I found a lot to love about the new DC film Shazam!
Rich with humor, religious symbolism, and a protagonist on a journey toward virtue—Christian fans won’t be disappointed! It was a fun combo of Superman meets Tom Hanks in Big meets Fullmetal Alchemist!
Thanks to Fandango and Warner Bros. featuring an early access showing, I had the pleasure of viewing the much anticipated DC film two weeks early. And I’m so glad I did.
When foster kid Billy Batson obtains the superpowers of Shazam, he squanders the gift. Meanwhile, supervillain Dr. Sivana, possessed by the seven deadly sins, begins to wreak havoc in Philadelphia. To stop Sivana, Billy must come to grips with both his life in the foster system and his destiny as the good guy.
Lately I’ve been more than a little annoyed with the many Marvel films making carbon copies of Star Lord’s humor with nearly every hero since the release of the first Guardians of the Galaxy film (complete with the recent makeover of Thor for Thor: Ragnarok).
Yet Shazam! was every bit as hilarious without having to emulate the brand of humor of those who have come before. I’m not one to laugh out loud overmuch in a crowded theater—especially when I’m there by myself. But I couldn’t help but guffaw loudly from start to finish.
What interested me most was the underlying Christian imagery throughout the film. I was struck by the implied idea that in one character’s search for someone worthy and pure of heart, none existed. How very unlike our culture to convey that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Then there were the more obvious uses of the seven deadly sins—or the cardinal sins—as the villains, Christian-eque artwork hanging in the foster home, and even Hollywood-ized praying over meals. It also seemed fitting that Zachary Levi, a Christian geek himself, was cast as Shazam.
Although most origin stories take the hero on a journey to obtain a virtue needed to save the day, Billy Batson took that to a whole new level. And understandably (predictably) so. With the safety of Philadelphia resting on an immature fourteen year old foster kid, he had some very big shoes to fill—both literally and figuratively. And that is exactly why the choice of the seven deadly sins–turned villain was so brilliant.
Other reviews out there will tell you that the two separate plot lines didn’t mesh well together. Yet the Christian virtue ethicist in me would insist they weren’t looking closely enough. Shazam may have been battling those anti-virtues with his fists, but conversely, and perhaps more importantly, Billy Batson was battling them with his heart.
Content warning: Shazam! is rated PG-13 mainly due to violence. But perhaps more importantly, this is a film about a child in foster care and could be a trigger for either a child or a parent. I myself found it almost unbearable to watch a scene of a small child separated from his mother.