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How Shazam! can save the DC Universe

The trailer for Shazam! wowed audiences at the recent San Diego Comic Con (Image: Warner Bros)

San Diego Comic Con offered a first look at a number of upcoming blockbusters, but few stood out like new DC hero Shazam! Starring Zachary Levi (TV series Chuck), the film is about a 14 year old boy who turns into a large adult superhero whenever he says the word Shazam!

The trailer has been met with a warm reception, and may be the very thing to save the ailing DC Extended Universe (their version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe).

Lets face it, the DCEU is in a bit of a mess.

With Marvel getting a five year head start on their shared universe, only Gal Gadots Wonder Woman has made an impact with audiences, and even she couldnt save last Novembers messy Justice League. Its predecessors Man of Steel, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were equally deflating, with interesting characters weighed down by sluggish story lines. The announcement of an unrelated Joker movie furthered the idea that this is a franchise that doesnt know what its next move is.

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What Shazam! offers is a potential break from the universe building and relentless darkness. A giant, muscled Zachary Levi with the behavior of a 14 year old is far from Ben Afflecks brooding vigilante or Henry Cavills neck breaking demigod. Its a chance to have a laugh, to inject some innocence into the DC canon, and to have a bit of fun. Because superheroes should be fun.

What also makes the movie encouraging is the prospect of something new. The superhero genre has always thrived on offering something audiences have never seen before – the first live action look at a character, a team-up, the introduction of a fearsome villain.

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Richard Donners Superman promised that you would believe a man can fly, Tim Burton promised a serious look at Batman, while Avengers fulfilled four years of teasing the assembled Marvel heroes.

At a time when almost everything has been done, Shazam! offers freshness. Its a new idea, a character that a lot of people may not even have heard of, and a concept thats easy to grasp, particularly for kids.

How Shazam! can save the DC Universe

DC is yet to compete with the success of Marvels Cinematic Universe (Image: Disney)

Its within that young demographic that the most potential lies. Its no secret that films become mega hits if they win over youngsters, and the perfect way to win over kids is to give them a character they can step into the shoes of. Shazam! has been compared to the 80s Tom Hanks hit Big, which struck a chord with young audiences who wondered what they might do if they were in the body of an adult. The same appeal lies in this film, only with the added fun of superpowers.

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Before Comic Con, it was safe to say that besides Wonder Woman, there werent many reasons to be optimistic about the DC Extended Universe. With a light tone and fresh perspective, Shazam! (along with fellow DC hero Aquaman) may give fans hope that things may begin to turn around.

MORE: Iron First gets a darker look as season 2 trailer shows Danny Rand in a new light – as Alice Eves role is confirmed

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