Tag Archives: shazam

In a Neat Video, Shazam’s Director Talks the Art of Problem Solving in Film

Zachary Levi, some extras, and some production staff, in Shazam. Did you see ‘em?
Image: Warner Bros.

Film is all about compromise: taking a massive amount of people, resources, and time, and making it all harmonize into a single cohesive artistic product. Even if the way you got there was driven as much by circumstance as vision.

In a delightful video published by Shazam director David Sandberg on his YouTube channel, he expounds on the involved problem-solving logic that goes into making a feature film. Using a simple, not very notable scene in Shazam, he goes through the compromises and adaptations that led from the version of the scene as it appears in the script to what made it on film. Guest starring: a doing-its-best costume department, complicated velcro shoes, and Sandberg’s charming wit.

It’s a fantastic showcase of the way movies, well, don’t happen easily, and without care can become absolutely messy with inconsistencies. And Sandberg is an excellent guide into this complex world. Check it out above.


For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.

Source: Kotaku.com

In a Neat Video, Shazam’s Director Talks the Art of Problem Solving in Film

Zachary Levi, some extras, and some production staff, in Shazam. Did you see ‘em?
Image: Warner Bros.

Film is all about compromise: taking a massive amount of people, resources, and time, and making it all harmonize into a single cohesive artistic product. Even if the way you got there was driven as much by circumstance as vision.

In a delightful video published by Shazam director David Sandberg on his YouTube channel, he expounds on the involved problem-solving logic that goes into making a feature film. Using a simple, not very notable scene in Shazam, he goes through the compromises and adaptations that led from the version of the scene as it appears in the script to what made it on film. Guest starring: a doing-its-best costume department, complicated velcro shoes, and Sandberg’s charming wit.

It’s a fantastic showcase of the way movies, well, don’t happen easily, and without care can become absolutely messy with inconsistencies. And Sandberg is an excellent guide into this complex world. Check it out above.


For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.

Source: Kotaku.com

What We Loved About Shazam

Screenshot: Shazam (Warner Brothers)

DC Comics’s latest superhero movie, Shazam, really took me and my colleague Mike Fahey by surprise. In world of dour superhero stories, Shazam was a wholesome, feel-good breath of fresh air. Today we sat down to talk about the film, family, and how hilarious it is to see a child in an adult’s body.

Gita Jackson: Hey Fahey! A pleasure as always. We’re here to talk about Shazam, a movie I wasn’t all that interested in before I saw it but really touched me once I was in the theater. I cried a little! How’d you like it? Have any history with the comic book character?

Mike Fahey: Have I ever!? Actually, not too much. When I first got into comic books in the early 80s, Shazam, AKA DC’s Captain Marvel, didn’t feel like much of a player. He was old-fashioned (the character debuted in 1941) at a time I was looking for more mainstream, modern fare like the stuff Marvel Comics was doing at the time. It wasn’t until his appearance in DC’s spectacular Kingdom Come series in the late ‘90s that I connected with the character. Ironically, the movie channeled that old-fashioned, feel-good comics vibe that put me off Shazam as a kid, and I loved it.

Gita: What I really appreciated was that they took the stuff about Billy Batson being an abandoned kid very seriously. This movie also doubles as a tool to getting more people to consider being a foster parent. It actually made me think about it seriously, for the millionth time. But I do love “chosen family” type stories, and this movie hit all those beats very capably. I love those rascals.

Fahey: Oh, you just knew Billy’s search for his mother wasn’t going to end well. To think he hunted for her for years, hoping that she somehow just lost him, blaming himself for wandering off. It hurts thinking about it. He’s incredibly lucky to end up with what seems like the country’s greatest, friendliest foster family ever. And it made me think as well. Maybe my children would be better off with a foster family! Seamus would make an awesome superhero. And Archer would make a great superhero’s brother.

Gita: To set up the plot very quickly: this is the story of the rambunctious orphan Billy Batson, who is on the search for his mother, who he lost at an amusement park. He’s taken in by a group of other foster kids, and then given the powers of the wizard Shazam, which turns him into a superhero, and also an adult. It’s basically like Bringing Up Baby, but instead of a tiger, the unpredictable animal Billy and his foster brother Freddy have to take care of is a man in his mid twenties. This movie was, first and foremost, hilarious. My whole theater was laughing. They really sell the whole joke of “fourteen year old in an adult’s body” very well.

Fahey: Right? That concept alone is what makes Shazam perfect for a mass audience. It’s Big with superpowers, and the movie makers leaned into that. There was even a giant floor piano.

Gita: The giant floor piano scene had me cracking up! Mark Strong, who plays the villainous Thad Sivana, was really, really enjoying being evil.

Fahey: Children dream of being adults and/or having super powers. Adults dream of being kids again. It’s everybody’s dream. Except for poor Sivana. Imagine being Thad during that opening. Riding in the car with your father and brother, being told you were useless and nothing, then having a freaking magical wizard confirm those unworthy feelings to be true? Man, screw that wizard.

Screenshot: Shazam (Warner Brothers)

Gita: That wizard was a pretty insensitive guy, in my opinion. He should have linked up with a child psychologist or something instead of telling what the movie implies is thousands of children that they suck ass.

Fahey: It’s the old reverse Harry Potter.

Gita: I mean if that happened to me I might have devoted my entire life to gaining enough power to take my revenge. Children are spiteful.

Fahey: I would not want to be the wizard on the other end of your revenge plot.

Gita: I feel like this movie should have come out at Christmas or more into the summer. It’s such a crowd pleaser and is just thoughtful enough that it both doesn’t take too much of your brain to process, and really gets you thinking about the things in life that matter. By the end of the movie, this guy sitting next to me was calling out at the screen stuff like “are you kidding me?” and “wow holy shit!”

Fahey: It feels like a Christmas movie. Hell, the finale takes place at a Christmas fair. Santa makes several cameos in this. And Billy gets the greatest present of all. His little sister.

Gita: That was part of why I started crying. Seeing Billy accept his adopted family as his real family… the tears just started flowing. The ensemble cast of kids was great. it’s hard to find good child actors and they found a lot of them. I definitely loved Freddy Freeman.

Fahey: Freddy made me mindful of my current disability (for those unaware, I am paralyzed from the chest down). His attitude feels a lot like mine, ready to make fun of himself, taking it in stride. And I had forty-five able-bodied years. He’s a kid. I was inspired. Of course, I identified more with Eugene Choi, the gamer of the group.

Gita: Eugene was so sweet! Darla was the one I identified with, though. The sweet little over-achiever that just wants to be friends with everyone!

Fahey: Oh, the hugging, and the secret-keeping, and the cheering. Older sister Mary and Freddy are the better-known of the Marvel family siblings, but Darla is my favorite. I want to discuss the movie’s finale, but want to make sure we hit the pertinent plot points first—but it’s a pretty simple storyline, once the intros are out of the way.

Gita: The movie is formulaic, but for a superhero film, I didn’t mind that. At this point it’s such an established genre that not hitting certain aspects of the hero origin would have felt out of place. The point of this movie is to make you feel good and hopeful, and it definitely achieved that.

Fahey: Except for the moment my heart just shattered. The moment I was surprised was in the film, really.

Gita: You mean the moment I wanted to scoop little, brave Billy Batson into my arms and tell him that everything will be okay, and he’s a good boy, and he has a family already and they love him?

Fahey: No, not that … oh yeah, that’s the one. Where he finds out that instead of dying or being kidnapped and held for several years like a considerate parent, his mom was like, “Oh no I lost my son, guess that’s that, bye.”

Gita: I really appreciated the sensitivity that they had in this moment. It’s a big swerve for an origin story like this—his mom was just an overwhelmed single parent that made a selfish choice, not some long lost saint or whatever. I was also surprised that they went that route but I’m honestly glad they did. I can’t imagine how much this kind of story must mean for people who grew up as foster kids or don’t know their birth parents. What helps is that right after this scene, more or less, the movie really hammers home how much Billy’s adopted family cares for him—and he for them—in the finale. Which was amazing but we’ll get to it.

Fahey: There’s a bad parenting theme running throughout the film. Billy’s mom. Sivana’s father belittling him and telling him to man-up, right up to the point Thad feeds him to the seven deadly sin demons that he spent years trying to reclaim from the wizard’s sanctum. Both hero and villain are the result of horrible parenting. But hey, there are good families out there. The family Billy chooses.

Screenshot: Shazam (Warner Brothers)

Gita: I’m crying again! They just love Billy so much, and want to give him the kind of chance he never had. The entire Vasquez gang is just… the best people.

Fahey: A fact that’s proven during Billy’s final confrontation with his new nemesis. I did not know or suspect the entire Marvel family would be showing up in this movie. In super-powered form. I audibly shouted “Yes!” and fist-pumped. And no one said anything because I am in a wheelchair and can get away with murder.

Gita: As soon as I saw Adam Brody I started internally screaming. 1) Amazing casting choice for adult Freddy Freeman. 2) I still have a crush on Adam Brody from watching the OC. Seriously the finale when the entire Vasquez fam gets the powers of Shazam had me freaking out.

Fahey: And once again Darla saves the day, this time as Meagan Good. I am glad five more actors got to experience the joy of playing super-powered adult children. Color-coded. The real Power Rangers.

Gita: Ha! If this movie came out closer to Halloween I’d say to expect a lot of kids dressed up as the Shazam family. The suits with the muscles would probably make kids feel super cool.

This movie on the whole felt closer to the older, Sam Raimi style of superhero movie than the latest offerings from DC and Marvel. I was really happy to just get a very pleasant two hours in the theater.

Fahey: The movie is DC Comics done right. No dour superheroes taking themselves too seriously in dark and moody films. DC Comics has been silly for decades, and embracing that is the way to go. Take the Flash television series, where showrunners had no problem showcasing villains like Gorilla Grodd, a large, psychic primate, or King Shark, a giant humanoid shark. Or Doom Patrol, the outstanding series on DC Universe, the latest episode of which showcased a sentient transgender street named Danny and featured an amazing musical number. Silly DC is best DC, and Shazam proves it.

Gita: Man, I should be watching Doom Patrol. Going goofy and wholesome—or goofy and weird as heck—seems like the way to go for DC Comics. I hope we get more movies like Shazam, and also more appearances from Adam Brody in those movies.

Source: Kotaku.com

The New Shazam Movie Has Some Odd Video Game References

This weekend the newest DC superhero film, Shazam, was released. Critics enjoyed it. I liked it a lot too. Though while the action and jokes are strong in Shazam, there are some weird video game references that caught me off guard.

To be very clear, I don’t have screenshots of most this stuff because of the fact that movie just came out. But take my word for it! You can find these video game related things in Shazam!

No specific spoilers below, but if you want to be surprised by what games are mentioned, stop now.

  • A kid using a PS3 Sharpshooter and PS3 Move Controller as a weapon.
  • Someone shooting lighting out of their hands and yelling “Hadouken!!”
  • A scene where Shazam and his friend play Mortal Kombat X.
  • Some hacker referencing all the hours of Watch Dogs they’ve played.
  • After a finisher, a character yells out “Fatality!” like the announcer from Mortal Kombat.
  • A reference to early 2000’s PC game Uplink, from the same hacker who loves Watch Dogs.

Some of these are obvious and most folks will get them right away. The Mortal Kombat ones, in particular, had my theater laughing loudly. Though I have to wonder how many folks got the Watch Dogs reference. Or the Uplink name drop.

Also, there was one dude in my showing of Shazam who YELLED very loudly when the Haudoken scene happened. Like REALLY loudly. I even looked back to see if I could spot the dude, I assumed he was standing honestly.

I can’t help but overthink the Mortal Kombat X scene. Does that mean Injustice 2 exists in that universe and was the predecessor to that MKX? Is Shazam in that Injustice 2?

I’m not going to think about this anymore.

Source: Kotaku.com

How Shazam Will Use Childlike Wonder to Set It Apart From the Superhero Pack

If you want to know how Shazam is going to be different from the DC Entertainment films that preceded it, you need only reference two scenes: One in which the hero fights the bad guy in a toy store filled with DC superhero merch, and another where a big fight takes place at a festive winter carnival, complete with a giant Ferris wheel and dozens of games. Not your typical DC movie. Not your typical superhero movie period. But that’s Shazam.

“I like to compare it to ‘80s movies, like Goonies, Ghostbusters, and Back to the Future,” said director David F. Sandberg on the film’s Toronto set. “That sort of like, ‘Oh, it’s a family [film]…kind of.’” Basically, it’s trying to be something you wouldn’t expect.

Like Justice League, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad, Shazam is 100 percent set in the DC movie universe. However, hewing closer to Wonder Woman or Aquaman, it’s going to feel like a standalone movie with its own mythology and tone. But even compared to the bright, hopefulness of Wonder Woman and Aquaman, Shazam feels like it could be another level. Similar to the DC Comics story, the hero in the film is 14-year-old Billy Batson (played by Asher Angel), chosen by an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou) to be his champion and possess all the power of Shazam (the beings Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury). Just by saying “Shazam,” the boy becomes a full-grown adult, played by Zachary Levi.

The movie has a young cast, is filled with humor, and really, only has one darkly lit set (the crucial Rock of Eternity where Billy meets the Wizard). Even Shazam’s costume isn’t the typical dark blue, black, or green. It’s bright red with a gold belt, boots, and gauntlets, complete with a short white cape and a blinding yellow lightning bolt that lights up practically on set (it goes from dim to blindingly bright with the touch of a button). The idea is, he’s what a 14-year-old who lives in a world where Superman and Wonder Woman exists might draw if he imagined a superhero.

Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Zachary Levi (Shazam) share a “beer” with director David F. Sandberg.
Photo: Steve Wilkie/DC Comics

“There are two characters that I can think of in all of comic-dom [that actually want to be a superhero]” said Levi. “And it’s Billy Batson and Peter Parker.” Because Billy enjoys being a hero, Levi loved that he could really amp up the enthusiasm. “That I don’t have to restrain myself with the fucking coolness factor is so great,” he said. “I have to act so little. I just get to be me on so many levels.”

That’s why Sandberg, best known for horror films like Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation, cast Levi in the role: He’s not your typical superhero. Even just chatting between takes, he has this unique, palpable, youthful excitement. And yet, when Levi first heard a Shazam movie was coming and Warner Bros. might be interested in him, he told his agents not to even pursue it.

“I knew that the Rock had been cast as Black Adam, so my first reaction is, ‘Why the hell are they sending me this right now?’” he said. “So, I said, ‘Well, I think I’m going to pass because I think that might be a waste of time. This doesn’t seem like I’ve got a shot at getting this job, to be perfectly honest.’”

But he did have a shot, mainly because he has the enthusiasm and childlike exuberance needed for the main character. Plus, the film was structured as a standalone origin story with a much more personal touch, hence the big battles in the toy store and carnival. It lent itself to someone new and different. “It’s a very sort of personal story which I like,” Sandberg said. “I find it more engaging when it’s not an entire world [at stake] and it’s [a] blue beam in the sky”

On April 18, 2018, in Toronto, Canada, the crew of Shazam was on day 51 of their shoot. The cold of Toronto was doubling for Christmas time in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is when a young Billy is placed in a foster home filled with kids from varying backgrounds. Sandberg shot the scene where Billy enters the house as a three-plus minute Steadicam shot as actors go in and out of various rooms, creating a very dynamic, overwhelming environment. Billy can barely keep his head from spinning, there’s so much going on so fast. And though the family is large, Billy gravitates to Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), who is a massive fan of superheroes, going so far as wearing an Aquaman t-shirt during this scene. (So, yes, it’s canon that you can buy DC merch in the DC universe…I wonder who gets the royalties?) And though later in the day Sandberg filmed a scene of Billy trying to escape, this idea of a big, warm, family is at the heart of Shazam.

Freddy and Billy explore Freddy’s room which, as you can see, is filled with DC stuff.
Photo: Warner Bros.

“He’s had a hard life,” Angel said. “He lost his mom when he was really, really young and he’s basically just been searching for her his entire life. He does not want to be with these people, he does not want to be here. He just wants his mom, that’s it. Just wants his mom.”

Along with the story of Billy getting the powers of Shazam, the film will simultaneously follow Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, whom the audience will meet as a young child in the film’s opening. Long before Billy was granted his powers, Sivana was given the same opportunity but was seduced by a more evil power, the Eye of Sin. He spends the rest of his life trying to change that and, eventually, finds himself with the ability to control the seven deadly sins, which will physically appear in the film.

“He is a proper super villain,” said Mark Strong, who plays the character. “He gets to fly, he can create electric fields in his hands and fire electricity. I love the whole notion that in his eye he has seven sins that manifest themselves at various points whenever they or he wants them to. So, it’s a good, proper supervillain.”

Eventually, after Billy is given the powers of Shazam and goes a little too wild (he and Freddy test out the powers and put it on YouTube, which you see in the first trailer), Sivana finds him and the two begin to battle.

Shazam may have met his match in Dr. Sivana.
Photo: Warner Bros.

“He can’t understand that the Wizard has chosen this boy as his champion,” Strong said. “But, it just justifies him in his quest to unify the good force and the evil force and be in control of all of it.”

And Strong—who has played in the comic book sandbox before, taking on a the classic hero-turned-villain Sinestro in Warner’s 2011 Green Lantern film—loves tackling a character with that kind of evil power.

“Sivana should be like, heat-seeking ballistic evil,” he said. “The more frightening you make him, the more you feel that the kids are in jeopardy, and therefore the more that morality term of the balance of good and evil plays out satisfactory. 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.”

Sivana is the one character in the film who looks most unlike the more traditional versions of their comic book counterparts. Instead of the classic, white-lab-coat-doctor depiction, this Sivana is rocking a purple velvet vest and long black leather coat. Otherwise, though, this is a movie largely inspired by DC’s “New 52” line through and through. Everyone on set, from the actors and director, down to the costume designer and props master, cited the Gary Frank/Geoff Johns New 52 run of Shazam as the primary influence on the film. (There’s even a scene of Freddy and Shazam using the new body to try and buy beer, like in Justice League Volume 2 #15). Beyond that, there will, of course, be plenty of nods to Shazam’s history, some of which are so spoilery, we were asked not to mention them.

Don’t let that bubble get in your hair, Billy.
Photo: Warner Bros.

Those comic details extend to all parts of the production. The buttons linking Shazam’s cape to his costume have images of Tawky Tawny on them, a nod to the anthropomorphic tiger who is a frequent ally of Shazam. There are also tigers all over the elaborate “Chilladelphia Winter Carnival” set, which we were told was a very purposeful touch. The set was completely built and recreated in 360 degrees with working rides, games and more. For all intents and purposes, it’s a real carnival…which will get destroyed in the movie. Freddy’s room is also filled with winks and nods to recent DC films.

And yes, in response to all the internet hubbub, there is padding in the Shazam suit. “The only all-natural person ever in history was Christopher Reeve, so there’s your answer, okay?” said costume designer Leah Butler. “But Zach got in incredible shape. So we were very thankful that he was able to do that and his form has really helped so much and really showing our Shazam the way he should be.”

But will the movie as a whole turn out the way we hope?

Like most times you visit a set, everyone was saying the right things and the story on a macro level seems to work very well. All the pieces were there to make a DC movie that has a whole new tone and accessibility.

“I think everything is informing everything else,” Strong said. “Guardians of the Galaxy comes out that has a sense of humor. That now infuses Thor [Ragnarok] which gives that a big sense of humor. Now we’ve moved into the world of Black Panther and now we’ve got a female superhero in Wonder Woman. It’s as if everything is pushing the genre onwards and that, I think, can only be a good thing.”

Shazam opens April 5.


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Source: Kotaku.com