The majority of modern superhero-oriented content nowadays that gets generated like clockwork around the year tends to miss one key aspect of the genre—the sense of wonder. Either due to the oversaturated condition of the genre across different mediums or a peculiar self-awareness imbued in the characters themselves, no longer do the wide-eyed involuntary gasps convey feelings of awe. “Shazam” (2019) differs from most of the popular mainstream caped avengers titles in this aspect, in that not only can viewers feel a sense of amazement with a story that essentially adapts one of the most common dreams almost every one of us grew up with—what would have happened if we could turn into superheroes?—but also captures the innocence of such a prospect through a stellar cast of young characters. The character Shazam, or as fans like to call him, the Original Captain Marvel, was a unique hero in the sense that despite being a Golden Age superhero, he wasn’t created out of some freak accident or tragic background; instead, he was endowed with powers, which he was pleased to put to good use and share. Based on the character’s modern incarnation in the “Shazam” comics written by Geoff Johns, the movie takes the best of both classic and modern elements to create a unique superhero experience.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘Shazam’?
The movie opens in Upstate New York, in 1974, with a snowstorm brewing in the backdrop as we see John Glover’s Mr. Sivana driving to his parents’ house to spend Christmas eve with his two sons, Sid and young Thaddeus. As Thad plays his favorite 8-ball game, he gets ridiculed and harassed by his elder brother, and upon complaining, he gets chastised by his father. After a while, Thad sees some mystical symbols appearing on the ball and notices his father and brother are missing from the running car. Before getting a hold of things, Thad gets magically transported to a mystical realm, which we later get to know as the Rock of Eternity, the conduit of the composite magical properties of the earth. There he meets an ancient wizard named Shazam, who introduces himself as the keeper of magic, protector of the realms, and the last surviving member of the ‘Council of Wizards.’ As he finds himself too weak to protect the realms against supernatural threats, especially from the embodiment of the Seven Deadly Sins that are held captive in the Rock of Eternity. The Wizard wishes to bestow his powers on a new champion of magic on the condition that the said person be pure of heart and strong in spirit. Thad is one of the few chosen ones whom the Wizard wanted to test. However, as the young boy gets himself lured by the provocations of the Seven Deadly Sins, the Wizard wastes no time in reminding him of his unworthiness and returns him back to the mortal realm, inside the running car with his father and brother. The experience disturbs Thad to the point that he creates a scene that causes an accident that leaves his dad paraplegic. Being at the receiving end of the ire of his abusive brother and estranged father ever since, future years weren’t kind to Thaddeus Sivana.
Fast forward to present-day Fawcett City, Philadelphia, where we meet the 14-year-old orphan Billy Batson. In his quest to find his birth mother, from whom he separated a decade ago, he has escaped from multiple foster homes. Billy is finally placed with the loving Vasquez family, who have five other adopted kids of their own: the wise and eldest, Mary Bromfield, nerdy Freddy Freeman; a reserved Pedro Pena, eccentric gamer Eugene Choi; and the youngest, caring sister, Darla Dudley. The quirkiest of the bunch, a disabled Freddy is the same age as Billy and tries to establish a rapport with him. However, Billy is as disenchanted as ever and wants to escape once again in search of his birth mother.
Meanwhile, a grown-up Thaddeus has managed to forcibly open a gateway to the Rock of Eternity by studying the numerous people across the world who had a similar experience and repeating the pattern of the mystical symbols accurately. He once again confronts the Wizard and vents out his lifelong frustration, which was caused by the Wizard’s chastisement. Sivana takes the mystical orb that acts as a conduit to the entities of the Seven Deadly Sins, which enter his eye, creating the iconic appearance. Sivana unleashes his newfound powers and beats a weakened Wizard before surfacing back to the earthly realm. An empowered Sivana goes to Sivana Industries and massacres the room full of board executives, along with his father and brother, with the help of the sin entities.
At school, Billy rescues Freddy from bullies and gets chased to the subway station by them. Just like Sivana, he too gets magically transported to the Rock of Eternity, where the Wizard Shazam introduces himself and provides a glimpse of the past, where an error of his judgment led to choosing a problematic individual as a champion who released the Seven Deadly Sins upon the earth for the first time (the Black Adam tease). The millennia-old incident led the Wizard to emphasize choosing a champion with a pure heart. Billy honestly acknowledges not being someone to fulfill the criteria and that he is unsure if anyone actually is. Somewhat impressed at his honesty and being out of time, Wizard transfers his powers to Billy as he touches his mystical staff and utters his name, “Shazam.” Billy gets empowered by the power of the six Godly beings- thereby creating the acronym Shazam. Billy transforms into his best possible self, into an adult champion, and sees the Wizard crumble to dust in front of him. Billy later comes to know that he can revert to his teenage form by uttering the Wizard’s name.
As Billy returns to the earthly realm, he seeks Freddy’s help to figure out the powers of invulnerability, super strength, and lightning manipulation. Although they quickly bond over their mutual excitement at the newfound powers, Billy soon starts misusing his powers for selfish needs, much to Freddy’s dismay. After getting embarrassed in school by bullies due to Billy’s unwillingness to show up in his empowered avatar, Freddy berates Billy for his callousness and gets honest while revealing his own insecurity about being disabled. In the meantime, Sivana locates and attacks Billy, and due to his inexperience, Billy soon gets cornered. Billy discovers flight as another of his already-stacked superpowers and somehow escapes the scene. Later, Billy finds out the address of his birth mother and is devastated upon learning that, after conceiving Billy during a teenage pregnancy, his mother felt herself unfit for raising a child and abandoned him willingly. Heartbroken, Billy also learns that Sivana has deduced Billy’s real identity and has taken his adopted siblings as hostages. Finally gaining the resolve to rescue his family, Billy now confidently jumps over a roof and transforms himself into the mightiest mortal after uttering the name Shazam.
As the battle between Billy and Sivana moves to a Christmas carnival, Billy finds it difficult to tackle the seven deadly sins alone while also helping his siblings. Realizing Wizard’s words of wisdom about using his powers to protect people close to him, Billy decides to share his powers with his adopted siblings, which turns them into their empowered adult forms. Together, they thwart Sivana’s threat, save the lives of the people at the carnival, and get hailed as a local team of superheroes. Billy finally accepts the Vasquezes as his true family, and later, the Shazam family makes the Rock of Eternity their superhero headquarters. Later, to make amends for Freddy’s embarrassment, Shazam brings Superman to their school to have lunch together.
What Can Be Expected For The Future Of The Shazam Franchise?
In the post-credits scene of “Shazam” we see the nefarious mastermind, the caterpillar Mister Mind, hatching an evil scheme with imprisoned Dr. Sivana as he introduces himself as the one who ‘names the gods.’ Mister Mind was imprisoned at the Rock of Eternity, and when the Seven Deadly Sins escaped with Sivana’s help, he, too, was freed of his captivity. In the comics, Mister Mind wields extraordinary psychokinetic powers and creates the first-ever supervillain team, “Monster Society of Evil,” which consists of every major villain Captain Marvel aka Shazam, ever faced during his career. With the combined intellect of these two evil geniuses, Billy and his superfamily will surely need assistance, and as teased previously, the Man in Black, the first champion of magic, can be considered a viable option if the Justice League can’t join the party.
How Does It Connect With ‘Fury Of The Gods’?
In the upcoming “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” we will see Billy and his family squaring off with daughters of Atlas, as the latter wish to take back the power of Gods from the children who they deem as unworthy. Their invasion on Earth will bring mythological creatures and it will be interesting to see classical mythology being explored through a new chapter of Shazam’s lore.