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Things In Shazam! You Only Notice As An Adult

Shazam!, the latest film to enter the DCEU, is finally in theaters, and even among the massive crop of superhero films that arrive each year now, it's a particularly noteworthy release. Though Aquaman definitely delved into the more lighthearted aspects of its universe, Shazam! is the first true attempt at overt, unapologetic comedy the DCEU has offered, as well as its first true attempt at a family film in the traditional sense, which is to say the major characters are children.

That puts Shazam! in a somewhat unique position among the DCEU films as the kind of thing adults and children can enjoy in equal measure... although that isn't to say they enjoy the film in the same way. No, there are definitely elements in the Shazam! that kids might simply blow right past on their way to experiencing the superhero spectacle and the heart of the family story, while adult superhero fans are still turning those ideas over in their heads. In that spirit, here are a few things about Shazam! that you probably only notice as an adult.

SPOILERS for all of Shazam! below.

Heroic Merch

Shazam! takes place in the same world as Justice League and Man of Steel, which means Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman all walk on the same planet as Billy Batson and Freddy Freeman, the latter of whom is absolutely obsessed with the superheroes which live in the reality of his world. This world has reacted to the presence of superheroes in many ways, including — as we see through Freddy's collection and through a chase scene in a toy store — merchandising.

Yes, Batman and Superman are real, and they have their own action figures, replica weaponry, and t-shirts. Now, we know that all of those pieces of merch are provided to the film by Warner Bros. Entertainment, because we can also buy them. But in the world of the film, how does that work? Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman have secret identities, but apparently toy companies are using their likenesses. Did they get permission? Do the heroes just ignore it? Sure, Bruce Wayne might not need any of the residuals from his action figures, but you know Aquaman would absolutely take a check for his t-shirt sales. Somewhere there's a lawyer working for these companies whose specific job it is to answer these questions, and that might be a movie unto itself.

A creepy cameo

During Billy Batson's (Asher Angel) first scene in the film, in which he stages a robbery in an attempt to trap cops in a store so he can use their computer system, sharp-eyed viewers will note a certain rather sinister cameo appearance: Annabelle, the haunted doll from the Conjuring franchise, is sitting on a store shelf. Now, in reality this is there because Shazam! director David F. Sandberg's last film before this one was Annabelle: Creation, and he wanted to give the doll a little shout-out.

In the reality of the film, though, this raises some interesting questions, particularly when you consider that the film's final act reveals that the Rock of Eternity contains various doors allowing for multiversal travel. We know that in the realm of The Conjuring films, Annabelle is locked up in Ed Warren's room of haunted and cursed objects, in her own glass case, but what if this isn't the same Annabelle? What if this is the Annabelle of the DCEU, and the DCEU is a world in which Annabelle's horrible secret just hasn't been discovered by the Warrens? What if this Annabelle is free to wreak her own brand of supervillain-like havoc for a little while longer, until Shazam and his magical friends stop her? That won't be what happens in Shazam! 2, but it could be if Warner Bros. wanted to make a crossover.

The long wait for a champion

The film begins in 1974, when a young Thaddeus Sivana is taken before the wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) only to be told he's not worthy because he was tempted by the Seven Deadly Sins. As soon as Sivana leaves, Shazam sends out a summoning spell to find a champion as quickly as possible, and it ends up taking him more than four decades to do so.

When Shazam meets Billy, he explains that they chose a champion once (Black Adam, who only appears as a kind of magical hologram for a couple of seconds) who betrayed them, and that he's been looking for a replacement ever since. We know this, and we know that dozens of people have memories of visiting the wizard only to be told they weren't worthy.

So... what took so long? There are obviously heroes in the world, and good and decent people willing to do things like, for example, open up their home to foster kids. It's implied that Billy was something of a compromise because the wizard was running out of time, but couldn't he have compromised sooner, particularly when you consider that the film later reveals Billy's foster siblings can also get a taste of the power? For a guy facing a ticking clock, he really pushed things until the very last possible moment.

A kid in an adult's body

Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a 14-year-old boy when we meet him, and that doesn't immediately change his mindset and approach to things when a wizard gives him the ability to transform into a full-grown man simply by saying a magic word. Billy, no stranger to scheming, is happy to use his newfound stature to do some very adult things, including buying beer (though it turns out he hates beer) and even going to a strip club, where he quickly unloads all of his cash because the employees were "convincing."

This is generally pretty understandable and amusing behavior that most 14-year-olds would attempt in some form if they thought they could get away with it, but it also makes us wonder how far Billy would have gone if he thought he could. If the supervillain threat hadn't garnered his attention, would he have tried to buy hard liquor, gotten a driver's license, applied for a loan? Would he have even moved on from strip clubs to... other adult purchases? The film never takes this any further, for good reason, but it's not like a 14-year-old mind would never go there.

A traumatized Santa

Shazam! is a film that's absolutely packed with memorable supporting characters, from the wizard himself to Sivana's research assistant to that woman in the park who didn't need Billy to save her at all. Even among them, though, the mall Santa Claus particularly stands out.

This Santa first appears during the scene when Sivana attacks Billy and chases him through a shopping mall, then appears again at the "Chilladelphia" winter carnival where the film's climax takes place. Both times, and even once after telling a little girl that he'd always be there for her, this particular Santa has the same reaction when he sees a superhero fight going down: Scream, panic, and run like hell.

All of which leads us to question: What happened to him at a past job that has him so jumpy? Was he a Santa in a Metropolis mall the day Superman and Zod fought? Was his old job more violent and he switched careers specifically to avoid such things? Is he just really, really afraid that a superhero or supervillain is going to punch him into outer space one day? Whatever the case, something got in this Santa's head and made him one of the film's most unforgettable bystanders.

The motives of bullies

The act of selflessness that gets Billy on the wizard's radar in the first place comes when two bullies pull up in a truck and begin beating up Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer)... but only after they hit Freddy with their truck. Yes, they only clip, and it's not clear if they meant to do it or if it was just a happy accident (for them) of pulling up onto the curb that close and that quickly, but the first thing we see them do is hit a disabled kid with their car.

These bullies appear a few more times throughout the film, threatening and harassing Freddy until Billy finally shows up at school as Shazam to help his new foster brother out, and we never really learn anything about them. We know they're on the ferris wheel during the carnival fight and that they seem scared, but that's about it. We also know that sometimes kids, particularly teenagers, can just be jerks to each other for no good reason.

Still, their fixation on Freddy leads any adult who's lived through the bully-rich environment that is high school, to wonder how these bullies rose to prominence in the first place, and why exactly they decided to target Freddy. Sure, he's easy pickings as a kid with a crutch, but there's clearly something else happening there that the film isn't showing us.

Kids becoming adults... way too quickly

In the film's most cheer-worthy moment, Billy realizes in the heat of battle that the wizard intended for him to share his power, to fill up the Council with other champions who will defend the Rock of Eternity and the world. So he has his new foster siblings say his name, and they turn into the Shazam Family, giving the world a new team of superheroic defenders.

It's a great moment, and it provides plenty of comedy as kids like Darla (Faithe Herman) are suddenly running around in grown-up bodies (Meagan Good) doing superhero things. The film certainly implies that the Shazam Family will keep up their superheroics in the future, which of course makes you wonder: How will the youngest kids, like Darla and Eugene (Ian Chen), handle their very... adult new superhero bodies? Billy goes through his own processing period after getting the Shazam body, and they definitely will too, but they won't necessarily have a 15-year-old's understanding of how things change. The film doesn't need to show us this, of course, but if those kids spend more time in those super-bodies they're in for some interesting discoveries at some point.

Super Friends

At the very end of the film, Billy makes good on his promise to Freddy by showing up in his Shazam form to hang out and have lunch with him. Then, Billy offers up another surprise: He's brought Superman along for the ride as well. Yes, at some point after defeating Sivana, Billy used his newfound fame to get in touch with the Man of Steel and, if not befriend him, at the very least get a favor out of him.

The film doesn't go into any great detail with this, but it's interesting to think about how it might have happened. Billy was a viral video star long before his superheroics actually accomplished anything, and you have to think that a journalist like Clark Kent might have taken a little time to dig into who Shazam is and what he wants. We also know from past experience that Superman isn't always exactly welcoming to other costumed heroes who appear on his watch. Was the first meeting a little tense? Maybe one day we'll hear more about it.

The temptation of sin

The film opens not with Billy Batson, but with a young Sivana traveling to the Rock of Eternity to be tested to find out if he's pure enough to receive Shazam's powers or not. It turns out Sivana is easily tempted by the Seven Deadly Sins, and he's turned away. Later, when the wizard offers his powers to Billy, he suggests that he's doing so because he's running out of options. Then, after learning what it means to be a hero, Billy shares his power with his siblings, creating a family of Shazam heroes.

That means that all of Billy's foster siblings will have access to the Rock of Eternity, where the Seven Deadly Sins are re-imprisoned at the end of the film. It's possible that the magic power held by the whole family is strong enough to keep them bound, but how do we know that one of the youngest kids won't one day be tempted by their power? How do we know they won't be tricked into surrendering to their baser urges? They are just children, after all. The simple answer is that we don't know, and that might be something future films have to explore.

Searching for wisdom

Though Shazam is also simply the name of the wizard in the film, we are given a more detailed reason why Billy needs to say that exact word: It's an acrostic, and by saying it the champion is imbued with the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the endurance of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. Throughout the course of the film, we see Billy ultimately using all of these abilities... well, except one.

In the comics, the wisdom of Solomon allows Shazam to tap into a tremendous amount of knowledge, including wise counsel in time of need and general mental quickness. Of course, Billy's still a teenage boy, so we can't expect that wisdom to be in action all the time, but the wizard explains he will possess this wisdom and then the movie really doesn't show us much of it. You'd think he could have at least put it to good use to ace a math test or something. Still, the film does a good job of contrasting Billy's superhero abilities with his teenage fallibility, and wisdom is more than just "being smart," so perhaps future films will tap into that particular gift a bit more.