The character now known as Shazam debuted in 1940 as Captain Marvel in Fawcett comics. A boy named Billy Batson is given the powers of the ‘immortal elders’: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. He can transform himself into an adult hero by yelling the acronym of their names – Shazam! His most notable villains included Black Adam, Dr. Sivana, and Mister Mind. The character was incredibly popular in the 1940s, and the franchise was expanded to include the ‘Marvel Family’, other heroes with similar powers. In 1953, DC Comics launched a copyright lawsuit, claiming that Captain Marvel was a Superman rip-off. Fawcett sold the rights to DC in 1972, and DC integrated and reintroduced Captain Marvel, who now mainly goes by Shazam, on account of the “Captain Marvel” name being owned by Marvel comics.
In this movie, years ago, we are introduced to a young Thaddeus Sivana who is driving with his horrible Lionel Luthor-like father and older brother when he is transported by a wizard to the Rock of Eternity. The wizard is tasked with keeping the seven deadly sins at bay, but his siblings have passed on and he is growing weak. He is seeking a champion who is pure of heart. Sivana is not that, and is swiftly tempted by the sins demons. The wizard boots him out, telling him he is not good enough, causing a car crash when he reappears back in the car.
In present day, we are introduced to Billy Batson, who lost his mother as a toddler at a carnival. He has bounced from foster family to foster family because he continues to run away in a search for his birth mother. Eventually, he lands in Philadelpha, and is brought into a foster group home run by Victor and Rosa Vazquez. Here, he meets his new foster siblings, Mary Bromfield, Pedro Pena, Eugene Choi, Darla Dudley and Freddy Freeman. The kids seem to have that power ranger tendency to only wear one color each, which comes into play later. Freddy has a vast knowledge of superheroes and their powers. After saving Freddy from some bullies, Billy is transported to the Rock of Eternity and meets the wizard who now really needs help as the adult Sivana has come by and taken the sins demons to gain great power and do great harm. Billy is granted the powers by the wizard, and transforms into the adult hero Shazam. He goes back to Freddy for advice and guidance. While training, Billy gets better, not just as a hero, but as a person, eventually realizing that his foster family is his true family and strength as he battles with Sivana.
The movie is directed by David F. Sandberg, who directed Annabelle Creation and Lights Out. It does feel a little long in the beginning, but once it gets going, the action is great, the lessons are well-earned, and the comedy is funny. Sandberg has managed to finally make a DC movie that maintains a single tone throughout, and while it’s darker here and there than I expected, it is consistent all the way through. It takes the lighthearted tone that was experimented with in Wonder Woman and overdone in Aquaman to completely nail it here. The story is great, and when Billy finally realizes he is with his true family, it was touching and genuine. Also, the final big fight was absolutely exuberant.
Slight Spoilers here in the cast – you definitely should see this one, so if you haven’t yet, skip the below.
- Zachary Levi plays Shazam and this is clearly the role he was born to play. He was great as Chuck, and fine in Thor, but here, he shines. He does a fantastic job of portraying a kid suddenly given the opportunity of an adult hero’s body, and makes all the mistakes that would come with that change. He also manages to portray the joy and confusion equally as believably.
- Mark Strong plays Dr. Sivana, and he seems to be having absolutely the best time. He’s very serious about using the seven deadly sins to first get revenge on his family, and second take over the world. Standard bad guy stuff. Side Note – he would have made an exceptional Lex Luthor, but hey, I’m happy he’s in this.
- Asher Angel plays Billy Batson, and does a great job of portraying a kid who is struggling with the guilt of believing his birth mother thought he ran away. His transition to acceptance of the foster family he is blessed with is subtle and lovely.
- Djimon Hounsou plays the Wizard Shazam, who is stuck in his cave, and slowly losing control over the sins demons. He is searching for a champion, and finally finds Billy.
- Jack Dylan Grazer plays Freddy Freeman, who is fast talking and crippled. He’s the perfect sidekick for Billy, keeping him entertained and pulling him out of his ongoing guilt.
- Here’s where the spoilers kick in – During the finale, Shazam realizes that the wizard told him he and his siblings ruled, and they were all gone. He passes his powers to his foster siblings, and they each get adult super hero versions too! Adam Brody plays the adult version of Freddy in flawless casting.
- Faithe Herman plays Darla, who is tiny, hilarious, and determined to be the best foster sister to Billy as possible. Meagan Good plays Super Darla, who is super fast, but still young enough to now know what a ‘lair’ is. Grace Fulton plays Mary, who is worried about getting into a college on the west coast, and sad that it might mean leaving her foster family. Michelle Borth plays Super Mary. Ian Chen plays Eugene, who spends most of his time play video games. Ross Butler plays Super Eugene, and does a bit with his electrical powers. Jovan Armand plays Pedro, who is very quiet, but supportive of his siblings. D.J. Cotrona plays Super Pedro – this is significant because years ago, he was going to play Superman with Adam Brody as the Flash in a Justice League movie that never took off.
- Marta Milans and Cooper Andrews play the foster parents Rosa and Victor who now unwittingly are raising an entire troupe of superheroes.
Overall, the movie is charming, fun, and action packed. It is definitely too long at two hours and twelve minutes. There are some excessive training bits that definitely could have been cut. There are also some genuinely scary bits, but the kids in my screening loved it, so what do I know. The design of the sins demons is fantastic, you can basically determine which is which based on the design. Definitely go see this, it’s very fun!
Extra Spoiler alert here: there are two post credits sequences, so stay all the way through. There are no cameos from any other DC heroes, despite clear space for both Superman and Aquaman. I suppose that’s fine, but a little disappointing. There are also no appearances by any potential villains except Mister Mind, even though the Rock is a producer of this and is already cast as Black Adam. I believe he’s getting his stand alone Black Adam movie before he meets up with Shazam.
8 out of 10 – I really enjoyed it! Too long, and a little too heavy here and there, but overall, super fun.