When Shazam! premiered in 2019, the hope was that audiences would take to the DC superhero. They did, in droves, and now the film is making its way up the HBO Max rankings as it sits at number seven as the streamers most-watched.
Shazam! was a big-budget surprise hit, one that DC was starving for. After a mixture of hit-or-miss films, Shazam! was a breath of fresh air for all involved. The movie stars Asher Angel as the young Billy Batson, an orphan searching for his biological mother. During his quest, Billy finds much more than he anticipates.
Billy constantly runs away from his foster homes in an effort to track down his mother. Presently, Billy is in a home run by Victor and Rosa Vásquez, along with five other kids, Mary Bromfield, Pedro Peña, Eugene Choi, Darla Dudley, and Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer – It Chapter One and It Chapter Two), who is a superhero enthusiast.
Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) is a scientist who, as a child, had an interaction with the ancient wizard Shazam. The wizard has been searching centuries for a person who is pure of heart and with whom he can bestow his powers and call his new champion. The wizard Shazam deems Thaddeus unworthy, causing life-long bitterness for Thaddeus.
Thaddeus finds his way back to the wizard, stealing the Eye of Sin, thusly becoming the Eye’s vessel for destruction. He uses this power to defeat the wizard. He also uses his newfound evil power to kill his father, brother, and the board members at Sivana Industries.
After Billy defends Freddy from bullies, he is chased into the subway where he is transported to the Rock of Destiny. There, he is chosen by the wizard to be his new champion and if Billy says the name “Shazam”, he will turn into the adult superhero (Zachary Levi) that will possess the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury.
The problem with this? Billy will still be a 14-year-old kid in an adult’s body. It takes some convincing before Freddy believes that Shazam is Billy. Once he does, though, they use Billy’s newfound gifts to their advantage.
Billy also uses Freddy to help him explore his superhero powers from super strength and speed, near-invulnerability, Shazam’s ability to manipulate electricity, and flying.
As Shazam, Billy uses his fame for monetary gain, straining his friendship with Freddy as well as his foster siblings. Making matters worse is that he is now on Sivana’s radar. Their first meeting doesn’t bode well for Shazam and when Sivana determines Shazam is Billy, Sivana takes his foster family hostage to bring Shazam out of the shadows.
Shazam! is truly a fun movie. The humor and thrills are expertly balanced by director David F. Sandberg from a script written by Henry Gayden. Sandberg was given an $80-100 million budget and was rewarded with $366 million at the box office.
Zachary Levi was not the first actor looked at to play the role of Shazam! – he led a group that included John Cena, Derek Theler (ABC Family’s Baby Daddy), Zane Holtz (From Dusk Til Dawn: The Series), Billy Magnussen (Bridge of Spies), and Jake McDorman (Limitless).
Zachary Levi, though, was the perfect choice to play the adult-looking, boy-minded, superhero. Levi is best-known as Chuck, the spy-comedy TV series that ran for five seasons. His comedic timing worked well with Jack Dylan Grazer’s Freddy Freeman and the pair were by far the highlight of the film.
When the film was first conceived, the plan was to get Dwayne Johnson involved as the archenemy of Shazam, Black Adam. But as the film was moving forward, it was determined that Johnson would headline his own movie, titled Black Adam, as a bigger introduction to the DC Universe.
There was also the idea to have Henry Cavill appear as Superman, but his schedule precluded him from filming, so the Man of Steel was shown from the neck down.
The success of the first film, as well as the upcoming Black Adam movie, has prompted Warner Bros. to set up a second Shazam! film called Shazam! Fury of the Gods. The sequel will see Levi return as the overgrown boy hero as well as Angel and Dylan Grazer returning to their respective roles.
Adding to the cast will be Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren. The new film is not expected to be released until 2023 as it has, at the moment, a June 2, 2023 release date.
For now, you can get your Shazam! fix on HBO Max. If you haven’t seen it, check it out, it’s a fun film. If you have seen it, give it another viewing. Smiles are waiting.