Why the DCEU Needs Shazam More Than Ever
Upon the teaser (barely a teaser) trailer release for Shazam, the reaction I would say was split down the middle. You have some who are praising DC/WB for opening up to the idea that they can do fun and light. Something that legitimately brings hope back to this world of superheroes. Then you have those who only see this as another flop already because they believe we need more of the same, and a serious take on a superhero who has never always been that serious. You can already tell which side I lean towards unapologetic. In other words, I’m going to be blunt right now. So you have been forewarned.
The DCEU has been lacking in one critical area since the start, and that is creating a hopeful world for superheroes. When I say hope, I mean a world where someone can aspire to be a superhero. Justice League was a great introduction for some of them, but none of them were properly influenced to rise to the occasion. They had to be motivated by things going wrong that they couldn’t ignore. Shazam addresses what happens when you actually have superheroes to look up to. The Billy we see isn’t that big into the concept of superheroes, but that didn’t mean he was negligent to what they represent. When you have that hope, and then you have the power, anything can happen from there. Especially when you’re a hero who isn’t born out of tragedy. Honestly I think we can do better than that, and both Shazam and Aquaman are on the right track. We need to be able to look at these heroes and smile with them, laugh with them, because it’s not always going to be about who hits harder.
When I watched that teaser trailer, it was heartwarming. Billy is a kid who had nothing, and then he got this godly power that he didn’t know what to do with. He goes through the basic upstart things that any new hero would experience. When you become that big, the first thing you want to know is how strong you are. When you find that you have this badass cape, wouldn’t you want to see if you can fly? And nothing is better than your first rush with a criminal and seeing that you are pretty a much a truck and all you have to do is steer the wheel. He is the very first hero for his age that will get to have the full experience, and that is not something to overlook because you want him to be taken seriously.
I think we all also overlook that in general, this is the first movie that as well actually brings magic into the DCEU. Wonder Woman has some elements of magic to her, but she will always be a warrior foremost. This introduction has the same effect as Doctor Strange. Maybe Shazam isn’t a hero who casts spells, but he ties directly to that corner of the DCEU that can now be explored. That’s very important when so far the greatest villains we’ve come across are aliens and monsters.
If there’s one thing I want to address most, it is the (excuse me) ignorance of those who call themselves comic fans. We have come a long way for everything to still come down to Marvel versus DC. Because Marvel did this, DC is copying, and vice versa. A childish argument with no end if you ask me. We have come to a point where no tone or approach to storytelling belongs to any one studio. A successful studio acknowledges that there is an audience for everything. One movie does not set the tone for the rest, the concept of a universe does not dictate the boundaries of the movies that make it up. We need movies that make us laugh, we need movies that kids can also enjoy, and we need movies that can cross a line.
To say that because a majority of Marvel’s movies are light-hearted and fun, that a DC movie can’t do the same is close-minded. If cheesy means successful because a wide audience can sit there and laugh, cry, and still be in shock from unforgivable acts? By all means, let it be cheesy. I hate that word, what it has become, and it should have no place in what is works of fiction at the end of the day. Even if Shazam was cheesy, guess what? Who cares? This is a kid who magically turns into an adult when he powers up by screaming SHAZAM! Of course what he says will come off that way or they would be going about the character all wrong.
I’ll end it on this note. If you read this and all you take away is that another writer is talking down to you about a troublesome mentality about these movies? That’s fine. These changes in perception never happen overnight. However, that won’t change the fact that Shazam is a bold step forward in embracing the wonder of being a superhero in a world where Superman has already saved the world three times and the Justice League has already formed.