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It has been almost a year since Justice League hit theaters, and the DCEU has gone through a fair number of significant changes and upheavals. There are several significant projects right around the corner with films like Aquaman and Wonder Woman 1984 set for release, but it's a lesser-known hero who stands out as the possible brightest hope for live-action DC movies. I'm specifically talking about David F. Sandberg's Shazam!, as the upcoming, lighthearted DC romp looks like it could be the saving grace of live-action DC movies.
The first official trailer for Shazam! dropped this weekend at San Diego Comic-Con, taking the internet by storm. For the first time, the internet finally got a chance to see Asher Angel as Billy Batson, as well as Zachary Levi as the titular hero -- who Billy turns into when he yells the name "Shazam!" There has never been a DC movie quite like this (even if Shazam! draws a ton of inspiration from movies like Big), and that could play a key role in ensuring its success.
Though we don't love to continually draw comparisons between the DCEU and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's worth looking at the success of Iron Man to see how Shazam! could mark a major win for DC. Tony Stark was a relatively unknown property to mainstream audiences when the MCU began back in 2008. In the same regard, Shazam is a similarly obscure DC hero (though he's nothing like Tony in terms of characterization), and that could help position Shazam! as something fresh and exciting.
Just take a look back at the problems that other DCEU films have faced over the years. Movies like Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, and Justice League were largely criticized by some segments of the fanbase for how they handled certain beloved characters. Many DC aficionados have much-needed ideas as to what their movie Batman, Superman, or Joker should look and act like in a film. On the other hand, a hero like Shazam (who hasn't been depicted in live-action for decades) is a blank slate with far more malleability and potential for new types of stories.
Granted, the Wonder Woman franchise is doing just fine with an established hero who has plenty of mainstream brand recognition, but Diana Prince's formula for success arguably feels somewhat hard for other franchises to replicate. That film was a significant cultural milestone in its own right, and it also largely thrived based on how separated it was from the rest of the DCEU continuity. Shazam! doesn't have to worry about that. Early glimpses have confirmed that it's going all in on references to the greater DCEU lore, but with so little established big-screen mythology, David F. Sandberg and the team behind the movie can do a lot of different and exciting stuff with the titular hero.
From there, if Shazam! does indeed become the success that I think it can become, that could open the door for DC to continue embracing lesser-known heroes to fill out its ranks. With heroes like Martian Manhunter or Booster Gold waiting in the wings, a profitable Shazam! could easily pave the way for DC to similarly invest in these cool icons while giving top-tier heroes like Batman and Superman a much-needed break.
We will find out precisely what audiences think of Billy Batson and his musclebound hero form next year when Shazam! finally debuts on the big screen on April 5, 2019! Until then, watch out for the December 21, 2018 release of James Wan's Aquaman, and keep it here for more updates on anything and everything related to the DC world.