DC Comics for the last six years has been known for having various pitfalls within its EU movies, and after the critically acclaimed Dark Knight series, the release of Man of Steel began a 2010s trend of movies with dark, neutral, horribly bad undertones that continued through Zack Snyder’s reign over the movies. Superheroes yelling “Yeah!” and “Alright” (looking at you Aquaman) clearly hasn’t been the best idea for DC to keep following up on. Now, however, their movies are truly starting to find their own identity, one separate from Zack Snyder’s Justice League and Batman V. Superman movies and that can rival even Marvel’s EU going into the next generation of superhero movies. The switch that’s helping DC? Giving each new movie an equal mixture of its own identity while creating a fun and comedic atmosphere and having the dark undertones from previous movies (being an orphan looks like it’d suck, to be honest).
Shazam! begins on the road of a foggy forest, where we experience a car accident that injures villain Sivana’s Father. After this brief flashback, the rest of the movie takes place in modern day Philadelphia. Here we find Billie Batson, an almost 15 year old, abandoned by his Mother at a young age and forced to look after himself. Running away from one foster home to the next, he eventually finds himself back in the foster care system after getting caught stealing a police car and trying to find his Mother, Millie Batson. Eventually he is taken on by parents Victor and Rosa Vazquez, who themselves were foster kids and now have six foster kids they take care of. After his first day in school, he ends up running to the train station, and after taking the train and being shown cryptic symbols, is teleported to Rock of Eternity, the lair of Shazam! the wizard, who bestows his own powers upon Billie. Though he does end up finding his Mother, after seeing her life, Billie ultimately ends up choosing his foster family, as after around ten years of being alone and away from his Mother, they’re the only ones to truly treat him like family.
Beginning with villain Thaddeus Sivana’s origin story, Sivana has a dark introduction as well, with a Father who blames him for everything and a brother who constantly hits at him and calls him stupid for, in my opinion, simply being a ‘kid’. After being told his Magic 8 ball doesn’t work for anything, the ball itself begins revealing strange cryptic symbols to Sivana, who gets teleported to the wizard’s lair.
While the movie can mostly be seen as a coming of age story about being a hero and an outsider, there’s also another theme that spans across the entirety of the movie itself, and that is one of choices. Throughout the movie, our main protagonist and main antagonist each face their own sets of challenges, whether that be with family, loneliness, or simply understanding one’s powers. Billie, however, chooses family and powers to do good, have fun, and entertain people while Sivana chooses to use his powers to destroy and scare the citizens of Philadelphia. Of course, had circumstances been different for each character, maybe the choices they made would’ve been different. Perhaps, had Shazam! not had another choice in choosing a champion he would’ve given himself over to Sivana and Billie would have never even entered the Rock of Eternity. Regardless, this is ultimately a superhero movie about the choices each character makes and how that leads them to commit evil, including killing ones own family, or do good and help people by giving over their powers to their family to aid in fighting the demons unleashed from the Rock of Eternity.