Rest assured, there is an actual answer here. According to every reliable internet source, Shazam is indeed set within the larger universe of the DC superheroes, at least from the ‘official DCEU starting point’ with Man of Steel, in 2013. Just so we’re all clear, DCEU stands for the DC Extended Universe. All good? Great — let’s get into it.
It seems strange that a genuinely goofy superhero film (trailer tag line: “He’s not so serious“) would fit seamlessly within the endless grim-darkiness of the rest of the DCEU supers. Batman? Broody. Superman? Angsty. Aquaman? I don’t know what happened to the joviality he displayed in The Justice League, but his solo outing left me cold. The Justice League itself did have a few moments where I grinned, but I don’t recall any honest laughs.
Suicide Squad was billed as the “Guardians of the Galaxy of DC”, but ended up a hopelessly off-putting mess — lacking in actual, you know, levity. (James Gunn will be directing a soft-reboot of Suicide Squad, and we can hope he will bring to Suicide Squad what he did with Guardians of the Galaxy. Full stop. #InGunnWeTrust)
And then there’s Wonder Woman, which is not a particularly comedic film, but is the best feature in the DCEU stable. It’s grand. It’s glorious. But still rather serious, in comparison with the 22+ home run hits from The Marvel Cinematic Universe (the MCU: a term you should know by now, after ten deeply interwoven years).
Would Shazam fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
This leads us to the MCU. Marvel has the movie formula down — great characters, sparkling dialogue, emotional stakes, lots of sacrifice and acts of compassion, gorgeous visuals, and yes, a TON of humor.
Would Shazam, as a character, fit into the MCU? Yes. Yes indeedy. Right next to Antman and Spider-Man, which are on the lightest, fluffiest end of Marvel’s franchise (“Wait — we have an Antman and a Spider-Man?”). Shazam could be Peter Parker’s friend, even.
But the two universes can never, ever meet. That would be like matter and antimatter colliding.
Can a purely funny film like Shazam work in the DCEU?
Back to Shazam. Batman News says to look closely at the ‘boy’ characters — Billy Batson’s young friend Freddy Freeman is a huge DC superhero fan, wearing Aquaman logo shirts, collecting newspaper clippings of momentous hero events: generally displaying a savvy knowledge of the ‘real’ superheroes. He likes supers and knows a lot about them; he treats them as actual people in his world, not comic book fantasies.
Screenrant says the producers went to great lengths to only show background action figures the DCEU featured to date, holding back on characters they haven’t allotted movie time to yet. It’s a deliberate thing. It’s world-building.
ING.com reports: “So while Superman was battling Zod and then Batman and then Doomsday and then death and then Steppenwolf, Billy Batson was being tossed around the foster care system.”
We’re supposed to understand these boys live on a planet where Superman and Batman fought a mano-a-mano battle royale, where Gotham City is a crazed warren of evil-doers, and Wonder Woman is out there inspiring legions of little girls. I know I’ll be paying attention to everything in the background during Shazam, and you should too. Tee-shirts, wall posters, thingies on shelves and desktops…and note the city graffiti, even (see: Stan Lee, in Deadpool 2, his most minimal cameo ever).
How are they going to ultimately integrate the silly antics of Shazam with the grim reality of Batman and Co? Well, that’s assuming they’ll meet. DC has a long way to go in rehabilitating their franchise in a non-depressing way, and personally, I don’t think they can do this. Not right now. But I won’t toss in the towel just yet.
How Shazam could save DC:
If Shazam brings in the box office bucks, then clearly the producers will be thrilled to finally have a joyful origin story on the table. Besides creating Shazam sequels (which will surely lose their luster as Billy becomes a grown man on his own), they might decide to lighten up overall. This is to the good. They’ve tried to set themselves apart from the MCU over the years, but at the cost of pleasing many fans.
Not that they should be a cookie-cutter of the MCU. I hope they find their own path, because to me, the more adventure blockbusters the better…but I’d like to leave a DC movie feeling on top of the world, instead of vaguely disturbed.
If they can pick up some of the wonder of Wonder Woman, and add the (hopeful) hilarity of Shazam, they’ll have a franchise people will go nuts for. Just as a comparison, again, with the MCU, it’s only April 2nd and the tickets for April 24th’s Avengers: Endgame just became available. It’s the only thing trending on Twitter today and fans are losing their minds to secure opening night seats. Don’t you think DC would like a little of that boisterous clamor for their films?
I’m not giving up hope just yet. Shazam has me filled with it. It might be goofy as hell, but this world could stand to loosen up a little. Between the darkness of Batman and the silliness of Shazam, DC might find their way.
Enjoy the SHAZAM! trailer right here:
Shazam is 2 hours and 12 minutes long, and there are reportedly two extra scenes during the credits, so keep your RunPee app handy to tell you when to take the best breaks for the loo.
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Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)