The movie Shazam takes all elements that made the character great. Plus, we’re introduced to an archnemesis of his (aside from Black Adam), the evil Dr. Sivana, and the movie ties it all into a nice gift-wrapped package. The characters are written well, and the actors are a good fit for their roles. Starring beside Levi is Asher Angel as 14-year-old Billy Batson who is chosen as “champion” from the wise grand wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou), who transfers his powers into Billy and gives him the ability to transform by uttering the words “Shazam!” Asher, who bears a striking resemblance to a young Levi, is a perfect fit for this role, playing Billy with humor and humility. At the start of the film, a father (John Glover) and his two sons (Ethan Pugiotto, Wayne Ward) are driving to a holiday gathering. The year is 1974, ironically the same year Shazam first premiered on CBS, and we’re introduced to a young Thaddeus Sivana (Pugiotto), who seems to be mocked and teased by both his father and older brother. Staring down at his magic eight ball, he suddenly finds he’s alone in the car being whisked away. As he steps out of the car, he finds himself in a great hall where the grand wizard Shazam is trying to deem him as a “champion.” However, young Thad is drawn to an unusual ball of light and is being urged to take it by several gargoyle-like statues behind him. When the wizard realizes that Thad is not the right fit, he sends him back to his current world. Thad is back in the car with his father and brother, unsure of what just happened. When the boy tries to explain, the father becomes angry and is involved in a serious accident where he is thrown from the car. Thad and his brother are OK, but his older brother declares, “this is all your fault!” Poor Thad drops his magic eight ball and sees the words “find us” on it.
Jump forward to 45 years later in the city of Philadelphia. It’s here we meet 14-year old Billy Batson (Angel). He has just called the police about a suspected “crime” in progress. However, when the police arrived, Billy then traps them in a pawn shop and hops in the patrol car. The reason? Not to steal the car, although he makes off with the officers’ lunch, but to search through the computer for a woman with the name of “Batson.”
Next we see Billy at the home of a woman with the same last name as him and when he knocks on the door, he asks simply, “I think you might be my mother.” A middle-aged woman answers the door with the question, “Are you sure about that?” Just then the police arrive to take Billy into custody.
Instead of being sent back to the group home that he ran away from, we learn that young Billy was separated from his mother long ago at a carnival and never found her again. We learn that all his life, Billy has been searching for his long-lost parents, running away from group home after group home in search of his family. The social worker gives him “his last chance” with a kind couple Victor and Rosa (Cooper Andrews, Marta Milans) who have several other foster children. Billy reluctantly agrees to go. When he arrives and meets his foster family, they welcome him with open arms and hugs, especially from little Darla (Faithe Herman), which Billy is reluctant to share back in. Even at dinner, when “all hands are on deck” Billy’s hand goes on “vacation” as Victor puts it. Despite that, his foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) who suffers from a disability and requires a crutch to walk, immediately sees a friend in Billy. Freddy, an animate superhero fan, is delighted to have another brother, but Billy is not so sure. He is still intent on finding his family and very reluctant to let others into his heart.
Meanwhile, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) is now older and meaner, having spent his whole life in research and estranged from his father and brother. Sivana has been obsessed with finding his way into the sacred chamber. Having interviewed hundreds of people through a research study he set up a grant for, he discovers that one of the study’s participants had shot a video of a mysterious light that she mistook for an alien abduction. When Sivana sees the video, he notices several symbols and figures out a way back to the secret lair of Shazam where instead of becoming a champion for good, he chooses evil, unleashing the seven deadly sins with him along with mysterious “eye.”
Next, Billy is at school when Freddy is bullied by some older classmates. When Billy first sees the torment, he chooses to ignore it. Knowing his friend is in trouble, he intervenes and sends the bullies after him. A chase ensues and harrowingly escaping through a departing subway train, Billy takes a seat and breath of relief when suddenly he finds himself alone! The train is moving inexplicitly fast! Ice forms on the window and the mysterious symbols that Dr. Sivana was in search of for years form on the LED on the car. It’s then the subway car comes to a stop, and the doors open. Billy steps out and finds himself in the mysterious “lair” of sorts and comes face to face with the Grand Wizard Shazam. Shazam tells Billy the story of how long ago a champion was chosen who turned against a great council of wizards and wiped out nearly everyone on earth. He explains a new champion must be chosen who is “strong in spirit and pure of heart.” Although hesitant at first, because he believes he may not be that person, Billy agrees to take on the responsibility and is transformed by saying the names Shazam! The acronym stands for: The wisdom of Solomon; strength of Hercules; stamina of Atlas, power of Zeus, courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury. Next we see Billy transformed into a man of enormous strength, looking ripped and musclebound, in a red suit, white cape with gold lacing, lightening bolt across his chest looking confused as hell, played masterfully by Levi.
This is where the fun begins. As Billy tries to navigate his new life as both hero and mortal, it is almost like the movie Big married the character of Superman, and Shazam does not disappoint. Billy immediately confides in Freddy, who is thrilled at his transformation, and helps Billy to discover what life as a superhero is all about. My favorite scene in the film, aside from the thrilling climax, was when Shazam learns to fly – I immediately thought of Superman Returns as well as Peter Pan, and then laughed hysterically at what followed.
Shazam is a rip-roaring adventure that is full of action, humor and yes, it can be heart-wrenching too. Yes, I did cry at certain parts. Most of all, the cast is on par, and Billy’s foster siblings are wonderful in their roles especially little Darla who tugged at my heartstrings. Director David Sandberg has complete control of this film from beginning to end, and it’s no wonder why Shazam was a huge hit this past spring. The film, according to Box Office Mojo, has brought in to date $364 million worldwide. Warner Brothers has already greenlit Shazam2 with a projected release of 2021. With the dog days of summer here, there’s no better way to cool down than to crank the AC or set up the outdoor theater (like at my house) and watch Shazam. You might even want to put it in your holiday film rotation too! Bravo to the cast and crew of Shazam – it’s easy to see to see that this was truly a team effort. Also, please stay for the credits, all the credits, and it would be mindful to pay attention closely – you’ll notice some Easter eggs here and there.
Warner Brothers Media Library
Shazam movie from Warner Brothers/DC