Zachary Levi Says Shazam Is The Deadpool Of The DC Universe

When the first "Shazam!" came out, it felt like a very refreshing addition to the DC cinematic canon. In contrast to the dark, grim, and very grey style of Zack Snyder's DC films, "Shazam!" was a shock to the system. It was a movie that had both the optimism of "Wonder Woman" and the everything-goes factor of "Aquaman," all mixed with a bright and cheerful sense of humor that fit the story of a kid who can turn into a full-grown superhero at will.

This was the very first (and so far, only) modern DC movie to serve a power fantasy like so many comics, and that was fun. Sure, the film was rather dark at times (and extremely cold on-set, according to the actors), and had some very cruel death scenes, but it never let go of the fact that its protagonist is a kid and took advantage of his unique and refreshing point of view.

Indeed, Billy Batson is not like other DC heroes. He is a lovable dork, an innocent kid ... and, if you ask Zachary Levi, the DC equivalent of Deadpool? At least, that's how Levi described the character in an interview for the March 2023 issue of SFX magazine:

 "We get to be the most subversive of all the DC characters, almost like the Deadpool of DC. Deadpool gets to sit outside of it and comment on it all and have fun with it all obviously in a more R-rated, mature way. We do the same thing, just a little more family-friendly!"

A vision for the future

Admittedly, Shazam does sit a bit on the sidelines of the DC universe, but "Shazam!" doesn't really comment on superhero tropes like "Deadpool." The lack of fourth wall breaks aside, the first film wasn't really a parody or necessarily subversive. There were Easter eggs and some jokes about Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, but arguably not enough to justify the comparison.

More importantly, that interview makes it seem like "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" is leaving behind some of the childhood wonder that made the first film special, which is honestly kind of worrisome. In the same article, Asher Angel, who plays Billy, said the fact that the actors (and their characters) are older means the humor is growing up a bit. "There is more adult humor for sure," he said. "It's not as kid-friendly as the first film, but we're still keeping that component a little bit."

As great and invigorating as "Shazam!" was for the world of DC, things are much different now than they were when the film premiered in 2019. In the wake of James Gunn and Peter Safran announcing their plans for DC's future onscreen, one thing is clear: "Shazam!" will no longer be an outlier. After all, the new Superman is not going to be a brooding man hiding his identity, but a "big galoot" who doesn't want to hurt anyone. Likewise, the new Batman is an actual dad with a precocious son.

Making matters worse, the trailers make "Fury of the Gods" look like a bigger story with more action than the first "Shazam!" movie. As director David F. Sandberg put it, "We have a bit more money so we can have a bit more spectacle and scale. Now we get to go bigger and have bigger stakes."

Where does it all fit?

Nevertheless, Zachary Levi is confident about "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" and its ability to stand out from other comic book movies by nature of it being about a kid superhero. "Very few of them get to balance that with the fact that they're actually a kid and they're still learning how to drive, let alone be a superhero," he told SFX magazine. "That paradox creates such a really fun, interesting, enjoyable sandbox to play in."

Except, those kids are not getting any younger, as "Fury of the Gods" keeps teasing, so how long can these movies remain the youngest part of the DC Universe? Especially when you think about how James Gunn's new directive is to go with younger actors who can play DCU characters for years to come, how will "Shazam!" and its sequel(s) stand apart from other future DC movies ? Also, where does "Blue Beetle" fit into all this, what with it being another DC movie about an individual with superpowers who's struggling with still being a kid (in a different sense than Billy Batson is, natch)?

For now, we don't know whether there will even be another "Shazam!" movie after "Fury of the Gods," much less if the franchise will actually tie into the DCU going forward. Either way, you'll be able to catch up with DC's currently youngest superhero (and, apparently, the brand's answer to Deadpool) when "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" flies into theaters on March 17, 2023.