It’s clear from our first good look at Shazam! last week that it isn’t going to be the sort of comic book movie we’ve come to expect from DC — which means there are going to be some pretty distinct changes from the source material. Mark Strong’s big villain of the film, Dr Sivana, is apparently no exception.
Entertainment Weekly reports that, in the context of the film, Billy Batson (played in his child form by Asher Angel, and in his Shazammy hero self by Zachary Levi) won’t be the only person who has come across the mysterious, thousands-of-years-old Wizard, and not the only person who’s been given the opportunity to wield those powers.
In this version, Sivana also encountered the Wizard as a child, but unlike Billy, was not seen as being worthy or heroic enough. The rejection is what leads the movie’s take on Sivana to dedicate his life to finding access to power like the Wizard’s, as well as a heaping pile of daddy issues. Hey, as long as his mum’s name isn’t Martha, he’ll be fine.
But this more personal conflict with Billy, as well as a history with the Wizard, is a bit of a divergence from Sivana’s two main origin stories in the comics.
Originally — both in the Fawcett Comics and eventually in the pre-and-post-Crisis DC universes — Sivana was simply a mad scientist, an all-technological foil to the magical abilities of Shazam (or, as he was back then, Captain Marvel... it’s a long story). Sivana didn’t have powers - he was a genius that just also happened to be rather bonkers.
In the New 52, Sivana was similarly a genius scientist, and Shazam! is leaning a bit more toward this iteration of the character — both in terms of his design and a more supernatural origin, because this version of Sivana has a bit more of a link to the world of magic.
After his scientific prowess didn’t help him save his family from tragedy, the New 52 version of Sivana sought out of the power of Black Adam (who will eventually be played by the Rock in a standalone film that is, apparently, still happening!), hoping that magic could do what science could not.
Instead, Sivana was disfigured by mystical lightning, creating a gash over his right eye that also allowed him to “see” the hidden magic in the world around him.
Given that Strong’s version of Sivana has the same scar, it’s presumably going to be a similar ability for him in the movie (alongside whatever other enhancements he has to go toe-to-toe with Shazam) — but will his connection to Black Adam through it carry over into the movie, given we know Black Adam is on the way eventually?
After all, director David F. Sandberg did tease to EW that there is something else behind Sivana’s power in the film:
And it’s not just him, really, it’s … something else … that lent him his powers … he can do some things that Shazam can’t. The danger in some films is the bad guy has the same powers as the good guy. [Sivana] has an extra thing, extra dynamic, that takes care of that…
We’ll have to wait until April 2019 to find out what that is exactly.