I Didn't Believe in the Shazam! Hype, But Now...I Get It

Zachary Levi as a very astonished Shazam.
Zachary Levi as a very astonished Shazam.
Image: Warner Bros

As much as diehard fans of Warner Bros.’ DC movies might not want to admit it, the fact of the matter is that most of the studio’s film so far have been, well, not great. The studio’s less-than-stellar track record made it kind of difficult to get too excited for Shazam!, a property you wouldn’t immediately think would be one of the major linchpins of DC’s (still relatively new) cinematic universe.

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Warner Bros.’ reluctance to show off Shazam’s live-action costume and star Zachary Levi’s insistence that it looks “fucking bomb” only made it seem as if the studio was concerned about how everyone would respond to it. Like many people, I didn’t have the highest hopes for Shazam!, but having now seen the movie’s first trailer, I’ve got to say that it honestly looks like it might be the breath of fresh air that the DCEU sorely, sorely needs.

While the jury’s still out on whether Shazam!’s take on the character’s iconic costume is up to snuff (goodness, that padding), there’s more than a good chance it won’t really matter in the end, because of the very distinct tone and vibe the movie appears to be going for. Not a day goes by when a critic—after having overheard yet another rallying cry from the Snyder Cut enthusiasts—sighs to themselves and wonders whether anyone remembers that, grimdark as these kinds of films tend to be on the whole, they’re meant for children.

The Shazam! trailer establishes that the story is set in the same world where Superman kills and Batman enjoys bouts of Batcave CrossFit, but it quickly moves on to focus on young Billy Batson and his curious, lighthearted journey to becoming a hero. Much in the same way Wonder Woman understood that DC’s heroes are at their narrative strongest when they’re centered in stories about them as idealized symbols of justice and perseverance, Shazam! gets that it needs to be a film about just how much fun a young teenager would have after being granted superpowers by a really old wizard.

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Sure, Billy’s going to save the day and defeat whatever ancient evil the original Shazam dedicated his life to holding at bay, but he’s also going to spend a fair amount of time mucking around with his newfound powers and having a damned good time doing it, because that’s the sort of thing a kid would do. What’s even more promising is that you get the distinct sense that Shazam! won’t be overly concerned with the connective tissue between it and the rest of the DCEU. Shazam!, god willing, is going to be its own film—a bright piece of cinema that wants you to get excited and remember what it was like to fall in love with superheroes when you first got into comic books.

It’s a major deviation from the studio’s habit of slapping a dark blue filter over things and banking on everyone simply being satisfied to see most of the Justice League flying around in epic, lifeless CGI battles. Hopefully, Shazam!’s going to end up being the movie that finally gets the DCEU on track to be extraordinary, the way we all know it can be.

io9 Culture Critic and Staff Writer. Cyclops was right.

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DISCUSSION

Sigh. Of course Shazam is made to appeal to children, that’s part of the character’s appeal. That doesn’t mean all comic book movies should be like that. I used to watch every MCU movie and buy every bluray release until the movies started feeling samey and increasingly insincere when it comes to appealing to the audience. Now I’m afraid the DCEU might follow suit.

After what happened to Justice League, if WB executives continue guiding the DCEU under the assumption that the majority of people hated it (a real danger when it comes to the Suicide Squad sequels and spinoffs), they don’t deserve to work not just in Hollywood but any business that involves dealing with people ever again. Former WB producer Steven Mnuchin going to work in Trump’s administration would seem more respectable in contrast since it’s obvious he’s only in it for the money; despite supporting Trump, he financed some pretty left-leaning movies like Mad Max Fury Road and Man of Steel.