Zachary Levi arrives in China to promote his new DC superhero film ‘Shazam!’
Strike like lightning
Published: Mar 27, 2019 04:53 PM

Zachary Levi attends the Beijing premiere of Shazam! on Monday. Photo: IC

Actor Zachary Levi has been very busy recently. During the Beijing red carpet premiere of his new Warner Bros film Shazam! on Monday, fans hailed him as the new "king" of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) since the new film has been receiving rave reviews and dominating headlines. 

Chinese fans have been giving him the same level of treatment usually reserved for actors playing big tier heroes even though the character of Shazam is relatively new to Chinese audiences, who grew up with Batman, Superman or Spider-man. He signed numerous posters for fans and took selfies with them, hoping that his charm will help the new film's chances when it debuts in the second biggest film market on April 5, the same day it premieres in North America. 

Joyous story 

Directed by David F. Sandberg, who is well-known for horror movies such as Annabelle: Creation and Lights Out, Shazam! features a hero who goes on a more light-hearted and humorous adventure than other stories from the DCEU. The family-friendly story follows a young boy, 14-year-old Billy Batson, who is chosen by the powerful wizard Shazam to inherit the power to turn into an adult superhero each time he says the wizard's name. 

"Everyone of us, at some point, believe that we can be a superhero, and I still do," Levi told the Global Times on Tuesday, when asked about why he feels the film will bring Chinese moviegoers to cinemas.

"We might not be able to relate to an orphan billionaire like Batman, or an alien from Krypton, incredibly powerful, trying to fit in on Earth, but we can all relate to being a kid," he added. 

"We can all relate to wish fulfillment, that is what happens in this movie, what happens if you are a kid with superpowers. I believe Chinese audiences will hopefully go to the theater and feel the joy that comes from that."

DC's last movie Aquaman was a huge hit in the Chinese market, earning a massive $298 million in total to become the studio's top-grossing title in China to date. According to a report from Variety, Shazam! was made on an $80 million production budget, less than half of what it cost to make Aquaman. The Chinese market gives Warner Bros the hope that Shazam! may become the most profitable film in the DCEU franchise. 

From 'Chuck' to 'Shazam!'

Many Chinese fans of US TV may already be familiar with the 38-year-old actor for the role he played as Chuck Bartowski in the NBC TV comedy Chuck, about a nerdy tech guy who ends up becoming a superspy. Premiering in 2007, the show ran for five seasons. 

Levi feels moving between the two roles hasn't been that big of a stretch made the comparison between the two roles. 

"Chuck was really fun. I think in some way he is similar to Billy Batson, both good guys and good hearts. Both are ordinary people bursting into extra powers and learning how to control it and how to make the world a better place," he said. 

The word Billy speaks to transform, SHAZAM, is actually an acronym derived from the names of the "Immortal Elders" that give him his powers: the Wisdom of Solomon, Strength of Hercules, Stamina of Atlas, Power of Zeus, Courage of Achilles and Speed of Mercury. 

Levi's fun acting style has won positive reviews from overseas film critics. 

"Zachary Levi was born to play the title role in DC's sweetest movie in years," wrote IGN reviewer Jim Vejvoda. 

"Zachary Levi is perfect as Shazam. He's hilarious, heartwarming and completely believable as a 14-year-old boy trapped in a muscle-bound superhero's body, excelling in both the action scenes as well as in the more vulnerable moments." 

"The story tells us how funny or how serious it is supposed to be," he said about his humorous role in the movie. 

"I am playing a 14-year-old, that is going to naturally be a more comedic and more about family than other series." 

He remarked that the character is inherently different that the very serious and dark Batman. "That is because he [Batman] saw his parents murdered in front of him and ended up being an orphan raised by an old British man. He becomes a billionaire playboy, that story requires it be a little more cool and sexy than a 14-year-old boy who is given superpowers, which is funny naturally. We don't need to make it extra funny," Levi noted. 

When asked how he managed to play such a young role, he joked that "I am just a big kid, that is really how I think I got the job." 

"People always say don't be silly. I don't agree with that. I am always silly and trying to laugh at myself and laugh at other situations."

Hailed as the most fun of the DCEU films, Shazam! has raised the question about how its carefree style will influence other heroes in the franchise and whether he will join the Justice League. 

"I think fun means different things to different people. Some people think the most fun DC movie could be Dark Knight Returns, to them that is more fun. I am just really grateful to get to be this character and I hope a good addition to the rest of the Justice League... everyone has a different part to play. I want to compliment all of that and we compliment the rest of the DC Universe and real comic book fans," he said.