This article consists of nothing but Shazam! spoilers. We have a spoiler free review of the film here.
OK, so, Shazam! has a relatively straightforward ending. A family-friendly, magical romp of a superhero movie that primarily is powered on a wonderful big screen distillation of kid logic and isn’t overly connected to the wider DCEU doesn’t really need much explaining, but there are a few fun elements in how Dr. Sivana is defeated, and especially in how the Shazam family gets their powers, that I just couldn’t resist.
The Sins and The Defeat of Sivana
Dr. Sivana absorbed the Seven Deadly Sins into his body via the orb in his eye and is able to command them and send them out into the world. However, he is always at his most powerful when all seven sins are contained within him, which you see when he is able to easily hand Shazam his big red ass during their fight at the mall.
But as he releases each Sin from his eye, he loses a little bit of that raw power. As long as there’s one held back, he’s still able to fly, is relatively invulnerable, and basically pretty tough and unpleasant. Billy ultimately defeats Sivana by taunting Envy out of him, leaving Sivana exposed and completely mortal. It’s a pretty simple trick, but it actually relates a little bit to a somewhat obscure piece of Shazam mythology, one that doesn’t even always hold true.
While the ability to pass on the powers of Shazam has long been part of the characer’s lore (more on that in a minute) it has also been stated a few times that doing so weakens them somewhat. So basically, if only Billy is all Shazam-ed up, he’s at his most powerful, but as others call down the lightning, it kind of dilutes the flow of magic a little bit. Usually it’s too little to be noticed, and this particular bit of the legend hasn’t come into play in the most recent comics (the ones where there are up to six Shazam siblings flying around at any given moment), but the logic with the Sins seems almost the same. Almost. Maybe. OK, fine, I’m reaching.
The Shazam Family
While Pedro, Darla, and Eugene have only been hanging around the pages of DC Comics since 2011, the idea that Billy can pass on the powers of Shazam has been part of the character’s mythology almost since the very beginning, starting in 1941. That was when Billy found Freddy Freeman, mortally injured after an encounter with Captain Nazi, and brought him to the Rock of Eternity. There, the ghost of the Wizard instructed Billy to pass on a portion of his powers so Freddy could not only live, but become a hero of his own.
It happened again a few years later, when it turned out that young Mary Bromfeld was in fact Billy’s long lost twin sister (that doesn’t appear to be the case in the modern comics, and they certainly won’t go down this road in the movies) and thus could also call down the lightning when saying “Shazam.”
But in the 2011 origin story by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank that heavily informs much of the Shazam movie, the ability to pass on the power of Shazam to members of family (“family is what it can be, not what it should be”) is basically the final, “secret spell” contained within the powers Billy got from the Wizard. It’s no different in the movie. In theory, if Billy had siblings by blood who were worthy of the power, they could also call the lightning, but it takes until Billy actually accepts Freddy, Mary, Pedro, Eugene, and Darla as his actual family before he’s able to will his powers to them. And really, the “say my name” BILLY! joke will get me every time forever.
Freddy and Mary’s costumes are perfect modern updatings of their looks from the 1940s, with the appropriate modern and ancient design flourishes contained in the Shazam costume. Pretty much everyone’s color schemes are foreshadowed earlier in the movie, as the transformation into a magical champion basically pulls a little of what you see as your ideal heroic self from your subconscious. It’s why the musculature on all the suits is a little exaggerated, because it’s what a kid’s idea of a superhero build would look like. Billy wears red every day in his private life, it’s a color he’s fond of, and thus his suit is red.
And while Freddy’s costume has been blue since 1941 just as it is here, it’s recontextualized slightly in light of the DCEU. Throughout the movie we see that Freddy’s favorite hero is Superman, so of course his suit would be blue like his hero’s. It’s also pretty touching that the first thing he does is drop the crutch and fly (and flip the double bird at Sivana).
As for the rest of the family, well…this is where things get a little tricky. Historically, Freddy and Mary simply have all the powers of Shazam, and it seems that also holds true for Pedro, Eugene, and Darla. However, it’s implied that each member of the Shazam family “specializes” in some aspect of the magic word (which grants you 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). So obviously Pedro specializes in the “strength of Hercules” (and possibly the “stamina of Atlas”) aspects, Darla appears to favor the “speed of Mercury,” and Eugene favors the “power of Zeus” (although in the comics it is revealed that he also has an affinity for technology so strong that he can actually talk to electronics and machinery…maybe the “H” in his “Shazam” stands for Hephaestus?).
It’s also worth noting that none of these characters have superheroic codenames. In the comics, Freddy once jokingly refers to himself as “King Shazam,” a sideways reference to the fact that Elvis Presley himself was such a Shazam fan that he modeled his entire look on Freddy Freeman (no, seriously…go look at some Mac Raboy Shazam art, note Freddy’s hairstyle, sideburns, and seemingly perfectly mascaraed eyelashes and then look at Elvis…and then note Elvis’ fondness for short capes and lightning bolt logos). But other than that? They just tend to refer to each other by their first names. Presumably this will be addressed at some point, but for now, who cares? This is such a wonderful moment in the film that it’s best to just let it be.
We have a complete history of everyone who has been able to wield the Shazam lightning right here.
This is pretty self-explanatory for the most part. As you can probably guess that (sadly) isn’t Henry Cavill in the Superman suit at the end, but it’s still a really fun cameo, and ties up Freddy’s love of the Man of Steel teased throughout the movie nicely. It’s a shame that Cavill’s time in the DCEU as Superman appears to be finished, because the idea of Cavill’s Superman playing straight man to Zachary Levi’s hyperactive Shazam in a superhero buddy cop movie down the road is just too appealing. I can dream, can’t I?
You can read an explanation of why Henry Cavill couldn’t be Superman in Shazam! right here.