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Shazam superhero movie with Zachary Levi: Trailers, cast, early reviews

Here's our ongoing guide to the upcoming DC Comics film starring Zachary Levi. The film opens April 5, but early reviews from critics are already positive.

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The critics' reviews of Shazam are already 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 upcoming movie Shazam, in which young character Billy Batson can instantly change into an adult superhero just by yelling the word "Shazam!" 

Shazam hits theaters on April 5, but early reviews are already in. CNET's Rich Trenholm calls it DC's most fun adventure yet. "Unexpected, hilarious and joyful, Shazam is a giddy, exuberant blast of superhero freshness," he says. "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 calls 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 writes. 

And Variety says: "As a teenage kid in a superman's body, Zachary Levi is pure pop charisma in a comic book saga that walks a deft line between satire and sincerity."

Who's making it?

The latest film in the DC Expanded Universe is directed by David F. Sandberg and written by Henry Gayden and Darren Lemke. 

Shazam will be 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.

The film got a new teaser on Jan. 20 containing a Man of Steel Easter Egg

After the film officially wrapped 10 months ago, both star Zachary Levi and director Sandberg shared Shazam tributes online.

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

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. 

In July, Levi's Shazam superhero costume was officially revealed online. And on a few days later, fans got a closer look at Shazam and his inner teen as he blew a giant bubblegum bubble and checked his cell phone on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. 

The first full-length official trailer for Shazam hit during San Diego Comic-Con International 2018. Fans can watch the full panel with the cast here. 

In December, Levi shared the official poster image on his Instagram with the caption, "Heyoo! The new poster of Shazam movie is here! And a there's a new trailer coming in the new year."

Now playing: Watch this: Shazam: Everything you need to know so far
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New poster for the upcoming DC Comics superhero movie Shazam starring Zachary Levi, out in April 2019.

Warner Bros.

Also in December, new movie footage of the first interaction between Shazam and Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong) was presented at Brazil Comic Con Experience. 

In the video, Shazam acts like he is unbeatable, but villain Dr. Sivana puts him in his place by throwing him up into the sky to try to make Shazam to beg for his life. Dr. Sivana complains Shazam acts childish, and Shazam agrees that he is indeed a kid. As he falls, Shazam screams "Superman! Superman!" and starts to float. 

A comic book-inspired Shazam movie poster was also unveiled at Brazil Comic Con Experience.

Now playing: Watch this: Shazam Comic-Con trailer turns a teen into a sweet superhero
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What we know about the plot

According to the movie's official description, 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'll need 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. 

In the official trailer, we see all of those plot points to be true, but there's also a strong sense of humor throughout the film. In one sequence, Billy tests out his new superhero abilities as Shazam that include flying, strength and being bulletproof. 

Here's the comic book-inspired Shazam movie poster revealed at Brazil's Comic Con Experience.

Warner Bros.

Some theories (based on 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.

If the movie goes follows the original comics, we'll see Shazam not only have the strength, powers and fortitude of mythological Greek gods. He'll also have to deal with powerful enemies as well as struggle with his own youthful lack of judgment and experience. 

While DC Comics has yet to show off an official image from the movie, Levi posted to Instagram a photo where he poses next to a poster of himself as Shazam at the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas. 

The red superhero suit included the hood attachment seen on the New 52 version of the hero from the comics, according to CNET sister site Comicbook.com

Advance screenings

New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Pictures will release Shazam in theaters on April 5 in the US and UK. An Australian release has not yet been announced. The film will also be available in RealD 3D and IMAX 3D.

Fandango and Warner Bros. Pictures are offering earlier advance screenings on March 23

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 rolls in.