Despite a string of relatively lighter films, the DCEU still has room for dark takes according to Shazam! producer Peter Safran. After its self-imposed hiatus following Justice League's critical and financial disappointment, Warner Bros.' superhero franchise is back and more optimistic. James Wan and Jason Momoa's Aquaman became DC films' highest grosser and a critical darling last years, and now they're gearing to introduce their newest character via the David F. Sandberg-directed flick.
Starring Zachary Levi as the titular character alongside Asher Angel as his human alter-ego, Billy Batson, Shazam! seems to be another hit for the DCEU. Initial reactions have been generally positive and has already been Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. From the sound of it, Warner Bros. delivered on its promise of a light-hearted family film infused with everything fans love in a superhero film. However, despite this seemingly new direction for the DCEU, Safran believes that ultimately, the tones of their projects should be based on characters which means that edgy and gritty flicks are still in their cards.
Speaking with IGN during the red carpet premiere for Shazam!, Safran was asked to comment about a more fun DCEU and whether or not this will be the norm moving forward. According to the producer, their approach remains the same in a way that the tones of their films should be in the service of the characters. So while they've had a slew of lighter and successful offerings like Aquaman and now Shazam!, things will be different when it comes to The Batman and Joker which have an edgier vibe to them.
"I think that DC has the same idea we do now, which is every movie that they make should have the right tone for that particular character. Shazam is such a fun character. He is all about wish fulfillment. He is fun and funny, and that is the tone that you should have for the film. Aquaman has got a tone, fantastical element. Shazam is fun and funny. Wonder Woman's got her thing. I think they realize each tone has to be specific for each movie.
"Listen, there are certain characters like Batman, like the Joker, that dark tone is perfect for them. It's what you really want to see."
The DCEU's tone is one of its most controversial aspects, especially in its early years. Not everyone bought into the notion of a brooding Superman in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and a jokey Batman in Justice League considering that these contradict the characters' established brand from the comics. Some urged the franchise to lighten up and have a similar approach to the MCU as if it will also work well with the DCEU. But this also posed issues as evidenced by Justice League's confused tone. At this point, the best that Warner Bros. can do is cleverly map out their slate and like Safran said, continue making films based on characters.
Since the franchise doesn't seem to be in a rush to do another ensemble project, DCEU can continue experimenting with different tones and aesthetics for their standalones without having to worry about bringing them all together. And perhaps when the time comes for another team-up film, they'll be at a better place to meld these tones together for unique mix for their fans.