It was recently announced that Zachary Levi would be playing the superhero protagonist of Shazam, the DC Comics/Warner Bros. film set for release on April 5, 2017. Some are now asking what the implications of this casting might be, in terms of tone and whether or not the film will be part of the DC Extended Universe.
Levi has been in superhero films before—he plays Fandral in Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok—but is primarily a comedic actor. He appeared in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel as a caretaker for the titular rodent band and played Flynn Rider, the roguish love interest to Rapunzel, in Disney’s Tangled.
Levi was not the first odd choice for this project: Shazam‘s director, David F. Sandberg, is primarily known for horror movies (most notably Light’s Out and Annabelle: Creation), and has brought a few of his genre friends with him. Nevertheless he seems to have a flair for comedy, having several joking interactions with Shazam comic book’s fanbase.
Shazam is focused on a young boy, Billy Batson, who can turn into an adult superhero by saying “Shazam,” the name of the wizard who gave him his powers. It is the ultimate wish fulfillment for kids, and several sources say that it will be a more lighthearted, fun entry into the DCEU, which so far has alienated some fans with its darker tone.
But the film was originally pitched as a standalone; it was added to the DCEU later. Does the comedic tone of its lead and director indicate that it may be excised from the more serious series? It’s not impossible: Warner Bros. has announced a Joker movie that is separate from the DCEU.
Only time will tell what kind of film it is that Levi and Sandberg will wind up making.