Okay, here’s the pitch: you need to find an actor to play Shazam, a comic book character who was originally conceived as a cheap Superman knock-off.
Naturally, Shazam is big, wide, and super ripped. For comparison, his evil arch-nemesis is going to be played by Dwayne Johnson, and it was initially planned for The Rock himself to play the character.
So who do you go with? Probably not Zackary Levi, the guy who’s best known for playing weedy slacker nerd Chuck in the comedy show of the same name.
For some reason, DC has decided that Levi is their best choice for Shazam, which means that at some point he’s going to be dressed up in a cape squaring off against Dwayne Johnson, and we’re going to have to all pretend that the pair are both equally tough.
Perhaps the plan will be to keep Johnson away from the Shazam! movie at all costs. Or maybe the movie will be filmed with forced perspective, like the tricks that allowed Sir Ian McKellen to look so tall compared with the hobbits in The Lord of the Rings.
Or maybe, DC has a really sneaky plan up their sleeves.
It’s no secret that the DCEU’s Superman doesn’t really resonate with audiences. Henry Cavill is great (and big, and strong, obviously), but his character is often written to be a bit of a jerk. Nobody likes a Superman who looks so grumpy and annoyed every time he’s forced to descend out of the clouds to actually help someone.
DCEU Supes is a far cry from the more popular Richard Donner version of the character. Christopher Reeve played a traditionally heroic version of the character, saving cats from trees and just generally being an all around nice, likeable guy.
So maybe DC is looking to take Shazam (originally named Captain Marvel) back to his roots. Before he was even part of the DC pantheon, Shazam was a Superman knock-off so blatant that DC sued his creators for copyright infringement.
It seems, then, that DC will be taking a Superman: The Movie approach with Shazam!, by focusing first and foremost of finding a likeable, charismatic actor who’s known for his sense of humor, and building from there.
When originally hired as Superman, Christopher Reeve was considered too skinny for the role, until he worked out non-stop to be able to play the part. Ditto Brandon Routh, who played a kind of tribute version of the Christopher Reeve Superman in Bryan Ringer’s Superman Returns.
Now, with the DCEU’s Superman sitting around being grumpy most of the time (when he’s not dead, that is), perhaps the plan is to build up Shazam as an alternate version of Superman, who sticks closer to the classic movie incarnation of the character.
Zachary Levi is the new Christopher Reeve. He doesn’t need to be absolutely huge like The Rock, so long as he’s charming, affectionate, and friendly.
If this is the case, it’ll be hard to be too upset.
No, Zach Levi doesn’t look like a giant wall of muscle. If his version of Shazam isn’t a total jerk, though, he’ll be a way better Superman than Superman himself.