The 2019 DC Film, Shazam!, often gets lost in the crowd of superhero movies, but it has all the makings to be a gem in the crown of the DCEU. Shazam! evokes all the feelings of a nostalgic blockbuster while maintaining the allure of modern-day superhero movies. It’s a family-friendly kids’ film but maintains adult appeal by poking fun at typical superhero cliches. Without giving away any spoilers, the movie is an ensemble piece with the majority of the film focusing on Shazam figuring out his powers. The story also focuses on the meaning of family as Shazam, or Billy Batson, continually runs away from foster homes to search for his birth mother, from whom he became separated while at a carnival ten years prior. He is placed in a group home with five other foster children, but in the end, he is only capable of victory when he is joined by his foster siblings.
Shazam himself is genuine, heroic, and embodies the combination of naivity and hopefulness that many wish Superman conveyed in his films. This is the view of Clayburn Griffin and Nikhil Kasbekar, the hosts of the nerd-adjacent and superhero-focused podcast, We Understood That Reference. In their Shazam-focused episode, Clayburn and Nikhil discuss DC Films and Warner Brother’s hesitation to make more Superman movies. DC proudly extended Henry Cavill’s contract for more DCEU cameos, in hopes to elevate other DC Films and make them more exciting with the appearance of Superman.
This begs the question– why are DC Films and Warner Bros. hesitant to do more Superman movies? Clayburn and Nikhil propose DC has not been able to translate the magic of Superman in the comics to the screen. In the films, Superman starts off tragic and never changes. He is never given something to change his worldview, and a hero needs to enjoy life in order to have something to fight for. In contrast to Superman, Shazam embodies childhood navity and is hopeful while Superman almost seems depressed on screen. Clayburn argues, “Shazam was a better Superman than Superman has been.”
If you would like to learn more about how Shazam could be the answer for DC, or consider if he will just become another film in the DCEU because he is not integral to the Justice League, check out the We Understood That Reference podcast. They also cover superhero movies and comic book stuff in general. You can find them on their website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. They’re all over the place!