The official synopsis for the “Shazam!” movie is here, and it’s certainly an interesting read.
Apparently, the focus is going to be on creating a sense of childlike wonder and joy – no doubt a very deliberate attempt to course-correct the DCEU as Warner Bros still reels from the after-effects of the horrendously dour “Batman v Superman”.
That said, nestled in among this synopsis’ optimism, there is a hint of a larger problem brewing on the horizon.
The DCEU has never been particularly stable from both a narrative and a tonal perspective, but it seems that the new focus of lighthearted fun that “Shazam!” is going to bring to the shared universe won’t be able to last for very long either way.
The movie will star Asher Angel as a teenager who’s given the ability to transform into an incredible superhero, played by Zach Levi. The structure of the film will see these two actors playing two sides of the same character, as Angel takes on the role of a student, while Levi is a big, bombastic Superman knock-off.
Here’s the synopsis in full:
“We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s (Angel) case, by shouting out one word—SHAZAM!—this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult Super Hero Shazam (Levi), courtesy of an ancient wizard. Still a kid at heart—inside a ripped, godlike body—Shazam revels in this adult version of himself by doing what any teen would do with superpowers: have fun with them! Can he fly? Does he have X-ray vision? Can he shoot lightning out of his hands? Can he skip his social studies test? Shazam sets out to test the limits of his abilities with the joyful recklessness of a child. But he’ll need to master these powers quickly in order to fight the deadly forces of evil controlled by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Strong).”
So what’s the problem?
The problem is that this movie comes out in 2019, and Asher Angel is currently fifteen. By the time this initial Shazam adventure arrives in movie theaters, its lead actor will be sixteen.
Then, comes the challenge of squeezing in another sequel or an appearance in Dwayne Johnson’s “Black Adam” movie before Angel starts looking less like an adorable teenager, and more like a full grown-up.
This is the challenge that always comes up when working with child actors – they don’t stay children for long. Once Billy Batson gets a little older, the youthful wonder and joy that he experiences when he transforms won’t make sense any more.
Essentially, the bright, colorful tonal shift that “Shazam!” will introduce will only last for as long as Asher Angel continues to look cute. The moment his voice breaks and he starts growing fluffy stubble, the whole premise behind his character doesn’t work anymore.
“Shazam!” might end up being the breath of fresh air that the DCEU is currently lacking, but it’s not going to take long for even that air to become stale.