In a recent interview, one of the producers of the upcoming DC Extended Universe movie Shazam says that it will be “the next step in the evolution of the DC brand.”
An unconventional take on the genre, in Shazam Asher Angel plays Billy Batson, a fourteen-year-old orphan who gains the power to change into an adult superhero when he says the magical word “Shazam!” In his empowered form, he is played by Zachary Levi.
The film is due out in theaters on April 5, 2019. Warner Bros. is getting a head start on promoting it, though, as it will be prominently featured in the DCEU’s San Diego Comic-Con panel on Saturday, July 21.
Producer Peter Safran took some time to talk about the movie with Entertainment Weekly, during which he compared it to Wonder Woman, a historical fantasy which came out last year, and Aquaman, an underwater adventure which comes out December 21.
“All different movies, but all have a unique tone that moves away from the darkness of the prior DC movies,” he said.
That darkness has gotten the franchise some criticism; while the more deconstructive take on superheroes has some fans, in general audiences have been put off by films that often feel too dour. The franchise has been trying to course-correct since the financial disappointment of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, with the kid-friendly Shazam being the ultimate expression of this change.
Levi himself also commented on this, noting that, in both DC Comics and its rival Marvel Comics, you are unlikely to find characters who actually enjoy being a superhero, as opposed to seeing it as some sort of burden on their lives. “Billy Batson is like Peter Parker,” he said, “they’re thrilled to have these powers and can’t wait to try them out.”
So far, preview images for the movie have emphasized this point, focusing a lot on Levi in his superhero costume acting childish. There has also been a lot of focus on Jack Dylan Grazer, who portrays Billy’s foster brother and best friend, Freddy Freeman, showing that Billy is less of a brooding loner.
If you like the grittier DC fare, fear not: Warner Bros. is reportedly planning to start a “DC Dark” or “DC Black” brand which will include films like the upcoming Joker.