LIGHTING IN A BOTTLE
We all grew up knowing superheroes: Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, etc. They were the exemplification of high morals and unflinching dedication to the people they swore to protect. In real life, we have asked ourselves, “what superpower would I have: flight, invisibility, strength, vulnerability? The options stretch for miles. Shazam! gives that wish-fulfillment by proxy, since Shazam is a kid gifted with extraordinary magical abilities. Is his film interpretation a flash in the pan, or lighting in a bottle?
It seems that the DCEU has hit a stride with a decent number of well made films under the belt: Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and now Shazam!. Each film is unique in their live action portrayal of their comic book counterpart, but similar in ways that have made them all good films, a relatable protagonist. Each one of them has fears, doubts, or characteristics that are less than selfless. This in turn makes them more appealing to the audience, and all the more heroic when they rise to the occasion. Billy Batson is a runaway orphan just looking for his long-lost mother; that alone drew me into the journey of the character.
The film sets up the question of, “What is a pure hero”? Shazam, the wizard, seeks to find a champion with that criteria in mind, but is met time after time with disappointment. He finally reaches desperation and relinquishes his power to an unwilling Billy, with the hope that the boy will achieve his full potential. Throughout the duration of the film Billy goes from using his powers like a sidewalk street performer to a selfless being worthy of the title hero. However, no hero is complete without an adversary, and a villain is more compelling when the audience can understand his motivations.
Dr. Sivana is a man who has known nothing but reticule and resentment from his family. After he is tested and ultimately rejected by the old wizard when he is a boy, he spends his entire life looking for the source of magical power and for the Rock of Eternity. Sivana feels like a proper opposite to Billy, his antithesis. A reflection of when a person indulges in their selfish desires and journeys down a more villainous path. He is also a proper villain by being a great threat to the hero. With having a magic being in the DCEU, one would assume the writing would have no restraint or consistency with capabilities of the hero or the villain. While Sivana does give Shazam a run for his money early on, he does have a very present and exploitable weakness.
The film had plenty of humor that sticks the landing. A villain that has understandable motivations, but not to any point of being an anti-hero. The theme of family is permeated throughout the film, and has a good payoff at the conclusion. The conclusion seemed nonsensical at first, and I bring this up merely for the chance that you might as well. However, after some quick reflection, the ending played into the theme perfectly.
In conclusion, the DCEU has started to create films that are just fun to see, with characters that inspire and are great to see do their superhero thing. With whatever flaws might be seen by the nay-sayers or the nit pickers, Shazam! is still a great movie for both kids and adults, and more than likely will make a killing when it is released on DVD and Blu-Ray. It was a fun romp with plenty of laughs and moments to take home after the credits. Yes, before asking, there is a post credit scene to watch so stay for the entire movie please. Shazam! was dazzling and electrifying; a spectacle for all ages, and a shock to those who have written off the DC movies.