Shazam! follows Billy Batson (Djimon Hounsou), a foster child with a chip on his shoulder, who struggles with being adopted into a new family because he believes he can still find his birth mother. Meanwhile, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) searches for the power of the seven deadly sins of man. Unable to protect the world from the deadly sins, the wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) must pass on his power to a champion before it is too late. Billy is chosen, becoming a fully adult superhero with strength, speed, and other amazing abilities and must stop Sivana and the seven deadly sins.
From a directorial standpoint, David F. Sandberg brings a balance of darkness and light that complement rather than weaken each other. Coming from the horror genre, he employs his horror toolbox with Dr. Sivana’s scenes, creating a threat with true weight because of the filmmaking, supporting the story being told. Sivana is the perfect foil for Billy, being the product of a family who didn’t support him and belittled him. He and Billy share a sense of loneliness as per their family situation. The difference is their response.
While the film’s humor comes from playing with superhero tropes, such as learning about what superpowers you have and the fact that Billy and Freddy come from a world where Superman, Batman, Womder Woman, and the Justice League exist. While Deadpool (Tim Miller, 2016) does this, it takes a more wonderous approach, instead of the more mean-spirited attitude of Deadpool. While Deadpool is a mostly cynical film with a hidden heart underneath, Shazam!
Shazam! Is perhaps the most thematically well-handled film since Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins, 2017). By focusing Billy’s arc around letting himself be open to family outside of those directly related to him, contrasted by Sivanna’s hate and dismissal of his own family, the film powerfully shows the joy and power in a family standing together in a truly unique way (I won’t divulge how, seeing as that contains spoilers). The foster parents and other foster kids: Freddy, Eugene (Ian Chen), Mary (Grace Fulton), Pedro (Jovan Armand), and Darla (Faithe Herman) are all unique from each other in appearance and personality, sharing great chemistry with each other, making it satisfying to see each other bond and accept Billy into their self-made family.