Directed by David F. Sandberg | Written by Henry Gayden and Darren Lemke
Since the 2018 huge success of the colorful and fun-filled Aquaman, DC has finally learned that melodrama and dark tones are not what audiences want from their superhero films. Shazam may not bring in such big box office numbers as Aquaman, but it should do well in spite of it being a familiar story of a superhero discovering his powers. The two writers on this film pulled off a movie perfect for middle-graders and as a PG-13 film, it hits all the proper notes in tone, levity and heart. There is a very solid balancing act at work here and Asher Angel and Zachary Levi who play Billy Batson/Shazam respectively, turn in some good scenes throughout the film.
Here come the spoilers!
The last wizard, Shazam, is protecting the seven realms from the seven deadly sins. He is old and needs to find his ‘Champion’, aka Successor, to take over protection of the rock of eternity which all magic flows from. Many people, mostly kids, are transported to the Rock of Eternity to test their worthiness to possess the powers of Shazam. Everyone fails the test as they get tempted by the deadly sins to seize power that would break them free from their imprisonment. A young boy gets shunned by his brother and father when he tries to tell them about the experience he had with Shazam and the Rock of Eternity.
Jump to present day Philadelphia and we are introduced to Billy Batson who is in foster care and keeps running away in search of his mother (they were separated when he was as a young child).
This element of Billy being a foster kid and going to a group home, does wonders for connecting to kids in foster care. There are over 400,000 kids in foster care in the states and I think this film handles the emotional backstory for Billy perfectly.
Billy gives this group home family a chance. The next day after defending his new foster brother during a fight with bullies at the school, Billy escapes to the subway and then gets transported to the Rock of Eternity where Shazam gives him his powers to be the new Champion. The film handles him discovering his powers with lots of humor and playfulness. I mean, what would a 12-year-old kid do with an adult body with superpowers? The young boy from the opening of the film, who was told he wasn’t worthy, grew up to become the villain and battles Billy for the ultimate control over the magical powers.
Now, it is a quick line in the film, but if you paid attention or a fan of the comic books, you would know that SHAZAM is actually an acronym of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury. The only minor thing I would change in this film is to explore the Wisdom of Solomon. The other powers get well covered in the film and story, but never did Billy use the wisdom of the Gods. This would perhaps have been revealed as the ultimate power the deadly sins were most afraid of. This could have enhanced the final climatic scene with Billy getting instantly visited by way of time freeze by spirits representing the Gods who take him through a crash course of the history of the Rock of Eternity and their former wizards etc. Then they send Billy back in the same instant during battle where he realizes what he must do to win the battle against the deadly sins.
I would say this is a minor thing and perhaps being saved for a sequel which I hope this film gets. Kudos to the writers on the way they handled the foster family elements, as well as Billy’s journey to find his long lost mother with heart and levity. For that alone, I give this film a ‘Writing a movie RIGHT’ nod!
Thanks for reading ‘Writing Movie ‘WRONGS’.