In the history of comic book superhero movies, having a casting announcement be met with near-universal praise by the fickle fanboy community is a very rare occurrence. In fact, I’m not sure it’s ever happened. From Keaton to Affleck, ScarJo to Gal Gadot, the nerd reflex is to cry foul — or at least raise a suspicious eyebrow — at Hollywood’s disrespect of comic book continuity. (And don’t even think about casting non-white actors in any of these roles). Nine times out of ten, though, fanboy condemnation — at casting, say, a “vapid pretty boy” like Chris Evans as Captain America or a “gay cowboy” like Heath Ledger as the Joker — gives way to reluctant acceptance and eventually hyperbole over how perfect these actors are in their respective roles.
A few weeks ago, though, when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson finally revealed he will be playing Black Adam in a Shazam! movie, the internet reaction was entirely positive. It probably helped that this rumored casting had been gestating for nearly a decade. But while fans were celebrating The Rock as Black Adam, I had one question: who could possibly be (physically) big enough to play Shazam1?
Until Rocky revealed the Shazam role he had been teasing for months, it was unclear whether he’d play the hero or the villain. When William of Black Nerd Problems meditated on the racial implications of potentially casting Johnson as Shazam, he zeroed in on what such a move would have meant for the audience to see a multiracial black and Pacific Islander man play such an iconic hero — not to mention the fact that the studio would have to cast a non-white adolescent to play alter ego Billy Batson. Alas, since Johnson is Black Adam, the studio is off the hook and we all have to be resigned to the fact that they’re probably going to cast a(nother) white dude to play the hero (again).
The list of actors who could physically match The Rock on screen is a short one. Many of these actors are the same names that always get bandied about for superhero roles. And sure, you don’t really have to cast an actor who matches Rocky’s 6’4″, 250+lbs. physique since the director could use camera tricks and forced perspective to make it work. But verisimilitude can only go so far if you’re watching aerial fisticuffs between The Rock and, say, Jake Gyllenhaal.
Here’s the thing: just because The Rock isn’t going to play Captain Marvel doesn’t mean that folks like Joe Manganiello or Armie Hammer have to be the ones to call on the power of Shazam just because they’re tall and big and white and attached to every superhero movie rumor. There are others who fit the description.
The other day, I read this post by Chael Smith — of the new site Fanboyant — speculating that Warner has been secretly using the “Jason Momoa-as-Aquaman” rumor as a diversion for its real plan to cast him as Shazam. AND NOW I CAN THINK OF NO OTHER CHOICE.
From Smith’s piece:
I know I’ve gone on record with my preference for Momoa to play Lobo, but the initial Aquaman rumors essentially made that wish moot. But now, I’m all in on Captain Momoa! Also, this isn’t the first time Momoa’s name has been tossed into the Shazam rumor salad. Hell, Cap was #2 on the list of potential roles we published back in December.
But shit, will you just look at that photo above?!? I mean, he already has the eyebrows for chrissakes! And at 6’3″, 220lbs., Jason Momoa can be very believable trading blows with The Rock. While I would have loved to see Khal Drogo’s take on a badass Aquaman, I think having him play a lighthearted character like Captain Marvel/Shazam would also be a nice change of pace from the barbarian/warrior roles he’s typecast in. Also, if Shazam! is really going to counter DC’s “no jokes” non-policy, then Momoa can bring the funny as well.
To top it all off, by casting Momoa — a Native Hawaiian — Warner Brothers could still make a movie as meaningful to its non-white fans and hit on all the points William made in his original BNP post, plus we’d have a tentpole blockbuster headlined by the two highest profile Pacific Islanders in Hollywood. It’s a win-win.
So make it happen already!