Shazam

a movie review

Nicole Rosen, Writer - The Reporter

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I got early access tickets via Fandango for the movie Shazam, and went to see it at the AmStar Theater in Lake Mary. I highly recommend this theater, the seats are extremely comfortable and it’s not too far from DeLand. But back to the topic at hand. Shazam!

For those of you who have seen the trailers for Shazam, you know that the film appears to be more of a comedy than a normal superhero movie. As a big fan of superheroes and the character, I was a little worried that was exactly what I’d get–a comedic take on one of the most powerful characters in the DC universe.

However, the movie exceeded my expectations and here is why. While the film definitely included some comedic lines and moments, particularly when Billy first gets his powers, the film did also have a focus on action sequences.  It still has action to it for sure. The villain of the movie is no Black Adam (for fans of Shazam, this name will be familiar), but he is still scary, and the fact that he’s driven by revenge just makes him scarier.

The movie’s use of comedy not only allowed audiences to connect with the main character, it also made the film more realistic. The story has a lot of heart to it as well, because Billy learns how to trust, love, and become a better person. This is the story of a child that is able to turn into an adult man with superpowers. Of course, it’s going to be a little humorous when he starts experimenting with his powers and getting used to being in an adult body! And kids do crazy things, anyway! The humor is actually well crafted and I found myself laughing along multiple times.

I definitely enjoyed this movie. It was better than I expected. While I’m more of a Marvel fan than a DC fan, I do enjoy both franchises and this movie gave me hope for the future of DC films and therefore the DCEU as a whole.

Quick fun fact, especially since Captain Marvel is out. Did you know the character Shazam was originally called Captain Marvel? According to Wikipedia, he was originally created by Fawcett Comics in 1941 and ceased publication in 1953 due to copyright infringement from DC Comics saying Captain Marvel was a copy of Superman. He was sold to DC Comics in 1972. His name was changed officially in the year 2011 but started being recognized and marketed as Shazam starting in 1972 when DC reintroduced the character. This rebranding was of course due to the Captain Marvel name being trademarked under Marvel Comics.

Just wanted to get that out there because it’s humorous to me that both ‘Captain Marvels’ have their movies out right now. If you want more information on this, Google it!

Anyway, I wanted to keep this main review short and sweet, while my full review will continue below, but beware–there will be spoilers!

Continue reading for my full review.

 

Warning: Many Spoilers!

So, the movie starts out with a kid who becomes our main villain in the car with his older brother and his father. He’s seen as sort of a nuisance by both of them. He is brought into the world (it’s really more of a cave or a chamber that Shazam (the old wizard) inhabits. In this world, there are seven creepy looking statues that are revealed to actually be the Seven Deadly Sins.

Shazam tells the kid–Thaddeus Sivana–that he needs someone to wield his powers, as he is aging and can’t keep the Deadly Sins trapped forever. But only the pure of heart can take his powers.

Que the Seven Deadlies trying to get Thaddeus to steal an orb of power. Because he’s so used to being put down by his father and brother, he listens to them, and heads towards it.

Shazam stops him and he’s sent back to the car. He tries to tell his brother and father about what just happened and this causes his father to become distracted. He stops watching the road and an accident occurs. We’re led to believe his father died in this moment but its later revealed that his father just became crippled. His brother blames him for what happened, and therefore shoves Thaddeus even further away from the rest of the family.

So, a rather dark start to a movie that portrayed itself mainly as a comedy in its trailers. Which is something I like about DC films, honestly. While they get a lot of flack for being dark all the time – this film gave us a good mix of both the lighthearted and the dark side of things. I like the fact that DC isn’t afraid to explore more dark stories.

Jump to years later and Thaddeus is back as an adult. He’s been studying for all these years, wanting to prove his worth and basically get revenge on the wizard. He finds his way back to the world and steals the power orb, thus setting the Seven Deadly Sins free.

It’s interesting to see the Seven Deadly Sins personified in such a way. Having them as the actual villains in the movie is something I’ve never seen in a film before.

Now Shazam is in serious need of a new champion. Enter Billy Batson, a fourteen-year-old foster child with a bad reputation of running away from foster homes and committing crimes to try and get information on where his mother may be–because he knows she’s somewhere out there, still alive.

We see Billy get put into a new foster home. I love how the foster system was portrayed. In most movies (and popular media in general) foster homes are seen in a negative light. While I was never a foster child myself, I have enough knowledge to know that foster parents usually are people that genuinely care about the children that they take in. And that’s something we get out of the couple (Victor and Rosa) that takes in Billy. Both portrayed as former foster children, they seem to genuinely love and care about the kids that they take in. This is a refreshing change from how the foster system is usually portrayed in media.

Victor and Rosa do have quite a few foster children in their home. They have Mary, Darla, Pedro, Eugene, Freddy, and now Billy. Their ages range from graduating from high school and entering college (Mary) to elementary school (Darla). Billy is set up to room with Freddy, a boy of similar age. They seem to get along okay (well, Freddy is definitely friendly towards Billy), but just like all of the other homes Billy has been in, he isn’t too keen on staying, nor does he want to make friends with the other children.

So why would someone like Billy be chosen by Shazam? Because he shows he is willing to do good. Freddy has a walking problem and therefore has to use a cane to help him get around. He’s an outcast at the school and gets bullied by the other kids. After school, two bullies corner him against their car. Billy sees this occur and originally doesn’t do anything but since he sees that Freddy’s cane was tossed aside, he grabs it and ends up defending Freddy by using it as a weapon of sorts. He then gets chased by the bullies and runs away down to the subways and hops on right before the doors close.

Seeing a hero that doesn’t really have motivation to do good but is willing to do so is a nice change, honestly. Most heroes have a reason to do what they do, such as some sort of threat hindering the safety of the town. Billy just decides to help Freddy because he’s willing to, and no one else was protecting him from being bullied.

When he is on the subway, he is taken to the chamber Shazam lies in. Shazam tells him he is to become the new champion and Billy himself says he’s not the right guy. He doesn’t have a pure heart. But Shazam chooses him anyway and Billy gets his powers. Here, we learn SHAZAM is an acronym for the “six immortal elders”: He gets the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas,  the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed Mercury. Honestly these are really cool powers and being a big mythology nerd I enjoyed hearing these names get dropped.

Billy gains the powers of Shazam and freaks out. So he goes to the one person he knows will know things about superheroes – Freddy. After some mutual uneasiness about the situation, they start figuring out what exactly Billy’s new powers are. Que the comedy and funny training fails. This is definitely where the main comedy comes from, Billy figuring out his powers and starting to help people.

Meanwhile, Thaddeus is working on how to get his revenge which means defeating Billy since he wants his powers. Billy becomes arrogant with his newfound powers, skipping school because he’s now technically an adult. But in doing so, he angers Freddy, the only person that knows his secret (and was helping him) because Freddy gets bullied more after he claims Billy (as Shazam) will show up for lunch and then he blows him off. At some point, he saves Mary from getting hit by a car because she wasn’t paying attention to where she was walking after getting an acceptance to a college.

Meanwhile, the other kids in the foster home find out how much Billy cares about finding his real mom and they help him look for her. Eugene is something of a hacker, and is able to find her. Billy goes to meet her and gets rejected – she had been a teen mom and felt she wasn’t able to take good care of him so when he got lost and she saw that the police had found him, she let him go. Billy claims he’s going to go back home to his real family, and that’s when it hits him that the other foster kids really care and make him feel at home.

In the end of the movie, he needs the help of the other foster kids to help him stop Dr. Sivana (Thaddeus) and the Seven Deadly Sins. He has them take hold of the staff that originally gave him his powers and have them also say ‘Shazam!’ so they gain powers as well. Each of them seem to mainly take on one of Billy’s powers. Freddy gets his flight, Darla his speed, Pedro his strength, Eugene his electricity, and Mary seems to sort of also get all of his powers not exactly showing a strength for one of them over the others. As the oldest out of the kids it makes sense she’d be the most well rounded.

Billy after all of this decides that this family really is his family. He’s happy, he can trust these people and learns to love them.

I really enjoyed seeing Billy go from someone that feels like he has to do everything by himself because he’s a kid that doesn’t have a family and feels unwanted, to someone that has people that he can trust and a family that loves him. This development was definitely my favorite part of the movie, because it feels relatable. I went through times in my life where I felt alone and scared. While I always had my parents, unlike Billy, there were times in my life where I felt like I didn’t have friends, and didn’t have people I could trust, really. I’ve had multiple friends drop out of my life and that’s something that isn’t easy to get through.

While this movie was lighthearted at times, the director wasn’t afraid to cover topics that don’t often get covered. It gave a good representation of foster care, it covered how bullying can really change someone’s life (I mean, Thaddeus was bullied by his own family and that’s why he became the person he did), it covered how sometimes children are rejected by their own parents – that’s something I’ve definitely not seen in films before.

While some parts of this movie were generic superhero, it gave us a good story and I liked the basis of a young teenager becoming the superhero instead of a full blown adult. For a kid who went through so much, Billy could’ve easily become a villain like Dr. Sivana. Instead, he became a good person.

The heart of this movie really lied in the idea of family, and that’s something that isn’t explored often in superhero films. Superhero films are usually all about the action. While I definitely get attached to other characters, just because I know them, they often aren’t as relatable. They usually aren’t grounded in an idea of something we see in everyday life. They stand for hope, for justice, for the good of all. All good things, but far reaching. We can only hope to obtain such things. But Shazam? He’s grounded in the idea of family, and protecting those you care about before others. And that’s something that most of us can relate to. That is why this film really stands out to me.

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