While there are some comic superheroes aimed at kids, like Spider-Man, the latest trend in superhero movies is to make them dark and ultimately, UN-family friendly. But in horror director David F. Sandberg’s surprisingly kid-friendly film, audiences can see what it would be like if a tween was suddenly emboldened by newfound superheroes and was thrust into the role of protector.
Billy Batson (Asher Angel) has been hunting for his mother for years, since he found himself abandoned and packaged back and forth between foster families. He’s skeptical of his last-chance foster home with the Vasquezes, but he’s granted the powers of ancient Greek deities by the ancient wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) after he rescues his nerdy, handicap foster brother Freddie Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) from bullies. The ancient wizard has chosen a new Champion of Eternity, to combat the Seven Deadly Sins which have inhabited the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sirvana (Mark Strong).
This is the Big (Tom Hanks, anyone?) version of a superhero movie. Like Spider-Man, who is thrust into a spotlight with powers he doesn’t understand, Batson’s transformation into Zachary Levi’s Shazam comes with confusion, delight, issues, and a sharp learning curve. It’s a reminder that we all have to grow up but that sometimes the process can be …amusing.
While the film is silly, happy, and hilarious at times, it also has a “which wolf do you feed?” kind of theme, where Batson and Sirvana are seen as two broken, hurting, abandoned children – who choose different outlets for their pain. Ultimately, Batson as the new Shazam chooses good because morality grips his heart, while Sirvana chooses evil and self-serving destruction in a quest for power. While each of them have a chance to follow the wizard’s instruction – “Say my name and let my power flow through you!” – one does so as a reluctant hero and the other refuses to because he wants all the power for himself.
Since seeing the film for the first time, I’ve been struck by that instruction by the wizard. Similar to Yahweh telling Moses to take his shoes off because he was standing on holy ground before the burning bush (Exodus 3) or the promise of the Holy Spirit received in Acts 2 by the disciples, there is injunction that if one would follow the call after being chosen, that the power of God would provide a transformation with opportunities to do greater good. As the end of Shazam proves, this power is meant to be shared, like a good contagion that spreads to others and allows them to redeem their brokenness in doing good.
Special features include motion comic, deleted scenes, gag reel, some background on Shazam and some time with Levi.