WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Shazam!, in theaters now.
One of the major components the DC Extended Universe has lacked since its inception has been the proverbial face of its superhero reality. Marvel Studios has had Robert Downey Jr. since 2008's Iron Man, with Chris Evans co-adopting the role when Captain America arrived. Andsoon enough, Brie Larson's Captain Marvel will take the mantle up after Avengers: Endgame.
When it comes to Warner Bros., though, there's just not that same kind of leading person you feel is really pushing the comic book movie ship forward -- until now. David F. Sandberg's Shazam! makes it clear that there's no doubt this role should go to Zachary Levi.
It's not a problem one would have envisioned for the DCEU in its early days, given its two biggest heroes are Superman and Batman. When Zack Snyder kicked off Man of Steel in 2013 and then brought Ben Affleck in as the Dark Knight a couple of years later, it became obvious they'd share this role. But with Snyder and Affleck exiting stage left, and crickets from Cavill's camp, that experiment is officially over. However, with the arrival of Levi's Shazam, Warner Bros. problems may very well be over.
Shazam is, frankly, relatable. Asher Angel's Billy Batson and his search for family, and how the magically-imbued superhero matures and learns from his mistakes, are things everyone can see themselves in on one level or another. This enables Levi's hero to connect with audiences on a genuine emotional level. He literally represents what we would have been like if someone randomly decided to grant us these powers as kids.
None of this is to knock Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman or Jason Momoa's Aquaman, as their characters and stories have heart, too. But Levi is more outspoken and exudes a mentality and morality on and off screen that straight-up charms people. It's highly reminiscent of Chris Evans, who doesn't back down from being bullish against discrimination and politics in general. Levi is cut from a similar cloth, and has become adored for speaking out against bullying and trolling, even urging fans to unite and go see Captain Marvel. You can tell he really cares for both the comic and film mediums, and for the audience as well.
But the main draw of Levi's Shazam is how he feels like the fresh start the DCEU desperately needed. Wonder Woman and Aquaman were welcome readjustments, but they still have Snyder's stamp on them. Shazam!, however, is the reset button that pays tribute to the DCEU's grit, but primarily sets the comedic, lighthearted and inspirational tone of the universe moving forward.
Levi as the superhero franchise's main face would take the pressure off the big guns in Gadot and Momoa. Levi had a lot of pressure on him, as Shazam isn't the most popular or well-known character, but he handled it with aplomb. His energy, combined with the rest of the fantastic cast, illustrates how much he understands the heartbeat of what's needed to match the MCU. Ultimately, Levi's Shazam is a two-in-one combo of fun that appeals to both adults to kids; there's little doubt that lightning would strike repeatedly for the studio with him at the helm.
Directed by David F. Sandberg, Shazam! stars Asher Angel as Billy Batson, Zachary Levi as Shazam, Mark Strong as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, Djimon Hounsou as the ancient wizard Shazam, Grace Fulton as Mary Bromfield, Jack Dylan Grazer as Frederick “Freddy” Freeman, Ian Chen as Eugene Choi, Jovan Armand as Pedro Peña, Faithe Herman as Darla Dudley, Cooper Andrews as Victor Vásquez and Marta Milans as Rosa Vásquez.