Shazam! was one of those rare moments in cinema history when Hollywood execs, despite their stubbornness, have to admit that sometimes going smaller means creating something wholesome. The race between the MCU and the DCEU was lost by Warner Bros studios long before it started mostly due to the poor planning and the lack of taste from the executive producers. The suits saw the success Marvel was having and thought that they should do the same and achieve the same level of success.
They tried to create an interconnected universe of films with a grittier atmosphere and slightly darker tone. They brought in Zack Snyder who was known for leaning heavily towards style in his movies often ignoring substance. They banked on their recognizable intellectual properties in Batman and Superman. They tried to create something epic and failed miserably. The DCEU was a laughing stock for Marvel fans who were amused and bewildered by the incompetence demonstrated by Warner Bros exects.
The futile attempts at making a serious comic book movie were ineffective, to say the least, and fared even worse in comparison to dramatic films that the MCU managed to deliver. To pour even more salt on the wound, Sony managed to vow everyone with the dark Logan and Deadpool. These films were R-rated, had dark humor and a lot of drama. Both were critical and financial success stories that made Warner Bros rethink their approach to the DCEU.
When Suicide Squad flopped and was bombarded by criticism, the execs finally gave up on the idea of creating an epic interconnected universe and started focusing on standalone movies that would be loosely connected. Shazam! as a concept was taking shape rapidly and was presented to the execs as the next blockbuster level film that could save the DCEU that was falling apart.
The film was greenlit. However, it was in production when Aquaman finished filming and was in post. The latter managed to entertain large crowds of moviegoers and made over a billion dollars in the box office. Finally, one of the movies directly related to the DCEU was a big financial success and was praised by fans. Shazam! was a completely different beast. Instead of focusing on grandiose CGI action scenes, the movie was character-driven and focused on comedy.
In the end, it turned out to be a good decision. The film was released after Aquaman in the following Spring and proved to be a financial success while pleasing fans who loved Zachary Levi’s portrayal of a goofy superhero. Shazam’s connection to the grander plotline of the DCEU was not even discussed at the time, mostly due to the fact that there was no overarching story anyway. The DCEU was reimagined again. Then, Ben Affleck made his final call and announced that he will not be returning as Batman.
Now, the new problem for the interconnected universe was to make a new Batman movie and somehow connect it to the universe while also meshing together tones of Shazam and darker Justice League in an eventual team-up movie sometime in the future. The schedule was full of movies that are barely connected to each other: Aquaman 2, The Flash, Black Adam, Suicide Squad 2, and The Batman are all films that will feature cameos and references to each other yet won’t be connected by a shared plotline.
In all this mess, Shazam was a bright spot that promised to be the new possible direction for the universe. Without Zac Snyder, the darker tone could be dropped altogether. Aquaman was a fun film with the main hero goofing around. Shazam was a success despite being about a boy who screams “SHAZAM!” and turns into a superhero. Wonder Woman was grim and grounded but also had a lot of levity hidden in the first two acts of the movie.
The success of Shazam! definitely was a consequence of care and love from Zachary Levi and the team behind the camera. It is evident that the actor loves playing the superhero and would love to return back to the set as soon as possible. While in isolation due to the coronavirus outbreak, he published a couple of photos of himself sporting the superhero outfit. He said that he is really eager to start filming the sequel when the lockdown is lifted.
In all fairness, the DCEU will greatly benefit from having Zachary Levi on the movie set in the nearest future. Black Adam solo film starring Dwayne The Rock Johnson is already anticipated by fans. It means that the two films will be shooting simultaneously. Levi already hinted at the potential duel between two super-powered individuals in the third film. However, before it can happen, we must see the second Shazam! movie that will either prove that the concept is actually working or fail miserably and force Warner Bros suits to rethink their approach to their incoherent cinematic universe once again.
Now, the saving grace for the franchise is that Shazam! was a relatively cheap movie to make. With its strong focus on its comedic elements, the film managed to cut costs and reduce the CGI required to bring the film to theaters and still retain its status of a blockbuster. Compared to bombastic Aquaman, Shazam is dirt-cheap. It will most likely make money even if it is not something mind-blowing.
A lot depends on how well Black Adam performs in the box office. The fight between the two heroes is a bit overarching story that could finally bridge disjointed movies and connect them together. It can all start making sense from the moment when Black Adam starts threatening the world and Shazam stands up against him supported by Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Batman. It may also be so far into the future that we will forget about Ben Affleck’s appearance as Batman and sudden disappearance of Superman as Henry Cavil may not really want to return to the DCEU franchise.
We all love Zachary Levi in his superhero costume. Hopefully, he will be able to return to the big screen in 2022 without any delays. By that time, we will, hopefully, be way past the pandemic and start going to cinemas.