This article about the film Shazam! was originally published on January 30, 2019 and updated on April 25, 2021 following the release of the movie. Read on for the original article, with some new changes to reflect the latest updates on this topic.
Say the name and the power will flow through you: Shazam! Not to be confused with Kazaam, the 1996 movie starring Shaquille O’Neal as a rapping genie, DC’s Shazam!, directed by David F. Sandberg (Annabelle: Creation) is a film starring one of the oldest — and once upon a time, the most popular — comic book superheroes ever.
The next film after Aquaman to be set in the DC extended universe, Shazam! is the story of a young orphan boy, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) endowed with powers of the gods. Upon uttering the word, “Shazam,” Billy can turn into a mighty titan (Zachary Levi) with ultra strength, super speed, super intelligence and instincts, bulletproof skin, and even the ability to fly. Almost.
Here’s everything else you need to know about Shazam, both the character and the film.
When was the release date for Shazam!?
Shazam! was released in theaters on April 5, 2019. However, DC fans got to see the film two weeks earlier if they bought tickets through Fandango’s Early Access.
Is there a trailer for Shazam!?
Yes. The final trailer for Shazam! is embedded below.
What’s the plot of Shazam?
Here’s the official synopsis from Warner Bros.:
We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s case, by shouting out one word—SHAZAM!—this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult superhero Shazam, courtesy of an ancient wizard.
Still a kid at heart—inside a ripped, godlike body—Shazam revels in this adult version of himself by doing what any teen would do with superpowers: have fun with them! Can he fly? Does he have X-ray vision? Can he shoot lightning out of his hands? Can he skip his social studies test? Shazam sets out to test the limits of his abilities with the joyful recklessness of a child. But he’ll need to master these powers quickly in order to fight the deadly forces of evil controlled by Doctor Thaddeus Sivana.
Who is “Shazam”?
Making his debut in February 1940 in Whiz Comics, from the now-defunct Fawcett Comics, “Shazam” was first introduced as “Captain Marvel” and quickly became one of the most popular characters in the 1940s.
Yes, DC has a character that shares the exact same name as the Marvel superhero. No, they’re nothing alike. (We’ll explain all this later.)
Captain Marvel/Shazam, as we’ve said already, is the alter ego of Billy Batson, a misfit orphan boy from Philadelphia who is chosen by the ancient wizard Shazam to receive his power inherited from six Greek gods:
Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, Mercury.
Upon yelling “Shazam,” Billy transforms into a superhero, temporarily aging and bulking up. But Billy is still a kid, and most of the fun with Shazam’s comics is seeing a boy on a joy ride with every fun superpower imaginable.
So he was named Captain Marvel?
He was! For many years, too. And when his stories expanded to include more characters, such as Mary Marvel (Billy’s sister) and Captain Marvel Jr., they were all known together as the “Marvel Family.” It was only recently (2011) when their name changed to Shazam and the Shazam Family. But let’s back up a bit.
While Shazam ruled comics in the 1940s, in 1953, DC Comics — then operating as National Comics — won a lawsuit over Fawcett, alleging that Captain Marvel was an infringement of Superman. Given that the superhero genre was in its infancy, National/DC’s argument had legs, and Fawcett was forced to cease publishing Captain Marvel. In 1972, DC licensed the character and brought him back, and then owned outright owned him in 1991. At that point, Captain Marvel/Shazam had a mini-comeback, appearing in books like The Power of Shazam! and in the acclaimed, deconstructionist miniseries Kingdom Come.
In between the lawsuit (filed in 1951) and the ‘72 revival, the trademark to “Captain Marvel” lapsed, allowing Marvel to seize the name for their own character who emerged in the ‘60s. That character would eventually become the Captain Marvel we know now, who is arriving in theaters in Marvel’s Captain Marvel just a month before Shazam!. What a world.
When in the DC timeline does Shazam! take place?
Wikipedia claims without citation that the film takes place two years after Justice League. While “two years” is unconfirmed, we do know that the movie is after Justice League given their merchandise that is all over Freddy’s room.
Who stars in Shazam!?
The following actors appear in Shazam!.
- Asher Angel and Zachary Levi as Billy Batson/Shazam: Asher Angel stars as Billy Batson, an adolescent orphan taken in by the kind and true Vazquez family, who also have other adopted children in their household. When Billy says “Shazam,” he transformers into a physically older, buffer version of himself, played by Levi (Chuck, Heroes: Reborn).
- Jack Dylan Grazer (It, It: Chapter 2) as Freddy Freeman, Billy’s foster brother and eventually his best friend. A disabled child who loves superheroes, Freddy becomes a “mentor” to Billy, guiding him to use his great powers with great responsibility. In the comics, Freddy becomes Captain Marvel Jr., though in the post-New 52 canon he doesn’t have an official name. (He does propose “King Shazam” though, which, ehhh.)
- Mark Strong as Dr. Sivana, a rogue scientist who seeks the power of Shazam after being denied it in his childhood. It’s a backstory that actually belonged to Black Adam (set to be played by Dwayne Johnson in a different movie) in the comics, but it seems it’s now Dr. Sivana’s motivation for the film.
- Grace Fulton as Mary Bromfield: Destined to become “Mary Marvel” like in the comics, Mary is Billy and Freddy’s older foster sister who takes care of them and the other children in the Vazquez household.
- Ian Chen as Eugene Choi: Another child in the home. Of Korean descent, Ian loves tech, video games, and non-fiction.
- Jovan Armand as Pedro Peña: Another child in the home. Shy and sensitive, despite his bigger physical size.
- Faithe Herman as Darla Dudley: The youngest of the Vazquez foster children. A lot of energy in a tiny package.
- Djimon Hounsou as Shazam: The elder wizard who gifts Billy Batson incredible powers. Djimon Hounsou also played Ricou, King of the Fisherman, in Aquaman, which inhabits the same “DCEU” canon. Hounsou will also return as Korath in Captain Marvel, which is really, really bizarre. (And for good measure: Djimon Hounsou also voiced Black Panther in the MTV animated series.)
Will Shazam join the Justice League?
Maybe! Entertainment Weekly confirmed in 2018 that there are plans for that to happen, but only if the film performs well.
“I would lose my s— if that happened, I would lose all of the s—s,” Levi told Entertainment Weekly. “I remember thinking, ‘If I get this and if this movie does well enough and if Justice Leauge does well enough and they make another Justice League… maybe I’ll be on that next poster with all those guys.”
What Shazam comics should I read?
The film is primarily taking inspiration from Geoff Johns’ 2012 series Shazam!, which was originally published in several issues of Justice League and then collected in its own volume. Because it’s just one volume, Shazam! is one of the most accessible superhero stories to get into. But there’s also a ton of older material that is worth checking out.
- Shazam! (The New 52): After DC rebooted its universe in an initiative dubbed the New 52, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank reintroduced Captain Marvel to modern audiences, now officially bearing the name “Shazam.” Published in several issues of Justice League in 2012, so much of this specific comic is influencing the film, even down to its “Christmas in Philadelphia” setting.
- Shazam! (2018 — ): A new ongoing series by DC in which Geoff Johns continues his story of Shazam!. With the newly empowered Vazquez kids learning to work together as the Shazam Family, misfits and mayhem galore. Hit up Comixology or your local comic book shop for new issues.
- Shazam: A New Beginning: After the last time DC rebooted its universe after Crisis on Infinite Earths in the ‘80s, Roy Thomas envisioned a new origin for Shazam (still named Captain Marvel during this time) in Shazam: A New Beginning.
- The Trials of Shazam: Written by Judd Winick, Shazam dies in Infinite Crisis, and Freddy is challenged in six different trials to test whether or not he is worthy of assuming the mantle.
- Shazam!: A Celebration of 75 Years: For the quickest primer possible, this 2015 collection of Shazam comics features a ton of the biggest Shazam stories. The collection includes his first appearance in Whiz Comics, the first appearance of Mary Marvel, and more, all with crisp digital restoration.
- The Power of Shazam!: In 1994, Jerry Ordway presented another new origin to Captain Marvel/Shazam in the 96-page graphic novel The Power of Shazam!. The popularity of the book spawned a new Power of Shazam! series. While the collected editions are out of print, subscribers to the DC Universe app can read every issue of the Power of Shazam! series.
How did Shazam! do at the box office?
Shazam! grossed $140.4 million in the United States and Canada, and $225.6 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $366 million. Deadline Hollywood calculated that it made an overall profit of $74 million.
What did critics have to say about Shazam!?
Will there be a sequel to Shazam!?
Yes! On April 8, 2019, TheWrap reported that Shazam! will be receiving a sequel featuring the same cast, writer, and director. In 2020, the title was confirmed to be Shazam! Fury of the Gods and set to release in June 2023.
Shazam! was released in theaters on April 5, 2019.
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