Shazam! set the DCEU on a whole different path. Starring Asher Angel and Zachary Levi, Shazam! is probably the most entertaining film in the DCEU to date. It effortlessly blends light and dark, with a coming-of-age narrative that's sure to touch viewers' hearts. While the movie is releasing in a year packed with superhero blockbusters - it comes shortly after Captain Marvel, and will swiftly be followed by Hellboy and Avengers: Endgame - positive word-of-mouth means box office predictions are improving. It's not expected to reach Aquaman levels, but it certainly looks as though Shazam! is another win for Warner Bros.
For years, the DCEU struggled with a narrative that it was in a perpetual state of crisis. In part that was a result of a longstanding PR problem, with a constant stream of leaks and few proper official announcements. Directors James Wan and David F. Sandberg corrected this with Aquaman and Shazam!, carefully controlling the release of information so their films didn't get that fatal negative buzz. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. is clearly confident in the new trajectory of the DCEU; they have a packed slate running through to 2022, with no less than seven films in various stages of development - some still gestating, others filming now or in post-production.
So what does Shazam! tell viewers about the future shape of the DCEU? The DCEU has changed significantly ever since the release of 2017's Justice League, but in a good way. The shared universe, along with separate DC movies, are growing rapidly. But where does it all go from here? It's time to explore the story beats, and see just what Shazam! sets up.
- This Page: Shazam! Introduces Magic To The DCEU
- Page 2: Shazam! And The Justice League
- Page 3: The DCEU Stories After Shazam!
Shazam! Introduces Magic To The DCEU
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a strong basis in science, to the extent that Marvel consulted with quantum physicists when they were planning to integrate magic in Doctor Strange. In contrast, the DCEU has no such pretensions. Previous films had already established the existence of magic and gods - the Enchantress is a mystical villain in Suicide Squad, and the gods are an important part of Wonder Woman - but Shazam! decides it's time to give magic a proper introduction. Billy Batson is whisked away to the Rock of Eternity, an other-dimensional plane that is said to be the source of magic. By the end of Shazam!, the Rock of Eternity - with all its attendant risks and hazards - has officially become the Shazam Family's lair.
It looks as though, in the DCEU, anyone has the potential to do magic. Doctor Sivana deduced that the Rock of Eternity could be reached through seven uses of seven symbols, although granted at great risk. These runes seem to have tremendous power, and they're presumably only the tip of the iceberg. Meanwhile, at the end of the film, Sivana is offered further secrets of magic by Mister Mind, a mysterious yet powerful caterpillar/worm creature. "You walking, talking monkeys with your cave drawings," Mister Mind mocked. "You assume there's only one way to gain magic. No, no, no." He spoke ominously of the Seven Realms - a reference to the Seven Magiclands from the comics, each of which has their own brand of magic. All of these Realms are naturally linked to the Rock of Eternity, meaning the Shazam Family will surely be at the center of Mister Mind's plans, and magic will continue to be developed in the DCEU.
Shazam Proves DC Films Are Doing The Rights Things (Finally)
Early DCEU films were famed for their troubled productions, with directors reportedly in a state of constant conflict with studio execs. That came to a head in Justice League, where the studio pushed for a very different version of the film to the one Zack Snyder had planned. When Snyder departed after a family tragedy, he was replaced by Joss Whedon, and the result was something of a Frankenstein's Monster that had barely been stitched together into a coherent story.
Warner Bros. learned from their mistakes. They're now allowing each director to make their own kind of film, one that perfectly suits their vision of the character and their world. Aquaman was so very characteristic of Wan - the horror director's imprint is most notable during the thrilling scene featuring the Trench - while Shazam! is exactly what Sandberg wanted it to be. It doesn't compromise its identity in order to fit into a shared universe; it's allowed to be its own thing. This is so much the case that Shazam! doesn't even feature the typical DCEU intro sequence; when questioned about this on Twitter, Sandberg noted that he wanted custom logos in the movie instead, and then admitted, "Also I forgot about that one."
It's an approach lifted straight from the comics, where the best comic books allow a creative team to do their own thing. Some comics are aimed at young adults, others deal with more mature themes; some are dark and gritty, others are light and optimistic. Just as all these different styles coexist in the same comic book world, there's no reason they can't coexist in the same cinematic universe as well. As Shazam! producer Peter Safran explained, "every movie... should have the right tone for that particular character." Looking forward, that explains why Warner Bros. is building a shared universe where Shazam! is as much part of the DCEU as Cathy Yan's low-budget, R-rated Birds of Prey.
Page 2 of 3: Shazam! and the Justice League
- 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
- DC Super Pets (2022) release date: May 20, 2022
- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
- The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
- Aquaman 2 (2022) release date: Dec 16, 2022