Letting go of the nightmares that were “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Justice League,” the producers at Warner Brothers were finally able to make movies less chained to a static brand. Last year’s “Aquaman,” though connected through Jason Momoa’s appearance in “Justice League,” was able to forget about the other heroes and tell a story about Arthur Curry in Atlantis. This year’s first DC Comics movie “Shazam!” tells its own seemingly separate story of teen Billy Batson (Asher Angel) who meets a mystical wizard that grants him the power to turn into the fully grown and fully costumed superhero, Shazam (Zachary Levi), just by speaking the wizard’s name.
Rather than playing off of the dark and gritty films before it, “Shazam!” sets to take on a more child-friendly approach. In its conception, the movie tailors itself to a younger audience. The film’s plot follows the young Billy Batson and his various antics when he gains the ability to turn into a fully grown adult superhero. The premise is like the 1988 film “Big” which similarly finds a teen transforming into a grown adult instantaneously. This “what if” scenario plays to the childish imagination in a story that fits perfectly into the current landscape of entertainment.
Though the film is advertised to a younger demographic, the direction and editing spark incredible moments of horror in this otherwise campy film. Director David F. Samberg, most recognized for his horror projects “Lights Out” and “Annabelle: Creation,” has put his own unique, stylish touch on his most recent film. The film features several jump scare moments that can startle viewers not expecting it. In addition to the horror stylized editing, the conception of the seven deadly sins physical manifestations are, in themselves, monsters out of a horror film.
Unmistakably, the film is a lot of fun. By the studio’s choice of distancing the film from the larger DC Extended Universe while still maintaining the possibility of a crossover, the film has the opportunity to poke fun at the DCEU and other superheroes. Even more so, the film can take the perspective of a kid living in a world with superheroes leading to the fun and wonderfully innocent montage scenes of power testing.
With the release of this film based on a whacky concept, films slated by Warner Brothers containing DC Comics properties can loosen up and move away from Marvel’s popularization of a cinematic universe style of film franchising. Later in the year, Warner Brothers is set to release “Joker,” a lower budget origin story to Batman’s greatest foe. Rather than putting both the caped crusader and clown prince of crime into the same live-action movie for the fifth time, Joker, Joaquin Phoenix, is the star of his own psychological thriller story set in the 80s.
This direction taken by Warner Brothers allows for more stories to occur that aren’t strictly adhering to the rules of the DC Extended Universe. “Joker” can be its own small standalone film set in a world without a Batman or Superman, yet still take the character and make something greater. “Shazam!” is a step towards branching away from the cinematic universe style of franchise movies that is heavily associated with the superhero genre. With less tragedy and more smiles, “Joker” should be a fresh take for those exhausted by rampant superhero figures who have popularized our films more than a decade. “Shazam!” was just a fun first step.