I’d call Shazam! a combo between a Golden Fleece story (Hero goes in search of one thing, and ends up discovering himself) and a Rites of Passage (everyone except the Hero knows what the problem is). I think both types can be proven through the story. Let’s see! This story opens with the Villain’s POV, because in this movie, we get to see how the villain is created. Watch how we see the villain’s development at key beats.
Act I ---------------------- 1. OPENING IMAGE: Villain (Thad)—Thad is unhappy and mistreated by his family.
Hero (Billy)—Billy tricks a pair of cops into believing a shop has been broken into. The cops leave their cruiser to investigate and Billy jumps inside—not to steal the car, as you might expect, but to look up an address in the police laptop. 2. THEME STATED: We overhear Mary, a foster sister, on the phone with a university admissions person. She’s asked what she’s most looking forward to and Mary says, “Being able to find family and friends in the most unlikely of places.” Bam! We already know that Billy has been running away from foster homes since he was three, looking for his mom. That’s what the address was for. Mary lives at his latest home, which he plans to leave as soon as he can. But what if, instead of searching for the family he thinks he should have, he found them right where he is? That’s the theme, baby! 3. SETUP: During the set-up, we see Billy trying to find his real mom; talking to a social worker where we learn he’s run away from a lot of homes. He wants to just take care of himself, but the social worker says he’s only 15, and you have to be 18 to live on your own. A pair of fun-seeming foster parents pick him up and take him to a fun-crazy home where the kids seem free to be themselves. His roommate is Freddie, a disabled boy who talks a lot and loves superheroes.
They go to school, but Billy is barely there. He doesn’t care about the kids in his new family. Freddie is bullied and at first Billy’s just going to leave him to fend for himself (while his foster siblings watch on, helpless), but then he goes back and saves him. That’s Billy’s “save the cat” moment because up until then you don’t know if there’s any good in the kid at all, but because of this moment, we can hold onto the hope that Billy is a good guy, deep down. 4. CATALYST: Thad, an adult now, discovers the door to the magic realm and takes the magic rock (or whatever, lol. I missed what it was called) and the Sins choose him as their champion, inhabiting him and granting him their powers.
Billy is sucked into the magic realm by the same wizard who “interviewed” Thad when he was a boy and rejected him. This time, even though Billy isn’t worthy of the powers either, the wizard chooses him as the Champion and gives Billy his power. 5. DEBATE: Billy’s suddenly man-sized and dressed like a superhero. He makes it to his foster home, and asks Freddie for help.
Now the questions are, what are his powers? And even more importantly, canhe be a superhero? Does he have what it takes? Act II ---------------------- 6. BREAK INTO 2: Billy/Red Cyclone decides to try to be an actual hero and stops a store robbery. Thad confronts his brother and dad in their corporate board room and kills them and everyone with them. 7. B STORY: Billy has Freddie to make him feel special, and Freddy has his very own, real live super hero. 8. FUN & GAMES: This is where Billy learns what he’s capable of and practices his powers, but he only uses them for stupid, selfish things like taking making people pay him for getting a selfie with him. He steals money from an ATM and they buy lots of frivolous things. But while showing off one day, Billy hits a bus with lightning, sending it off the road where it hangs over the edge of a bridge. He saves the people and brags about it on TV (even though he caused the danger in the first place.) 9. MIDPOINT: Thad sees the news broadcast, finds Billy (still bragging at the site of the accident) and starts fighting with him. At this point, Billy’s still playing at being a superhero. But Thad isn’t playing at all. He wants to destroy Billy, steal his powers, and rule (probably destroy) the world. Suddenly Billy is forced into a very real, very grown-up problem. 10. BAD GUYS CLOSE IN: So, this is where things happened a little differently in this movie. According the BS2, the Hero’s world starts to fall apart after the midpoint, but in Shazam!, like in a lot of stories, things were starting to unravel before the Midpoint.
Freddie didn’t like how Billy was using his powers and left him at the scene of the incident, yet before that, Freddie was trying to get Billy to show up at lunch time as Red Cyclone so the kids at school would see how special he was.
Billy skips school because he’s a “grown up” now. He doesn’t show up to help Freddie and everyone makes fun of him and bullies him. While he’s Red Cyclone, he sees Mary and tells her, “Families are for people who can’t take care of themselves.” He tells her that she should always take care of “number one.” 11. All is Lost (75%): Billy’s foster siblings locate Billy’s real mom and Billy goes to find her. But when she sees him, she rejects him, telling him she left him at the carnival on purpose. 12. Dark Night of the Soul (75 – 80%): This beat goes by really fast in this movie. Personally, I like it when a character has a bit more struggle with his growth, but this is a superhero movie so I suppose it’s expected. In one pretty quick scene, Billy realizes that he does have a family (his foster family) and they need him because Thad is holding them hostage. Act III ---------------------- 13. BREAK INTO 3: Billy decides to sacrifice himself and agrees to go with Thad to the magic realm. He says, “It’s what a good brother would do.” 14. FINALE: a. Gather the Team The siblings follow along right after, because they’re a family and they’re not going to let their brother do this big thing alone.
b. Execute the Plan Together they fight Thad and succeed—for the moment. They get away and start looking for a way back home, thinking all they need is to find the door they came through.
c. Hightower Surprise Surprise! The magic realm is full of doors. It reminded me of Monster Inc.—you know with all the doors that go to children’s bedrooms? In Shazam! the doors seem to lead to other (scary) realms. How can the kids possibly get home?!
d. Dig Down Deep Billy gets them home to Earth where he takes them to the carnival, changes back into his child self and hopes to lose themselves in the crowds. But it’s still not enough. He’s just putting everyone there at risk, too. He says, “If a superhero can’t save his family, he’s not much of a hero.” Then he changes into his superhero self.
e. Execute New Plan This time Billy seeks out Thad, and they fight. And then…something interesting happens. I think I’ve seen this happen in another movie or two, but I can’t be sure. I’m going to have to pay closer attention. But I think there’s actually a second finale in Shazam!.
In our second gathering of the team, Billy remembers that the wizard had told him the power was meant to be shared with a council of wizards. He shares the magic within him and makes each of his siblings superheroes!
Together, they try to defeat Thad, but Thad lets the Sins out, forcing the siblings to fight their own battles.
In his second dig down deep, Billy realizes he’ll have to defeat Thad in order to save his family, so he leads Thad away in hopes to save them.
In their last efforts, the children each defeat the Sins and finally, Billy defeats Thad, sending all the Sins back into the magic realm where they belong and where Billy and his brothers and sisters now watch over the magic that makes all the worlds work. 15. FINAL IMAGE: Now we see Billy joining in with his new family’s traditions, and he tells them he’s home. In a post-credit scene, which would be an epilogue in a book, we see Thad in his prison cell—and a tiny sentient worm from the magic realm telling him he has more magic than the superheroes/wizards have all together. Thad agrees to work with him to take over the world. (Bwahahaha)