The actor may have been late to the party for the film, but Hounsou will bring the necessary wisdom and power to the ancient wizard.
Only a handful of actors have played both sides of the field when it comes to superhero cinema. Ben Affleck stalked Hell’s Kitchen as Daredevil before hopping to the belfries of Gotham as Batman. Ryan Reynolds ditched the shame of Green Lantern for the bawdy pleasures of Deadpool (twice). Josh Brolin resigned from the misguided horror of Jonah Hex to rule 2018 as both Thanos and Cable. If you’re looking for job security these days, the MCU and the DCEU is where it’s at.
The latest actor to hop the fence is Djimon Hounsou. A task he already achieved when he flipped from Constantine to Guardians of the Galaxy. As Korath the Pursuer, Hounsou originally taunted Star-Lord and will return via Captain Marvel’s prequel status. Now, Entertainment Weekly is reporting that Hounsou has joined DC’s Shazam! as the ancient wizard who bequeaths a young boy fantastical superpowers.
Comic books are silly. Morose billionaires don flying rodent costumes and work out their fractured minds by bashing the skulls of purse snatchers when they should probably invest in a respectable psychiatrist’s couch. Alien babies plummet to the earth where they’re raised by farmers to battle in the name of truth, justice, and the American way…and occasionally toss terrorizing sentient supercomputers into the sun.
These spandex sagas work best when there is true belief powering the words and the visuals. Creators must throw their entire being into these absurd characters and situations. The instant they fall into a lackluster pattern is the same moment the audience recognizes the lunacy of it all.
The same goes for the cinematic adaptations. George Clooney could never sell his caped crusader routine, especially the ridiculous kitsch version that Joel Schumacher required. On the other hand, Christian Bale embraced the split personality of Bruce Wayne and we bought into his gravelly command. An actor must have total confidence in filling out that suit. The audience can spot a cheat.
If you thought Batman was a challenge to market, Shazam! is practically impossible. The basic premise revolves around orphan Billy Batson transforming into a powerful beefcake in the form of Zachary Levi. The kid achieves this feat by uttering a magic word given to him by Hounsou’s 3,000-year-old wizard. Within that word rests the might of the gods. S is for Solomon, H is for Hercules, A is for Atlas, Z is for Zeus, A is for Achilles, and M is for Mercury.
Even within the realm of comic books, contemporary audiences struggle to accept the character as an equal to the more obviously rad Batman. If Superman is a boy scout, then Shazam is full-on cheese. However, the DCEU is in need of some whimsy. We’re all still dealing with the joyless mud of the Snyderverse and Shazam could provide the antidote for such dreariness.
To pull it off, the film needs the gravitas of actors like Hounsou. He is a performer who has sold goofy characters before, and he can deliver a believable wizened god. Having survived The Legend of Tarzan, he can do anything.