DC’s Road to Redemption

John Kim, Writer

With the release of Iron Man in 2008, Marvel started off its serious attempt into the movie industry with a shining success. Although there were some missteps for Marvel, it has built up one of the most immense and engrossing movie franchise in the cinematic history.

Illustration by Phoebe Lai

On the other hand, Marvel’s main competitor, DC, has experienced a series of disappointments in terms of their movie release with their quality ranging from mediocre to outright terrible. Unlike Marvel, DC’s first attempt to build a cinematic universe – Green Lantern – was a miserable failure. However, with the recent release of Shazam! DC seems to be well on its way to the road of redemption.

Shazam!  (originally known as Captain Marvel) is one of the most unique and interesting heroes in the comic world. 

The current holder of this mantle, Billy Batson, has the power to turn into the superhero by saying “Shazam!” Having the wisdom of Solomon, strength of Hercules, stamina of Atlas, power of Zeus, courage of Achilles, and speed of Mercury, Shazam is an extremely powerful superhero that can even rival Superman – though unlike Superman, Shazam’s power derive from the gods and magic. 

The best aspect of the movie Shazam! is that it truly does justice to the character, demonstrating his dominant power and teenage-like personality particularly well.

 The character development of Billy Batson throughout the movie is riveting and easy to follow. 

Moreover, having a teenage sidekick, Freddy Freeman, and Shazam himself being a high schooler in his original form allows the movie to be relatable for teenagers and young adults. 

The audience will especially relate to Freddy because, like the audience, he’s a wannabe superhero who observes Shazam as he gets a grasp of his own power.

Another amazing aspect of the movie are various references that the characters make to past incidents in the movie. Viewers who are paying even a little attention to the movie will quickly realize them and enjoy the callbacks. 

These callbacks usually demonstrate central themes, such as “being a good brother.”

Although not being the most shining, outstanding part of the movie, Shazam!’s general plot and actions scene are also beyond average. Under scrutiny, one can certainly find plot holes, inconsistencies, and lack of convincing stunts; nevertheless, these flaws don’t significantly affect the film’s quality as the overall production standards are still completely satisfactory.

One of the most noticeable lackluster aspect of the movie was the villain Dr. Sivana. 

His backstory and villainous motivations seemed quite clichéd, even for a superhero movie. DC’s effort to put some nuance into him was evident, but that didn’t translate well on screen.

Personally, the biggest letdown was the absence of a famous, major scene in the comic book that explains how Billy obtained the power of Shazam. 

In the comics, Billy initially fails the test of pure heart, but then argues that no one has the “pure heart” the wizard Shazam seeks. 

As a troubled orphan, Billy has been hurt by society multiple times, and he rants about how people in modern society are unable to have pure goodness in them. Running out of options, Shazam tests Billy again for the goodness in him and sees that he is indeed a possessor of a kind heart. Shazam selects Billy as the champion, bequeathing the power of Shazam. 

However, in the film, Billy instantly passes Shazam’s test. The inclusion of the comic book scene would have added so much to the character development of Billy, as it would have shown how twisted Billy was in the beginning.

Of course, like any other comic-based movies, DC utilizes the ending of Shazam! to build up the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and provide insights into the sequel. 

Seeing that Shazam is already Superman’s friend, the possibility of him being in the next Justice League movie is extremely high, and he would be an excellent addition in terms of both strength and personality: as a teenager he would bring a fresh, new personality on the table and significantly enhance the League’s faculty with the power of Shazam. 

The movie also teases two possible villains, Black Adam, a previous champion of Shazam that has gone rogue, and Mister Mind, an alien with powers such as mind control and telepathy. 

The ending hinted that Mister Mind will be joining forces with Dr. Sivana; because the reappearance of Dr. Sivana as a villain could be quite dull, Black Adam, Shazam’s arch-nemesis, would most likely be the main villain of Shazam!’s sequel.

All in all, Shazam! was a marvelous movie that DC – whose only notable success was Wonder Woman – desperately needed to strengthen the DCEU. 

As a superhero origin movie, the film did an outstanding job at establishing not only Shazam, but also supporting characters like Freddy. 

If DC were to continue on this path, they might be able to finally free themselves from the stigma of Green Lantern and make the Justice League great again.