Yeah, yeah, yeah: the top superhero movies this year are no doubt Captain Marvel and next month’s Avengers finale, Endgame.
But DC is still a major player, and they have a film out this season, too: Shazam!, starring Zachary Levi as the title character.
Here are 12 things to know about the film before it opens on Thursday.
1 The superhero known as Shazam – alter ego of young Billy Batson – first appeared in comic books in 1940s Whiz Comics #2, published by Fawcett Comics, and was the first comic book superhero to be adapted to film.
2 “Shazam” stands for “Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury”. He has the wisdom of the Biblical Solomon, the strength of the Roman hero Hercules, the endurance of Greek Titan Atlas, the power of Zeus – king of the Greek gods, the fighting abilities of Greek hero Achilles, and the speed of Roman deity Mercury.
3 To look the part of a superhero, Levi followed a diet made up of 35 per cent protein, 55 per cent fat, and a lean 10 per cent carbohydrates, with a tablespoon of fish oil for “dessert”. He consumed between 3,000 and 4,000 calories a day – the recommended amount for an adult male is around 2,500. Starting at a weight of around 90kg, Levi packed on more than 9kg of muscle by, among other things, lifting weights five or six days a week – often twice a day.
4 When he was not playing the superhero – or working out to keep in super shape – one of Levi’s favourite past times was playing Super Mario Kart.
5 Levi says that when he received the Shazam! screenplay, “I couldn’t put it down! I read it, just flipping pages, going yeah, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, more yes, all the yesses. It spoke to the hero’s story, it spoke to the kid’s story, to the family’s story … and baked in the DNA of it was the humour and the heart.”
6 On set, the actor enjoyed discovering Shazam’s powers as much as the character did. “One of the moments that just delighted me was a scene when he’s stopping a robbery, and he figures out he has bullet immunity. Basically, he just starts giggling because the bullets literally tickle him.”
Long before production began, just reading the scene, Levi confesses, “I just lost it, I started laughing out loud, legitimately LOL-ing by myself in my living room. Because it’s the joy of that moment. You don’t get to see Batman or Superman being tickled by their abilities. Those guys are dudes who’ve had a lot on their shoulders for a long time, while Billy’s just stepping into this world. You get to experience his delight, and I just loved it.”
7 To capture the tilting Ferris wheel in the carnival sequence, the film’s director of photography, Maxime Alexandre, and his team used seven different cameras.(Spoiler: While they rented the rest of the carnival rides, they actually bought the Ferris wheel, because it gets destroyed.)
8 Several different buses were needed to film the scene in which Shazam must save a bus full of passengers falling from a bridge, including one to dangle off the edge of the bridge, and one they cut in half.
9 An ongoing challenge for the film’s costume team, led by costume designer Leah Butler, is a common one with superhero films: an actor’s frequently changing physique. Butler says that, due to diet and exercise, an actor’s body can change quite a bit during filming, so a superhero suit may have to be modified throughout production.
10 It took an average of 20 minutes for Levi to get into his superhero costume.
11 The Shazam! property department crafted four different staffs for the character of the Wizard, played by Djimon Hounsou, which he uses to transfer his powers to Billy Batson.
12 Shazam is not related to Kazaam, a much-slated 1996 release starring basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal as a genie who has been trapped inside a boombox (an 80s device for playing music; Google it) for thousands of years.