Shazam is a Welcome ‘Jolt’ of Fun to DCEU’s Body of Work
Alas, DC’s latest film, Shazam!, has hit theaters following the acclaimed Aquaman solo film. This vibrant movie if funny and happy, but does it have what it takes to change audiences’ minds about the DC Extended Universe? Here’s what we think.- SPOILER ALERT!
Let’s do a quick recap about what the movie is about. Shazam! follows 14 year old Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a smart-aleck, street smart foster kid from Philadelphia. Billy has spent several years searching for his real mother, who he was separated from as a small child. He has been in and out of foster homes during his short life due to him running away constantly to find his mom.
We find Billy joining a quirky, loving new foster family with 5 foster-siblings. One of those siblings is Freddy, played by Jack Dylan Glazer. Freddy is a sarcastic and kind superhero fanatic who is obsessed with the likes of Superman and Batman. Remember, those heroes actually exist in this universe…
After a quick turn of events, Billy finds himself bestowed with the power of a mystical wizard called Shazam. These powers transform Billy into his “full potential”, body and all, by just uttering the name ‘Shazam!’ The movie takes off from the events after he finds himself capable of doing extraordinary things. Keep in mind Billy is 14, and with the help of superhero expert Freddy, they are ready for some crazy hijinks.
Fitting Into the DC Extended Universe
Fans familiar with Shazam as a character were itching to see how he would fit within the greater DCEU. How could the studio take a comic book hero with such fantastical origins and make it grounded enough to make sense in a shared world? As mentioned before, Shazam joins a cinematic universe already inhabited by the likes of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and several others.
Although heroes like Aquaman and Wonder Woman have mystical backstories, they’re easier to justify in a strange way. However, Shazam is an ancient wizard among a Grand Council of other wizards, opening up a larger magical presence in the DCEU. Aside from a couple name drops, the film didn’t try too hard to connect Shazam! to other films in the DCEU, which worked out in its favor.
The film didn’t spend too much time expanding on the mythos of the wizard’s origin, but it introduced a history of past wizards and the Shazam lair. Shots of the lair have several easter eggs and introduced the 7 deadly sins. More on those later…
So, did the writers come up with their own explanation for why there are now wizards in the DCEU? Nope! Shazam! went ahead and took from the source material and did very little to ground it into realistic ideas. But you know what? It works! It would be too hard to come up with a convincing way to make a super-powered wizard sound believable. They did the smartest thing at their disposal and just went about their way as if these things are a given at this point.
The only real issue I had with the movie had to do with, as always, the villain. Mark Strong does a great job with Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, but his goal is… half-assed. Sivana was given a heartbreaking backstory and his ambitious are understandable, but everything following his introduction was muddled.
Dr. Sivana was originally intended to inherit the old wizard’s power and become Shazam when he was a child. This fell through when his hunger for power outweighed his pure heart. This left him bitter and determined to get ahold of this power by any means necessary. Remember those 7 deadly sins from the lair? Well, the embodiment of each individual sin is trapped in the old wizard’s lair and eventually become the source of Sivana’s power. Not much is explained as to what their purpose is, but villains never get their due backstories.
Once his backstory is established, he has no other motivation to oppose Billy/Shazam other than wanting to take down someone stronger than him. There is no real disagreement aside from one guy being good and the other one being bad.
Aside from the good guy vs. bad guy plot, there are other narratives at play. Billy Batson is placed in a good home with good people, but he still wants to know where his real mother is. Eventually he learns that some stones are better left unturned and leads to closing himself off to his new family.
On top of this, his new foster-brother Freddy is pushing Billy to use his new power for good, as all heroes should. Freddy’s excitement about Billy’s abilities ends up causing a rift between the two, exposing Freddy’s jealousy of Billy. You see, Freddy is physically disabled and needs a crutch to walk. He would give anything to have the power Billy has been gifted with and it kills him to know it’s not being used responsibly.
Freddy is the film’s scene-stealer. Almost every interaction he has with another character is hilarious and endearing. Jack Grazer plays off both Asher Angel and Zachary Levi flawlessly to create fun scenes. I couldn’t imagine how it would be to act opposite of two people portraying the same character simultaneously. There’s not even a change in demeanor on Grazer’s part making the movie that much more seamless, and is a testament to Grazer’s talent.
Shazam! throws a lot at the audience but what we end up with is wholesome, heartwarming fun. It’s vibrant, funny and has lots of cool action. Just don’t expect to walk into a film with a lot of substance such as Captain America: Winter Soldier or The Dark Knight. Without giving away too much, just know that there’s a surprising twist at the end of the movie I would have guessed would be saved for a sequel. I’m glad they didn’t! Good thing for audiences the movie is sitting on some pretty fresh tomatoes.