Aquaman was a step in the right direction for the Worlds of DC/DCEU. Although it wasn't necessarily as great a movie as Wonder Woman, Aquaman helped change the tone of DC movies. With it being the catalyst for this shift in approach, DC and Warner Brothers' goal should be for each film to improve on what Aquaman did.
Shazam! did exactly that, only months after Aquaman dominated the worldwide box office. Although Shazam! didn't have as strong an opening weekend domestically as the rest of the DCEU, it may be the best DC movie has produced to this point. It's certainly the funniest and built on the foundation Aquaman tried to set. In fact, here are 10 things Shazam! did better than Aquaman.
10 Integrating The Rest Of DC
For some strange reason, Aquaman made little attempt to involve the rest of DC. There was the mention of Steppenwolf, and Mera did appear in Justice League, as well, but that's it. Maybe that's a result of the rest of the Worlds of DC/DCEU's future being up in the air while Aquaman filming.
Not that things were much clearer when Shazam! was filming, but it seems there was at least a better idea of who wasn't going to be involved in the DC films going forward. Either way, Shazam! didn't bring include other heroes in the same manner as other DC films or the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Billy Batson and Freddy Freeman are just kids. Although Billy isn't big into superheroes at first, we see Freddy's love for all things Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman. He worships the ground they walk on, even more than those of us who did as kids because, in his world, these heroes actually do exist.
There is the cameo at the end of the movie, but the paraphernalia was a much more fun way to show these characters exist in this world, while at the same time leaving some grey area as to whether or not this is the same universe.
9 Main Villain
Dr. Sivana may be a prominent character in Shazam lore, but he wasn't exactly mainstream prior to the movie's release. Ocean Master wasn't exactly the most well-known DC villain out there either. Where Aquaman's main villain may have suffered from that — and some rough writing — Mark Strong took advantage of the opportunity to turn Sivana into someone people would remember.
As a kid, the character was beyond annoying and troubled. Didn't help he had an awful dad and possibly the worst older brother in the world. He surpassed their wickedness, relishing in the fact he was to be a villain. All-around, Sivana's character was allowed to develop more on-screen and the movie benefited as a result.
8 Tell A Relatable Story
While the Zachary Levi half of Billy Batson has to learn his superpowers and fight off bad guys, Asher Angel's half of the character has to deal with some real world stuff. His birth parents are gone. Billy is going from foster home to foster home because, somehow, his mom never went back to find him when they were separated years ago. He's going through life alone. We all had tough times as a teenager, but no one should have to deal with this. Unfortunately, this isn't the part of the movie that's unrealistic.
7 Supporting Cast
Mera is a pretty cool character. In some ways, she's more powerful than Aquaman. In every way, she's more mature than him. But after her, the rest of Aquaman's supporting cast isn't on the same level as Shazam!'s. Freddy Freeman is basically every kid who liked superheroes at the age. (Which, who didn't like superheroes at that age?)
Darla is absolutely precious. Giving her powers was too funny. Sivana was a great villain. Like Freddy with his love for superheroes. Mary's nervousness over college is pretty similar to everyone else's experiences. Rosa and Victor Vazquez (a.k.a Jerry from The Walking Dead) might be the coolest parents in the world.
Where Shazam! brought something different to the table by essentially giving a kid Superman's abilities — there are differences, we know — the movie was a bit predictable at times. That being said, it all made sense and wasn't boring. Aquaman path to becoming the King of Atlantis was different, though not exactly revolutionary. More importantly, it was a little all over the place. For example, as much as Black Manta was a cool character, for the sake of the movie's main story, he was replaceable. They just added him in because, why not? Sure, he's a fun character, but in terms of the flow of the movie, he wasn't essential.
5 Main Character's Origin
Aquaman spells out Arthur Curry's history and gives us great further insight into the character's history. But Shazam! gives us a realistic character, who has real-world problems and is thrust into a super-powered mess by chance. How often do we see something like that versus a story like Aquaman?
4 Secondary Villain
This is more about what Shazam! didn't do that made it better. Aquaman gave us a bit too much with Black Manta being thrown in the mix along with Ocean Master. Shazam! doesn't run into that same problem.
While their CGI isn't great, the Seven Deadly Sins are in the picture just the right amount. And even though referring to her as a villain might be a bit much, Billy Batson's mom isn't anyone's favorite character. She's responsible for the saddest scene in the entire movie.
Freddy Freeman is laugh-out-loud funny. Probably the funniest character in all of the DCEU. He's the perfect foil to Billy Batson's dark, brooding demeanor. Zachary Levi also put on the best performance by a grown man playing a teenage boy. Their greatest moment together has to be the convenience store scene when Billy finds out he's bullet-proof. There are plenty of other funny moments but on its own, the concept of an adult portraying a teenager is always good for a list of laughs.
Aquaman has some unique fight scenes, no question about it. But some of the underwater battles didn't land like DC might've expected. It didn't take a ton for Shazam! to do a better job. Shazam! didn't settle at "better action than Aquaman." It was unique from every other superhero movie. This was the first movie that gave us a chance to see what a kid would do if given a slew of superhero powers out of nowhere. When it comes to the battles, the Seven Deadly Sins looked a little weird, but Billy's excitement makes up for whatever flaws each fight.
1 Making A Relatively Unknown Character Cool
Not many people were picking up Shazam! or Captain Marvel comics before the development movie surfaced. Sure, there were some die-hard fans, but there's a good chance the percentage of comic book fans that listed Billy Batson as their favorite character was sub 0.1 percent.
There's no way that's the case anymore. In fact, it wouldn't stun me if most 13-year-olds said Billy Batson was their new favorite hero. He could be any of them, boy or girl, regardless of heritage or religion. You just have to be someone with a good heart. As much as Aquaman is a much cooler character thanks to Jason Mamoa, Shazam went from being a nobody to the hero every kid can dream to be.