EDITORIAL: Why The SHAZAM! Movie Should Embrace The Character's Campiness

EDITORIAL: Why The SHAZAM! Movie Should Embrace The Character's Campiness

If the set photos of Zachary Levi in costume as Shazam! are any indication, the movie is going to stay true to the character's comic book history. Fortunately, that could be a very good thing for DC Films.

Over the last week, we’ve seen an avalanche of set photos and videos that give us a pretty good look at what Zachary Levi’s costume is going to look like in Shazam!. Just based on these unofficial pictures, we’re going to be in for a very comic-accurate take on the character. While the bright colors and felt-like texture might be altered in post-production, this costume looks like it will be a far cry from the first few DCEU super-suits that were revealed.
 
The first images of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman all featured muted colors, and this could be seen in both official stills and behind-the-scenes photos.
 
The reaction to these set photos has been mostly positive, despite some concerns that the costume is too cartoonish and bulky. While we can’t really judge the costume until we see it in video-form, these pictures do give us a little bit of insight into what we can expect from the movie. After the success of Wonder Woman, which portrayed an unironically optimistic hero, DC would probably feel more comfortable with a comic-accurate Shazam.


However, there were some questions about how this movie was going to be handled when David F. Sandberg was announced as the director. Sandberg fits the trend of hiring directors who are used to working on low-budget films to take on a franchise. However, Sandberg is known mainly for horror movies like Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation, two films that don't have a lot in common with Shazam!.
 
Of course, we’ve seen horror directors successfully make the jump to lighter fare in the past, with Sam Raimi and James Wan being notable examples. If the costume is any indication, Shazam! should be an unabashedly fun superhero adventure, showing that DC Films could be learning from their mistakes.
 
It’s no secret that many critics didn’t like the gritty tone of Man of Steel, and the mixed reaction to that film has left a permanent mark on the franchise. However, this doesn’t mean that a darker, more realistic approach to comic book adaptations are a bad thing. What’s most important is finding a tone that is consistent with the film’s main character and source material.
 
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy featured a grim, brooding hero—and this worked because that’s the kind of character Batman is in many of his best stories. There’s nothing wrong with a dark and gritty movie as long as it stays true to the character. This attention to the hero’s defining traits is part of what made Wonder Woman work, and is essential to the success of Shazam!
 
There have been jokes about the costume looking goofy, but that’s kind of the point. Shazam is a throwback to the Golden Age of Comics, so a dark, realistic version of the character would be impossible to take seriously. He’s a child in the body of a superhero, so he’s clearly meant to be fun.
 
Of course, intentionally being campy is a bit of a dangerous game, and DC fans know that a little bit of cheesiness can go a long wayTo make this movie work, it’s going to take some restraint. However, if Shazam! is done well, we might just be able to say that DC Films is headed in the right direction.

Fingers crossed. 
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