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The ending of Shazam! explained

With the release of 2019's Shazam!, Warner Bros. has another superhero hit on its hands, further proving that you don't have to make your movie part of the MCU to have a good time. Thanks to strong performances from the whole cast, sharp writing, and an overall sense of fun, Shazam! is a hit with critics and breathes new life into the DCEU.

As with any movie based on a comic book, there are bound to be little bits and pieces that make sense only to a small portion of the audience. And nowhere is that more apparent than in the movie's final act. While the ending itself is pretty straightforward, there are enough head-scratching and surprising moments in the movie's latter third that might be in need of some explanation. Don't sweat it! That's why we're here. Let's say the magic words — spoilers ahead — and explain the ending of Shazam!

Say my name

If you're not a longtime comic book reader, you may have scratched your head at some of the superhero names Billy and Freddie came up with over the course of the film. From Thundercrack to Captain Sparklefingers, none of them seemed to stick. Even by the end of the film, the big dude in red played by Zachary Levi never seemed to actually get the codename that gets attached to so many other superheroes. You'd think after so many attempts at getting him a moniker, he'd do better than "Shazam," a name he can never say without losing his powers in a bolt of lightning. So what's the deal?

The short version is that the superhero we meet in Shazam! didn't always go by this name. In fact, he used to go by Captain Marvel, back when he first debuted in 1939. We won't get into all the ins and outs here, but there was a period of time when Captain Marvel comics weren't being published, and during that period, Timely Comics changed its name to the more familiar Marvel Comics we all know and love. When Marvel created its own Captain Marvel character in 1967, DC and Marvel Comics had to come to an agreement about how to navigate the tricky trademarks. Eventually, in 2011 DC just gave up "Captain Marvel" entirely, and simply renamed the character "Shazam." So if you were wondering why he never settled on the pretty good name of the Red Cyclone, well, now you know.

A family affair

The final battle with Doctor Sivana and the Seven Deadly Sins provided one of the most awesome climactic moments in recent superhero movie history, when Shazam extends his powers to his foster siblings and creates five more superheroes to save the day. Now, instead of one new superhero joining the DCEU, there are actually six. If you wondered how and why the movie could justify pulling five super-rabbits out of its magical hat, there's actually a pretty nice set-up for this final act twist earlier in the film that you might've missed if you weren't paying close attention.

When Billy encounters the wizard Shazam, the old man yells about the empty chairs behind him on the Rock of Eternity — his brothers and sisters in magic, who have all long since died. When Billy shares his powers, he's filling five more of those seats… though just who will wind up sitting in that seventh chair is a question we probably won't have answered until the next film. However, since this origin story seemed to pretty closely follow the plot of DC's New 52 Shazam! miniseries, there's a good bet that the current run of Shazam! comics DC is publishing will offer some clues as to the seventh Shazam's identity.

Speaking of hidden identities…

Superman's secret identity

The very last scene before the credits rolled offered up two really fun moments. The first was when Billy came to lunch as Shazam, fulfilling a promise made to Freddie and showing the creeps at Fawcett Central that he wasn't lying when he said he knew Philadelphia's newest hero. The other was when Billy's special guest — none other than Superman — made an appearance of his own. Of course, while the audience saw Superman's blue supersuit, the shot was conspicuously composed to keep the actor's head out of frame. Considering that Superman's one of the most popular, important superheroes ever, it might've seemed weird to the average moviegoer that the filmmakers went out of their way to not show his face.

Well, there's some drama going on behind the scenes at Warner Bros. and DC regarding just who is going to wear the big blue suit going forward. The most recent actor to take the role of Superman, Henry Cavill, is reportedly in talks with Warner Bros. about whether or not he'll return to play the character in future movies. But while Cavill's future as Superman is murky, the filmmakers still wanted to have a Superman cameo, so they did the next-best thing by simply hiring a buff dude to put on the suit, while simply keeping his face out of frame. The moment lands as pretty funny if you don't know about Cavill's alleged contract disputes, and it's even funnier if you do.

Mister Mind and the Seven Realms

One of the reasons Shazam! is so much fun is that it's an exceptionally weird movie. It's got a magic wizard who lives in a cave, the physical embodiments of religious concepts, and an unexplained obsession with tigers. But weirdest of all, it's got a talking, evil worm, who shows up in the film's mid-credits scene in Doctor Sivana's prison cell, ranting about Seven Realms. As with so many elements of superhero movies, there was probably a sizeable portion of the audience that saw this and couldn't be more confused. Don't feel bad — this little guy is pretty bizarre and obscure, even for comic book fans. Let's just dig into this thing.

The little talking bug is a longtime Shazam villain named Mister Mind. He's a talking, super-intelligent worm from another planet. That planet is sometimes Venus, depending on which comic books you're reading. He's the founder of a team of supervillains in the comics called the Monster Society of Evil, which has included members such as Jeepers, Mr. Banjo, and literally Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, just to name a few. It's… it's pretty wild.

As for the Seven Realms, this seems like it refers to a pretty recent addition to the pages of DC's Shazam! comics. As of this writing, the comics are only starting to dig into what these realms are and their significance, so if you want to know more about what's likely to happen in a sequel to Shazam!, start reading.

The future of Shazam!

It's nice to imagine that we're getting all these superhero movies because what the world needs now is the ability to believe in selflessness and heroism. But the reality is that if a movie can't kickstart a franchise, it's not worth doing. Fortunately, Shazam! seems to do double duty on that front. Not only does it have plenty of potential for sequels starring Billy Batson, Freddie Freeman, and the rest of the Shazam Family, but it also easily connects to the wider DC Extended Universe. 2018's Aquaman proved that DC movies don't have to be grim and brooding. But Shazam! took things to the next level and showed that DC movies can have strong connections to each other without being bogged down in cinematic universe set-up and continuity gobbledygook.

Regarding the next Shazam! film, there's plenty of questions that still need answering. Who's going to fill that seventh chair at the Rock of Eternity? Will it be Black Adam? What's Mister Mind got planned for those seven realms? Will we meet Billy Batson's mysteriously imprisoned father? In short, Shazam! did a great job offering viewers a complete, well-rounded movie while also leaving plenty of room for expansion within its corner of the DCEU.

The future of the DCEU

Meanwhile, there's a ton of set-up for future interactions with other DC heroes. We already caught a partial glimpse of Shazam teaming up with Superman in the Fawcett Central lunchroom. The second post-credits scene (glimpsed in this trailer) hints at another possible team-up, when Shazam tests his abilities to talk to sea creatures and realizes just how cool it would be if he could. Can you imagine how awesome it'd be to see Jason Momoa's Aquaman hanging out with Shazam?

While Warner Bros. undoubtedly stumbled out of the gate with their early efforts in terms of critical reception, Aquaman and Shazam! seem to have fully righted the ship. While the current crop of DC Comics movies that began with Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad had its share of vocal fans, the wider moviegoing audience was mostly confounded by their dark, gritty takes on characters that they'd always remembered as being bright and colorful. The disappointing box office performance of Justice League was clear proof that most movie fans weren't interested in seeing where this whole DCEU thing was headed.

Shazam! may change all that. It remains to be seen whether or not the forthcoming slate of DC movies will actually have any connections to this film. But if Warner Bros. can find a way to take the lessons of Shazam! and make Superman, Batman, and the rest of the gang fun again… well, we'll be in for a pretty super batch of movies.