Shazam! is out now, and it’s another breath of fresh air in the DC Extended Universe following on from the success of Aquaman. Given the glowing praise the film has received, you’ve surely rushed off to see it already, haven’t you? If not, then sort that out immediately before going any further, as this article will cover the contents of the entire film with full spoilers! You have been warned...
As we’re going to be taking a deep dive into the mysteries, unresolved questions, and surprise cameos in the film, you’re hereby warned to stay away until you’ve seen the film for yourself. Questions to do with Billy’s adopted family, surprise superpowers, unexpected cameos, and much more will be covered. We’re left with so many questions after Shazam!’s ending, and we’re sure you are too, so we’re going to lay out the biggest questions and answer them as best we can below.
Read on for every important question that relates to the Shazam! ending, and what it might mean for future instalments of this series and the DCEU in general.
1. What made Thaddeus Sivana unworthy as a kid?
One of the most interesting reveals in Shazam! comes in the very opening moments of the film. It’s a prologue set in upstate New York in 1974, and the young Thaddeus Sivana (Ethan Pugiotto) is playing with a Magic 8-Ball in the back of his car, when he’s magically whisked away to the Rock of Eternity in an alternate dimension. There, he’s challenged by the wizard (Djimon Hounsou) in a test of purity, which he fails after being influenced by the Seven Deadly Sins, and he’s cast out - leading to a lifelong obsession with finding the Rock of Eternity again, and gaining its powers by any means necessary.
It’s made clear that the wizard (known as Shazam, but let’s just keep calling him the wizard to avoid confusion) has extremely high standards in his search for a new champion to bestow his powers on, as we see a number of people who have failed the assessment over the years. But it’s never made entirely clear why the young Thad fails. It feels a bit harsh, given he’s a young kid at the time, and this wanton act of rejection proves too much for a young person who’s already seemingly spurned by his father and brother.
It does seem as if the wizard’s somewhat cruel selection process is actually the cause of this supervillain, so it feels like perhaps the wizard needs to take some ownership for his mistake, rather than just passing his powers over to the first teenager he finds after coming to the realisation that he’s been a bit too harsh in his choices. No wonder Thad grew up to become an evil megalomaniac, and sought help from the Seven Deadly Sins monsters.
2. Will we find out more about Billy’s mother?
I’m not gonna lie - the reveal about Billy’s birth mother abandoning him at the fair when he was a kid hit me like a freight train. It’s not like superhero movies are never emotional (even just looking at recent examples, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and Avengers: Infinity War knew how to strike you right in the feels), but this caught me off-guard, and just worked so well with the overall family theme of the film.
However, once the tears have dried, it still raises questions as to how she managed to elude the authorities just by reverting to her maiden name. And she clearly has troubles of her own – will her backstory (and future) be explored more in further instalments, or are we to consider her part in the story completed, as Billy settles in happily with his new foster family, looked after by the absolutely delightful Rosa and Victor Vasquez. While the plotline with Billy’s mother has an emotional truth that helps it work in context, it does raise a few logistical questions. And is it really plausible that they won’t cross paths again in the future when they live so close to each other? It could be a rich source to mine in future films if they want to continue exploring the theme of family (and why wouldn’t they, as it’s one of the most effective aspects of Shazam!).
3. What will happen to Shazam as Billy grows older?
One of the neatest parts of the whole concept of the character, is that it’s the ultimate wish-fulfilment as a teenager is gifted the powers (and adult form) of a superhero. It’s no surprise that it’s frequently compared to Penny Marshall classic Big, which starred Tom Hanks as the grown up version of a kid who wished to be, well, big. Shazam! even pays direct homage to that film with a nice sight gag in a toy store.
There’s obviously plenty of mileage for laughs in the idea, as Billy goes out to buy beer, visit strip clubs, steal from ATM machines, and all the other various things a teenager with superpowers would probably do. And this got me wondering, especially when thinking about how future instalments might pan out – what will happen to Billy’s superhero form as he ages? Will he stay the same age? When Billy reaches his mid-thirties, will he look just like Shazam? Or is the godlike form of Shazam, invested with the best qualities of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury, a perfect specimen that Billy will always become when he says the magic word? Even when Billy’s old enough to collect a pension, will he still look like Zachary Levi when he says his superhero name? Just one of those weird shower thoughts you might have when contemplating his powers.
4. How badly injured were those bus passengers?
Another thing that really works in Shazam! is the fact that Billy doesn’t just instantly become a do-gooder hero. At first he’s selfish and silly, earning money by posing for selfies, recklessly showing off his lightning powers, and generally doing the opposite of what Superman would do. Case in point is the scene where he accidentally lightning strikes a bus and sends it careening off a bridge, prompting him to then have to get into hero mode to prevent an appalling tragedy. The relatively small scale of the scene (by superhero movie standards at least) means that it feels genuinely quite tense and risky, and that feeling is heightened by the fact that Shazam clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing, and doesn’t even fully understand the limits of his powers.
While you could say all’s well that ends well as there are no fatalities, and even the dog that gets in the way survives unhurt, many of the bus passengers must have been particularly roughed up, given that some of them fell the entire length of the bus and crashed into its front window. And then it’s not like the bus is placed down particularly gently. Did anyone get life-changing injuries? And how many of the passengers have been emotionally scarred? As a frequent supervillain origin story features a baddie inadvertently harmed by an oblivious hero, could there be a big bad in waiting on that bus? Maybe Shazam will just be hit by a number of lawsuits for the cases of whiplash he’s caused.
5. What’s going on in those other dimensions?
One of the intriguing things that Shazam! sets up is its use of dimensions. The wizard and the Rock of Eternity clearly exist in some sort of interdimensional space that requires a special portal for access - it’s the reason Thaddeus Sivana spends so long cracking the entry code. But when Shazam and his foster siblings return to the Rock in the final act of the film, they also stumble across a number of other doors: one features crocodile creatures sitting round a table in a rather civilised manner; another has a tentacled beast that tries to escape before the door is slammed shut. There are dozens more doors, so what is being hidden behind them?
Is there some multiverse action going on? Are these portals to distant realms in our own world, or are they parallel realities? And whatever they are, are we going to be able to explore them further in future films now that Shazam has smashed the staff that provides access to the Rock of Eternity? I hope so, as even in the brief moments they’re glimpsed on screen there’s a load of visual invention, wit, and creepiness on display. Maybe they’ll get their own spin-off, much like The Trench from Aquaman is getting its own spin-off. There’s a lot you could do with it.
6. Have we seen the last of the Seven Deadly Sins?
The wizard explains – via the medium of a very impressive light show – a brief history of the Seven Deadly Sins and how they were unleashed many years ago, but a little more information on them would be nice. The Sins serve as a nice reminder of director David F. Sandberg’s horror roots, and they’re actually pretty scary for a family film, plus they suited the ’80s vibe the film was going for – you could imagine them animated in stop-motion back in the day. But it would be interesting to see where they manifested from, and whether they have any chance to return again, now that Thaddeus Sivana’s schemes have been foiled.
They were an impressive design feat too, so it’d be fun to see them in a bit more detail after they spent the best part of Shazam! lurking in the background. Could they ever consume someone else in the same way they influenced Thaddeus? And is there scope for one individual Sin to step into the limelight?
7. What’s the deal with the Superman cameo?
While the wider DCEU is hinted at throughout, most notably through Freddy Freeman, an avid superhero fan who collects Justice League memorabilia, the only time we catch a true glimpse of another DC character is in the final scene before the credits. Freddy has been desperate for Shazam to join him for lunch, in order to earn some cool points in the school cafeteria. As a last-minute surprise, Billy/Shazam arranges for a friend from work (kinda) to show up and show off, as Superman also appears in the scene to make Freddy’s day.
Except, you don’t actually see Superman’s face. You see his suit, which clearly looks like it’s supposed to be the DCEU iteration of the character, but it’s not actually Henry Cavill. It raises a few questions. Was it a purely artistic decision based on how iconic Supes’ costume is? Or was it a way to leave some ambiguity as to Cavill’s involvement in the DCEU? Cavill himself responded to rumours that he was leaving the role with an extremely cryptic Instagram video that left nobody the wiser on his position. This cameo is at least one way of preserving the ongoing mystery of Cavill’s future in the role.
8. What will Billy’s foster siblings do now?
One of the most surprising reveals in Shazam! was when Billy granted his foster siblings powers via the wizard’s staff so they could help him beat Thaddeus Sivana and the Seven Deadly Sins in the final showdown. Even though it had been hiding in plain sight through that classic source of spoilers – toys, notably these Funko Pops – the twist was kept well-hidden from a film marketing perspective. It’s an extremely fun sequence, that builds upon the comedy opportunities presented earlier in the film: Meagan Good is especially fun as the older incarnation of Darla. But what does this mean for future instalments? Will Billy’s siblings join him on every adventure, or will they have their own solo stories? How will some of the younger children have any willpower at all when it comes to transforming? How are they going to keep it from their parents?
Another logistical question raised, is how the casting was kept under wraps. Adam Brody is a staggeringly good match for Jack Dylan Grazer as the older Freddy – how was this kept a secret the whole time? And were the filmmakers paying homage to the DC film that never was, George Miller’s Justice League? Brody was set to play the Flash in that film, and D.J. Cotrona (who also appears as a superhero avatar here) was in line to be Superman. Is that a coincidence, or are they finally getting their dues? It also reminds me of another fun bit of casting for DC completists – the fact that Thad’s dad is played by John Glover, aka Lionel Luthor from Smallville. Again, happy accident or purposeful doff of the cap? I’d like to think the latter…
9. Who is that little worm guy from the mid-credits scene?
Thaddeus gets an unexpected guest in his prison cell during the film’s mid-credits scene, and if you didn’t recognise the seemingly super-intelligent caterpillar, he’s Mister Mind - a supervillain from the DC stable. Find out more extensively about what Mister Mind (and Shazam!’s other post-credits sting) could mean for the DCEU in our in-depth analysis of the Shazam! post-credits scenes.
10. Will we get a Shazam 2?
It’s hard to imagine anyone seeing Shazam! and, a) not being seriously charmed by it, and, b) not wanting to immediately spend more time with these characters. Now that the DCEU really seems to be finding its groove, will we get a Shazam! sequel? Expect to have more clarity on this once the box-office numbers start rolling in, but director David F. Sandberg and producer Peter Safran both told comicbook.com that they’d be keen to return for a follow-up. “It’s easy for me to say, ‘I’m on board‘,” said Safran, before Sandberg added, “Let’s do it.” While they’ll still need a greenlight before they get going, it’s hard to imagine there won’t be a lot of demand for a sequel.
This might also mean we’ll finally get to see Dwayne Johnson as Black Adam, a role he has been attached to as far back as 2007. If that finally comes to fruition, it would certainly make for an eventful movie, as Johnson is one of the world’s most bankable stars, and this would mark his first superhero role. It may be some time coming though - Aquaman was a billion-dollar box-office success and a sequel has been scheduled, but that’ll not be arriving till December 2022, which will be four years since the original was released. That sort of hiatus is almost unheard of in the current franchise-friendly climate, so even if a Shazam! sequel does get announced, we may not actually see it for a few years yet.
What other DC Comics movies are you looking forward to in the meantime? Check out our list of the most anticipated upcoming DC Extended Universe movies of 2019 and beyond.