It may be hard to believe, but Shazam! will be the seventh entry into the DC Cinematic Universe — a shared universe with its fair share of ups and downs. The DCEU has a tumultuous history, with many cooks in the kitchen, but after Aquaman’s course correction, it feels like the DCEU is moving on a distinct set of tracks.
Shazam! is fairly unique in the line-up so far, and stands in a position to bring some rather drastic changes to the greater DCEU. Some of these changes may be immediately apparent. Others might not be felt until months after Shazam’s! release. Others are just speculation and may not come to pass. However, there are many ways Shazam! can change the DCEU — some far more likely than others.
10 (It Can) De-Emphasize The Justice League
One trend of the recent DCEU films is the move away from the Justice League. After four films building up to what ultimately turned out to be a disappointment, WB seems to be shying away from big team-up movies.
As such, both Wonder Woman and Aquaman looked to be more solo-adventures, caught up in their own heroes’ personal dilemmas. Shazam! appears to be continuing that trend.
If it proves successful, this will only serve to reinforce DC and WB the importance of good solo films. This doesn’t mean there will be no more Justice League team-up films (Birds of Prey and Suicide Squad 2 are upcoming team movies, after all), but it does mean they will be less of a priority when solo films get a better reception.
9 (It Can) Inspire More Down-to-Earth Stories
Despite being about super strong heroes and ancient wizards, Shazam! is, essentially, a story about a kid looking for family, given his first doses of real responsibility. This is not a story about the meaning of war (Wonder Woman), the philosophy of Gods (Batman v Superman), or world-ending wars for dominance (Aquaman). It’s just a kid.
Shazam! may prove not every DCEU film has to be an epic. It can tell a far simpler story. In fact, simple can pack more of a punch, in the vast scheme of things. Most people can’t relate to an ancient king reclaiming his birth right, but they can relate to a kid looking for purpose in a chaotic world. This means you might get to see characters like Booster Gold (get rich fast) or The Flash (solving mysteries) might look more appealing to DC.
8 (It Can) Lead To More Teens Main Characters
DC Comics has a lot of teenage heroes. Despite this, none of them have headlined a film before. Sure, we have seen teenage Clark Kent coming to terms with his powers ore than once, but never has a teenage hero starred in a big-budget DC film.
If Shazam! shows teens can headline a movie, this might prove the box office potential of other teen superheroes. Barbara Gordon? Nightwing? Teen Titans? All fair game.
7 (It Can) Give Us Black Adam (If Successful)
Dwayne Johnson has been talking, and talking, AND TALKING about playing Black Adam since before Batman v Superman came out. Yet, despite his confidence, the DCEU has been so unstable and chaotic that no one really is sure what films are coming their way.
However, one thing is for sure: if Shazam! is successful, Black Adam will be greenlit to capitalize on its success. On the other hand, if Shazam! is not successful, then there will be no Black Adam. The success of Dwayne Johnson’s passion project depends on the shoulders of a teenage fanboy. Let’s pray the film is strong enough to support the Rock’s dreams.
6 (It Can) Develop The Thousands Of Years Of DCEU Lore
The DCEU has succeeded at very quickly establishing thousands of years of backstory. The films fleshed out the history of the Greek Gods, Atlantis, and even alluded to the legacy of the New Gods. However, outside of Suicide Squad’s The Enchantress, we have yet to see the real extent of the world’s legacy of witches and sorcerers. How has the existence of magic changed and altered the course of history in the DCEU?
Shazam! can offer insight on an aspect of the DCEU never-before seen. Much like how MCU films like Dr. Strange and Thor expand on the universe, this too can expand the lore of the DCEU.
5 (It Will) Add The Sense Of Legacy To The DCEU
Great things are imitated.
The core crux of Shazam is that Billy Batson is inspired to be a hero, following in the legacy of other, already established heroes. This adds a sense of legacy to the DCEU. Heroes who emerge following the emergence of Superman and the Justice League are inspired by what came before.
This accomplishes two things: it deifies the already existing DC superheroes, making them feel like Gods among men, and it shows how their existence elevates and influences the world around them. This film truly feels like the first that will satisfy the question posed by so many prior DCEU films: how does the existence of Superman and Wonder Woman change the world?
4 (It Can) Renew Interest In The DCEU’s Inter-Connectivity
Following the prior point, what Shazam! can also do is renew interest in the inter-connectivity of DCEU films. Recent rumors suggest that most future DCEU films will be more independent than before, following the success of Wonder Woman and Aquaman.
As indicated by the trailers, however, Shazam! clearly exists in conversation with the prior films, referencing superheroes like Batman and Superman. Probably more, too. If Shazam’s! method of referencing prior heroes proves successful, you can expect future DCEU films to continue this trend. Referencing the other films in some way — or the events in the other films, like how Aquaman references the events of Justice League.
3 (It Can) Bring A Focus On Pure Magic Again
For some time, superhero films avoided mentioning pure magic. This isn’t just a DCEU thing. It’s a general superhero thing. Thor went out of its way to explain that nothing you saw in Asgard was magic. It was just science we didn’t understand. Really, until Doctor Strange and Wonder Woman, pure magic was a taboo — and, even when it did appear, it was the subject of disbelief.
While Shazam! is a comedy and will no doubt also poke fun at the cheesy magic therein, it will also re-establish magic as a core force of the DCEU. Magic has been a reoccurring component in the DCEU, first in Suicide Squad, then Wonder Woman, but films like Justice League and Aquaman de-emphasized it in favor of science, either in the form of ancient or alien technology. Shazam! may renew interest in the DCEU’s world of magic, which can only be good for other magic-centric characters like Zatanna, Raven, and Doctor Fate.
2 (It Can) Make Families The Target Audience
For awhile, the DC seemed to regard themselves as entertainment for adults. Not just on the film side, which featured such “family friendly” topics as 9/11 iconography, mass murder, and the horrors of war. Even the comic company regarded itself as entertainment for people in their 30’s.
Shazam! could remind DC what Marvel has known since Spider-Man: families love superhero films. There are ways you can make a film that can appeal to kids and adults alike. Shazam, judging by how it starts a far younger cast, clearly has younger audiences in mind. And that’s a good thing. The DCEU has been telling stories about jaded and war-weary adults for six films. We can use something a little more family oriented.
1 (It Will) Be Copied If Successful
The DCEU is reactionary. Every success and failure has changed the trajectory of future films. If Shazam! is successful, it will be copied. Whether it’s copied once or twice probably depends on the success of the film that follows Shazam!. After all, the DCEU is an unstable beast. Any number of influences can alter its course.
However, if Shazam! proves successful, it will be copied in the films that follow. This may not sound like a radical stance to take, and, really, it isn’t. However, it is the only certain thing we as fans can be assured of. With every film help steer the ship, the DCEU will plot its next course based on the success (or failure) of Shazam!.