into limbo after 1953 following a long legal battle with DC over Captain Marvel's similarities to Superman.[49]

In April 2014, Warner Bros. revealed their upcoming slate of films based on DC Comics properties. A Justice League film was set to be released in 2017, alongside adaptations of Shazam!, Fables, and 100 Bullets. The Shazam! film was tentatively set for release in July 2016.[50][51][52] Dwayne Johnson stated he would be starring in Shazam! that August, but was undecided between portraying Shazam or Black Adam.[53] In September, Johnson was cast as Black Adam, while Darren Lemke was set to write the script.[54] In January 2017, Henry Gayden was hired to rewrite Lemke's script.[55] In February 2017, David F. Sandberg was in talks with the studio to direct Shazam!,[56] while Dwayne Johnson was set to star in a Black Adam solo film, as opposed to appearing as the villain in Shazam!,[57] while Doctor Sivana, another nemesis of Shazam, became the Shazam! film's main villain.[14]

By July 2017, the studio had begun active development on Shazam! and Sandberg was confirmed as director, with production to begin in early 2018.[58] Dwayne Johnson relayed that a different creative team was now involved than when he first signed on to the film.[59] After being cast as the lead, Zachary Levi stated in an interview, "the idea is that it's gonna feel like the movie Big, but with super powers," when was asked about the direction DC Films and New Line Cinema are going for with Shazam![60] Warner Bros. stated that the film would be based on the 2012-2013 Shazam! backup feature from the Justice League comic book, by writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank, which told a modernized version of Shazam's origin.[22][61]

Pre-production

In August 2017, director David F. Sandberg stated that the film would be the next to shoot in the DC universe,[62] and by the end of the month, it had begun pre-production.[63] By October 2017, cinematographer Maxime Alexandre and production designer Jennifer Spence, who previously worked with Sandberg on Annabelle: Creation, were added to the production.[64] The next month, Aquaman stunt coordinator Kyle Gardiner was hired to work on the film's action sequences.[65] On January 12, 2018, the film's release date was announced as April 19, 2019, later moved to April 5.[66]

Casting

By September 2014, Dwayne Johnson was set to portray Black Adam in the film, but by July 2017, he had left the project to pursue a Black Adam solo film.[54][57] In August 2017, the casting process for Shazam and other characters had begun. Sandberg had stated in an interview that instead of de-aging an actor using special effects or CGI, he would cast both a child actor and an adult actor for the role of the main character.[67] Zachary Levi, John Cena, Zane Holtz, Jake McDorman, Derek Theler and Billy Magnussen all met with and/or auditioned for Sandberg for the role of Shazam.[68]

By October 2017, Levi was cast in the titular role.[7] In November, Grace Fulton joined the cast as Mary Bromfield, one of Billy Batson's foster siblings.[69] Fulton had previously worked with the same director on Annabelle: Creation.[23] Later that month, Mark Strong was in final negotiations to play Dr. Sivana.[14] Strong confirmed he would be playing the role by January 2018.[70] By November 2017, Asher Angel was cast as the titular hero's teenage originator Billy Batson.[8] In December, Jack Dylan Grazer was added as Freddy Freeman, Batson's best friend.[16] Later that month, Jovan Armand, Ian Chen, Faithe Herman, and Cooper Andrews were cast as Pedro Peña, Eugene Choi, and Darla Dudley, with Andrews portraying Victor Vazquez, one of Billy Batson's foster parents.[24][21][26]

By January 2018, Ron Cephas Jones entered talks to play the role of the wizard Shazam, who granted Batson his powers.[71] Later that month, Spanish actress Marta Milans joined the cast to play Rosa Vazquez, one of the foster parents at the home where Billy lives.[25] By the end of January 2018, actress Lotta Losten, the wife of director David F. Sandberg, revealed that she has a role in the film.[72] On April 23, 2018, Ross Butler was announced to have joined the cast.[73] By July, Djimon Hounsou had replaced Jones as the wizard Shazam, due to Jones having scheduling conflicts.[20] Henry Cavill was in talks to reprise his role as Superman from previous DCEU films for a cameo, but was unable to because of scheduling.[74]

Filming

Principal photography for Shazam! began in Toronto and Hamilton, in Ontario, Canada on January 29, 2018, under the working title Franklin,[75][76][77] and wrapped by mid-May 2018.[78] The film was set primarily in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is firmly established within the DCEU.[22] Most of the production was shot at Pinewood Toronto Studios, and also several public locations around the city, including the University of Toronto, Woodbine Shopping Centre,[79] and Hearn Generating Station. In early March 2018, filming took place at Fort York National Historic Site in downtown Toronto.[80] By early May 2018, Asher Angel, among other young cast members, had finished filming his part,[81] and principal photography wrapped on May 11, 2018.[82] Additional photography took place in Toronto between November and December 2018.[83][84] Scenes set at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and well as other location work such as footage of the skyline and aerial shots, were filmed in the city of Philadelphia in December 2018.[85] Shazam! had a filming budget of $90–100 million (and about $102 million once post-production was complete), making it the least expensive DCEU film to-date.[86][2][87][3]

Post-production

David F. Sandberg's two-time collaborator Michel Aller served as the editor for Shazam!.[22] Mike Wassel (Hellboy II: The Golden Army and The Fast and the Furious franchise) and Kelvin McIlwain (Aquaman) were the overall visual effects supervisors for the film. Technicolor's VFX studios Mr. X (known for The Shape of Water and Tron: Legacy) and Moving Picture Company (MPC) provided visual effects.[88][89] Rodeo FX, Digital Domain, and Rise FX also worked on the VFX.[90]

Music

On July 21, 2018, Benjamin Wallfisch was announced as the composer for Shazam!, marking his third collaboration with director David F. Sandberg after previously scoring Sandberg's Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation.[91] Wallfisch had also provided additional music for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the second film in the DC Extended Universe.[92]

Wallfisch cited the influence John Williams and scores from 1980s Amblin Entertainment films as inspirations for Shazam!, to match the tone of a film about "an old-school superhero from the Golden Age."[93] In writing the score, Wallfisch stated that he was "picturing what might happen if a 14-year-old was put in front of a 100 piece orchestra and told there were no limits. I wanted the score to feel like it might have been written by an exuberant kid just having the time of his life with an orchestra."[94]

Marketing

In April 2018, a first look at Shazam! was shown at the CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, as director David F. Sandberg introduced behind-the-scene footage.[95][96] During an interview with Film Riot Podcast in June 2018, Sandberg stated that "On this one, it was just like 'Yeah, I want this to be a classic superhero movie.' It takes place in the winter, so it's a lot of dark exteriors, but with a lot of colorful lights and stuff around them."[97] On July 21, 2018, the first teaser trailer was shown at San Diego Comic-Con during the Warner Bros. panel at Hall H, with Sandberg, Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, and Jack Dylan Grazer in attendance. The trailer was later released online.[98] It received a favorable response from journalists and audiences, who praised its humorous, zany tone.[99]

New footage from the film made its debut at Brazil Comic Con (CCXP) in São Paulo on December 9, 2018 during the Warner Bros. studio panel, with the footage described for the attendees as action-packed.[100] A new trailer was released on March 4, and a three-minute sneak peek was included with the digital home media of Aquaman.

At the STP 500 on March 24, 2019, Shazam! was the primary sponsor of Aric Almirola and the #10 Ford Mustang in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Almirola would go on to finish 9th after starting 2nd.[101][102]

Release

On March 13, 2019, Warner Bros. Entertainment announced that they were teaming up with Fandango for exclusive preview screenings on March 23, two weeks before release, on 1,200 select screens and 40 exhibition circuits.[103]

Shazam! premiered in Toronto on March 15, 2019,[104] and was theatrically released in the United States by Warner Bros. Entertainment in RealD 3D, Dolby Cinema and IMAX 3D on April 5, 2019.[66]

Reception

Box office

As of June 11, 2019, Shazam! has grossed $139.6 million in the United States and Canada, and $223.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $363 million.[4]

In the United States and Canada, Shazam! was released alongside The Best of Enemies and Pet Sematary, and was projected to gross $40–50 million from 4,260 theaters in its opening weekend.[105][3] Two weeks before its release, the film grossed $3.3 million from Fandango advance screenings, higher than the $2.9 million made by fellow DCEU film Aquaman the previous December.[106] It then made $5.9 million from Thursday night screenings on April 4, for a combined preview total of $9.2 million.[107] The film grossed a total of $20.5 million on its first day, including Thursday previews but not the March screenings. It went on to debut to $53.5 million, finishing first at the box office.[108] In its second weekend the film made $25.1 million, retaining the top spot, before being dethroned by newcomer The Curse of La Llorona in its third weekend.[109][110] In its fourth weekend, it made $5.8 million and finished fifth at the box office, including behind fellow superhero films Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel.[111]

In other territories, the film was released in 53 markets on Wednesday, April 3 and Thursday, April 4, and was projected to debut to $100–120 million, for a global opening of $145–170. In its first two days of international release the film made $15.7 million, finishing first in 48 of its 53 markets. It was then released in an additional 26 countries, including China, where it made $16.4 million on its first day. It went on to have an international debut of $102 million, and a global total of $158.6 million. It came in first in 60 of its 79 markets, with its highest-grossing being China ($43.4 million), Mexico ($10.6 million), Australia ($10.3 million), the UK ($15.3 million), Russia ($8.4 million) and Brazil ($8.7 million).[112]

Critical response

At the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 90% based on 365 reviews, with an average rating of 7.27/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "An effortlessly entertaining blend of humor and heart, Shazam! is a superhero movie that never forgets the genre's real power: joyous wish fulfillment."[113] On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 70 out of 100, based on 53 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[114] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an overall positive score of 83% and a 61% "definite recommend."[108]

Nick Allen of RogerEbert.com said that "while Shazam! is goofier (and darker) than it may look, you'll wish its superhero came with a little more spark,"[115] while The Hollywood Reporter's Frank Scheck called the film "Big on steroids" and praised the tone and performances.[116] Alonso Duralde of TheWrap wrote, "If the Wonder Woman and Aquaman movies represented DC Comics' first big-screen steps away from the austere color palette of the Zack Snyder movies, Shazam! takes us deeply into primary colors in a single bound... this new DC entry has a lovely lightness, both in the visuals and in its tone."[117]

Writing for The A.V. Club, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky gave the film a "B−" and said: "...while the story of an extremely overpowered champion rising to challenge a one-dimensionally sinister baddie might seem like the epitome of simplicity, Shazam! is still a modern-day tentpole blockbuster, overburdened with backstories for both hero and villain and subtexts that it can't (or won't) fully articulate."[118] That publication followed up with a further consideration of masculinity in the film and the superhero genre generally, focusing on the transition of Billy Batson from an adolescent boy to a man with power and responsibility.[119] Benjamin Lee of The Guardian gave the film 3/5 stars, specifying, "The finale, while admirably self-contained and small-scale, grinds on for far too long, a boring escalation of anti-climaxes that cumulatively dull the intended emotional impact. It's a film in need of a tighter edit with a script in need of a sharper polish, an imperfect franchise-launcher that nonetheless represents significant progress for DC."[120]

Accolades

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref(s)
Golden Trailer Awards May 29, 2019 Best Action Shazam! “My Name”, Warner Bros., Buddha Jones Pending [121]
Best Action TV Spot Shazam! “Serious :60”, Warner Bros., Buddha Jones Pending
MTV Movie & TV Awards June 17, 2019 Best Comedic Performance Zachary Levi Pending [122]
Best Hero Pending

Sequel

In April 2019, The Wrap reported that New Line Cinema is developing a sequel with Henry Gayden returning to write the film, along with David F. Sandberg directing and Peter Safran producing.[123]

References

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