Directed by: David F. Sandberg
Starring: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Release Date: 05 April, 2019
Running Time: 132 Minutes
We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s case, by shouting out one word – SHAZAM. – this streetwise fourteen-year-old foster kid can turn into the grown-up superhero Shazam.
Shazam! is a 2019 American superhero film based on the DC Comics character of the same name. Produced by New Line Cinema and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, it is the seventh installment in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Directed by David F. Sandberg from a screenplay by Henry Gayden, and a story by Gayden and Darren Lemke, the film stars Asher Angel as Billy Batson, a teenage boy who can transform into an adult superhero, played by Zachary Levi. Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Djimon Hounsou also star. It is the first live-action film version of the character since the 1941 serial Adventures of Captain Marvel (the character’s original name).
Zachary Levi delivers the best DCEU film since Wonder Woman; a joyous ode to superheroes
Shazam! Movie Plot:
In 1974, upstate New York, a boy named Thaddeus Sivana is magically transported to the Rock of Eternity, a magical temple in another dimension, by the ancient wizard Shazam. Shazam explains that he has spent centuries searching for a new champion who is “pure of heart,” after his first turned evil and unleashed the Seven Deadly Sins upon the ancient world. The Sins, now trapped in statues within the Rock, tempt Thaddeus with promises of power, and the boy is banished back to Earth as unworthy to be the champion.
In December 2018 in Philadelphia, 14-year-old foster kid Billy Batson runs afoul of the law while searching for his birth mother. A social worker places Billy in a group home run by Victor and Rosa Vazquez, who have five other foster kids: Mary, Pedro, Eugene, Darla, and Billy’s new roommate Freddy Freeman. Billy does not warm to his new family, and Pedro discovers Billy’s notes for his search.
Meanwhile, using testimonies of other people magically abducted and rejected by Shazam over the years, the adult Sivana discovers how to return to the Rock of Eternity. He steals the Eye of Sin from the Rock, freeing the Sins and becoming their champion. Sivana uses his new powers to attack the Wizard and kill his abusive father and brother.
While at school, Billy saves Freddy from bullies. He leads the bullies on a chase into the subway, where he is summoned by Shazam. Chosen by the dying wizard as the champion, Billy is transformed into an adult with an array of superpowers. By saying “Shazam!” Billy can change back and forth between teenager and adult superhero. With the help of Freddy, an amateur superhero expert, Billy begins to learn the full extent of his newfound powers. Freddy posts YouTube videos of Shazam testing his powers, making him a viral sensation. After Freddy brags to their classmates about knowing Shazam, Billy abandons him and skips school to entertain fans as Shazam for money. After seeing Shazam save a bus on the news, Sivana attacks him, demanding he give up his power. The untested Shazam is easily defeated but transforms back into Billy to escape into the fleeing crowd. After Freddy confronts Billy over the misuse of his powers, Sivana captures Freddy, who is forced to tell Sivana where they live.
At the Vazquez home, the other kids discover Billy’s secret and reveal to Billy that they have found Billy’s mother living nearby. Billy runs away to finally meet his mother, whom he learns intentionally abandoned him years ago due to her belief she would be unable to care for him. Meanwhile, Sivana turns up to the Vazquez home with Freddy, and forces Freddy to call Billy. Billy returns home as Shazam and agrees to give Sivana his powers in exchange for sparing his family’s lives. However, Freddy and the other kids follow Shazam and Sivana to the Rock of Eternity and attack Sivana. This gives Shazam and the kids time to escape and realize that when the Sins leave his body, Sivana is mortal and can be hurt.
Sivana chases Shazam and the kids to a Winter Carnival, where Sivana unleashes the Sins on them and the carnival goers. Shazam shares his powers with his foster siblings, causing them to also become adult superheroes with powers.[N 1] While Freddy, Mary, and the others keep the Sins busy, Shazam fights with Sivana himself, defeating him by drawing the only Sin still housed in Sivana’s body out of him, leaving him powerless. Shazam and his family are hailed as heroes, and Billy embraces his foster family as his true family. They return the Eye of Sin to the Rock of Eternity, and realize they can use the Rock as their secret lair. Billy also shows up at school as Shazam to endorse Freddy before revealing he also brought a friend: Superman.
In a mid-credits scene, Sivana is recruited into a partnership with the caterpillar-like creature Mister Mind. In a post-credits scene, Freddy tests whether Shazam can talk to fish, citing Aquaman, only for Shazam to dismiss the power as stupid.
Shazam! Movie Trailer:
Lighter, less and angry, and a positively delightful ode to superheroes, the Zachary Levi-fronted film is a leap in the right direction for the DCEU
Shazam! Movie Review:
As the troubled DC Extended Universe finally finds its footing, after a quick sprint along no man’s land and a dip in the ocean, it finds itself in an odd situation – emerging, as it were, from an abusive past, determined to reignite its passion for life.
It goes on this journey of rediscovery along with Billy Batson, for whom superheroes mean diddly squat. Billy is a foster child, abandoned by a mother for whom he still searches. He has a history of running away – not from his problems, but from the idea of stability. He can’t comprehend it.
Billy isn’t a pessimist, despite the cavalier vibe that he gives off, but his optimism is singular. He believes his mother is still out there, waiting for him, looking for him.
Shazam! is a story about quests. For some, like Billy, these quests are personal – he escapes the foster system as often as he can to locate his mother, only to be dragged back in. For others, like the villainous Dr Thaddeus Sivana, they are logical, stoked by years of bitterness towards a cold-hearted father. But for the both of them, these quests are elemental. Without them, they’d be lost – more gravely than they already are.
Billy and Thad are similar, in a way; they have unusual relationships with their parents – Billy with the mother who abandoned him, and Thad with the father who wishes he did.
Perhaps it is because of these similarities that they are summoned to the Rock of Eternity, face-to-face with a dying wizard determined to find his successor. After rejecting a young Thad for not having the decency required to take on the mantle of Shazam!, the wizard resumes his search, choosing Billy several years later. With no time to lose and a looming threat on the horizon, the wizard anoints Billy the keeper of the powers, which manifest every time he utters the word ‘shazam’.
Like the wizard, played by an always game Djimon Hounsou under a handsome wig, the DCEU is also looking for a certain ‘purity of heart’ and ‘strength in spirit’.
These are traits were unfortunately missing from the series’ first ‘phase’ of films, if that is even the correct terminology to use here. But Shazam! is yet another step in the right direction for the DCEU; it’s a film that visibly distances itself from its divisive predecessors, almost like a teenager embarrassed by her parents in public.
It takes the wizard more than four decades to find his Champion. It took the DCEU four movies. The Trinity – Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman – had to fall to its knees for DC to understand that, for better or for worse, audiences are more likely to accept non-confrontational fluff than challenging cinema.
Shazam! is an altogether different experience – both in tone and in scope – from previous DCEU entries, and this includes the largely beloved Wonder Woman and the box office smash Aquaman. It is, at the risk of invoking the wrath of fans on both sides, to the DCEU what Thor: Ragnarok and Spider-Man: Homecoming were to the Marvel Cinematic Universe – lighter, less angry, and positively delightful.
The film is at its best not when it is superhero-ing, but when it is sitting for awkward family dinners, when it is manoeuvring its way around high school bullies, and most gratifyingly, when it is wasting time believing it can fly.
In a key early scene, a clueless Billy’s foster brother, played by It’s Jack Dylan Grazer, educates him on the nuances of superpowers. Given a choice, he says, everyone picks flight. No one chooses invisibility, because it stinks of villainy. He wants to break these myths. And as it turns out, so does Shazam!.
You don’t need aerial punch-ups and dense word-building – even though Shazam! has both. You don’t need plans of global domination – cooked up both by villains and studio executives. Sometimes less is more. You don’t need The Rock and Henry Cavill when you get a committed Zachary Levi and a scene-stealing troupe of kids.
Under the unlikely direction of Swedish filmmaker David F Sandberg, Shazam! is as magical as its title suggests; heartfelt, humorous and burdened by none of the hubris of Batman v Superman and Man of Steel.