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Shazam superhero movie with Zachary Levi: Reviews, sequel news

Here's our ongoing guide to the DC Comics film starring Zachary Levi, including news of a sequel.

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Critics' reviews of Shazam are glowing.

Steve Wilkie

Pretending to be a superhero is half the fun of childhood. But what if you could go from being a kid to an adult with god-worthy powers just by uttering a single word?

That's exactly what happens in the movie Shazam, in which young character Billy Batson can instantly change into an adult superhero just by yelling the word "Shazam!" 

Shazam hit theaters on April 5, to positive reviews. CNET's Rich Trenholm called it DC's most fun adventure yet. "Unexpected, hilarious and joyful, Shazam is a giddy, exuberant blast of superhero freshness," he said. "The idea that the hero is basically a kid gives the film a compelling and unique hook, and it's a hook the filmmakers work for endless laughs and action." 

CNET sister site GameSpot also called the film DC's best yet. "Director David Sandberg's Shazam is the first movie in this shared cinematic universe with which I honestly have no major gripes -- it's just a good movie, whether or not you're a fan of DC's often gritty, dark films, or have any idea who or what Shazam is," reviewer Michael Rougeau wrote. 

The positive reviews most likely paved the way for Shazam to get a sequel, with Henry Gayden onboard to write the script.

Who made it?

The latest film in the DC Expanded Universe was directed by Sandberg and written by Gayden and Darren Lemke. Shazam also achieved a female filmmaking milestone. Michel Aller, who worked on Shazam, is the first solo female editor of a major superhero film, DC or otherwise.

Entertainment Weekly gives the first look at actor Zachary Levi in his superhero costume standing next to actor Jack Dylan Grazer, who plays orphan Freddy Freeman, in the movie Shazam.

Entertainment Weekly

Shazam is the first film depiction of the character since the 1941 serial Adventures of Captain Marvel, the superhero's original name. It's also the first full-length feature film centered around Shazam.

After the film officially wrapped, both star Levi and director Sandberg shared Shazam tributes online.

Levi posted to Instagram a fan-made image of Shazam slurping on a soft drink while watching fellow DC Comics superheroes Superman and Batman battle it out.

A couple of days later, Sandberg tweeted a short video mashup mixing the goofiness of Billy Batson/Shazam with the moodier movies fans are used to seeing out of the DC Comics film universe. 

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The plot

In the movie, Billy Batson is a streetwise 14-year-old foster kid who always kept everyone at arm's length.

One day, a dying wizard grants him superpowers of six ancient heroes, which Billy can activate whenever he says the wizard's name, "Shazam." He is then turned into the adult superhero Shazam via a magic lightning bolt. 

Shazam may look like an adult version of himself, but he's still a teen at heart.

Shazam tests the limits of his abilities to see if he can fly, have X-ray vision or any other kind of superhero-type powers. But he needs to master whatever powers he might have quickly to fight the deadly forces of evil controlled by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana

Billy's foster brother and best friend Freddy Freeman, who happens to be a superhero expert, helps both train Billy and keep Billy's new superpowers secret. 

Shazam in the comics

In the comics, Billy is transformed into a magical flying adult superhero who has "the genius of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the unbreakable will of Atlas, the lightning blasts of Zeus, the power of Achilles and the speed of Mercury," according to the DC Comics website

The first letter of each of the ancient heroes spells out the superhero's namesake -- Shazam.

Shazam not only has the strength, powers and fortitude of mythological Greek gods, he also has to deal with powerful enemies as well as struggle with his own youthful lack of judgment and experience. 

Meet the cast

Zachary Levi as Shazam

Asher Angel  as Billy Batson

Adam Brody as an unnamed principal cast member

Mark Strong as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana

Grace Fulton as Mary Bromfield

Andi Osho as Ms. Glover

Cooper Andrews as Victor Vasquez

D.J. Cotrona as a principal cast member

David J. MacNeil as Mr. Bryer

Faithe Herman as Darla Dudley

Grace Fulton as Mary Bromfield

Ian Chen as Eugene Choi

Jack Grazer as Freddy Freeman

Jovan Armand as Pedro Peña

Marta Milans as Rosa Vasquez

Ron C. Jones as The Wizard

This piece was originally published on May 29, 2018, and is updated as news of the movie (and its sequel) rolls in.