It’s been almost a year since the release of the under the radar classic: SHAZAM and I still can’t get over just how good it is. When DC announced they were making this film, I told my friends and family to just wait, that if they do this right, SHAZAM was going to be something special. But not even I was ready for just how true that statement would be. After several personal viewings, I still adore this movie and it may be my favorite modern superhero film. Most fans of the movie praise the film for its focus on family, and how it handled the SHAZAM Family. For sure that deserves praise, but what I loved most was just how purely they represented the character, and how the defining moment of Billy’s heroism delivered on every hope I had for this movie.
When looking at SHAZAM a lot of people of people consider the moment that Billy makes his new adopted family super heroes the defining moment of the film, and from a plot point that may be, but for me it’s a much smaller scene. A scene that takes Billy’s arc full circle as a lost and scared child that felt and was abandoned at a carnival, a child without hope, to a hero preventing another child from feeling that same hopelessness. During the final battle at the carnival, there is a moment where Billy has been tossed by one of the Sins into a carnival game, not unlike the one the character was at with his mom at the beginning of the film. When he lands on the ground he looks up to see a scared little girl and her father who is hiding from the ensuing battle. Now up until this point in the movie, Billy has used his powers to showboat and make money. He has used them for purely selfish reasons. However, in this moment, he commits his first act of true heroism. He picks up a prize stuffed tiger (again a callback to the scene with his mother at the beginning as the prize he wanted his mother to win for him), and hands it to the girl. He tells her to hold it close, and that it’s going to be okay, that HE is going to make it okay. And with that small act of heroism, Billy became what he was meant to be, a hero.
Most people don’t realize this, but during the Golden Age of Comics, it was Captain Marvel/ Shazam, not Superman, who was the highest-selling book. I have always attributed this to the fact that I feel that Shazam is the perfected concept originated by the Man of Steel. Billy Batson isn’t some adult with his feet under him, he’s an orphaned kid that is given this almost unlimited power because of his good heart and intentions. He sees the world best and worst in both their brightest and darkest shades because, despite the fact that the world dealt him a bad hand in losing his family, he’s still a kid that wants to believe in what is right and that the future can be brighter if we work toward it. In other words, he has uninhibited hope. Keeping that in mind, the moment that defines him as a hero should reflect that, and when looking at the defining moment of SHAZAM, they delivered in spades.