When it releases next month, Shazam! will mark the end of an era for the DC Extended Universe, as it's the last remaining movie from the original DCEU slate. Announced by Warner Bros. in October 2014, the schedule for the planned shared universe of DC movies included titles that have now been released, such as Wonder Woman and Aquaman, along with canceled or indefinitely delayed projects like The Flash, Justice League 2 and Cyborg.
Once believed to be a surefire plan for success, the DCEU has hit quite a few stumbling blocks in the four and a half years since the original slate was announced. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was scorned by critics and divided the fandom, while the heavily reshot Justice League earned the dubious honor of being one of the highest-grossing box office bombs ever, with its $657 million worldwide gross not able to offset the massive expense of production and marketing.
Directed by David F. Sandberg, Shazam! stars Asher Angel as troubled foster kid Billy Batson, who is gifted with incredible powers that allow him to turn into an adult superhero (played by Zachary Levi) when he shouts the magic word: "Shazam!" Based on the trailers, it looks like Shazam! will lean heavily into comedy, as well as showing the world of superheroes from the perspective of kids - quite a far cry from the early DCEU entries. Impressively, not only has Shazam! survived the turmoil of the DCEU and the many alterations to the original lineup of movies, it's even stuck with the release date that was announced back in 2014. As a reminder, this was the original plan for the DCEU:
- Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice - March 25th, 2016
- Suicide Squad - August 5th, 2016
- Wonder Woman - June 23rd, 2017
- Justice League - November 17th, 2017
- The Flash - March 23rd, 2018
- Aquaman - July 27th, 2018
- Shazam - April 5th, 2019
- Justice League 2 - June 14th, 2019
- Cyborg - April 3rd, 2020
- Green Lantern - June 19th, 2020
Of the other movies on the list, Batman V Superman, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League and Aquaman all made it into theaters and were, for the most part, successful. Aquaman and Wonder Woman were both box office hits and now have direct sequels on the way, while Suicide Squad was a more mixed bag and is currently getting a sequel/soft reboot from writer-director James Gunn.
However, the less-than-enthusiastic response to Batman V Superman's grim and dark take on the DC universe and director Zack Snyder's departure from the DCEU means that Warner Bros. has since pivoted to focus less on building a cohesive universe and more on individual movies. New additions to the DC slate include Joker, a mid-budget origin story starring Joaquin Phoenix that doesn't appear to have any connection to the rest of the DCEU, and Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), which will lean into and double down on the popularity of Margot Robbie's Suicide Squad character.
As for the other movies on the original release schedule, Green Lantern, Justice League 2, and Cyborg all seem to have been abandoned for now, while The Flash has been rewritten and changed directors so many times that it's surely unrecognizable from whatever Warner Bros. had planned in 2014. That movie obviously didn't make its 2018 release date, and according to the most recent reports, star Ezra Miller may be recast (though he's writing his own script in a bad to remain in the role).
Even in the golden age of superhero cinema, with no sign of audience fatigue in sight, movies like Shazam! - featuring a character that general audiences aren't familiar with - are a risk. However, based on early box office projections, Sandberg's movie should prove to be a modest success for Warner Bros.
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Aquaman 2 (2022) release date: Dec 16, 2022
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
- Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021