Hello, my friends. With three animated shorts behind us, we’ve officially gone past the halfway point. As such, welcome once again to the mini-review series known as…
This time around, we’re going longer than the normal 12 minutes that the first three entries went. Not only that, we’ve got two featured heroes for the price of one. They’re facing a threat from beyond in the tale called…
Originally released on November 9, 2010, this particular film also contained slightly extended versions of the three prior DC Showcase shorts. This entry is also the longest running in the entire series, clocking in at 25 minutes. So, let’s dive in and see our two favorite heroes in action.
We open on the cliffside outskirts of Fawcett City where a young couple (voiced by Josh Keaton & Winnie Cooper herself, Danica McKellar) manage to see a shooting star in the distance. Suddenly, it changes direction and ends up crashing into them.
When the smoke clears, it turns out that it wasn’t a shooting star at all. It was none other than the being known as Black Adam (voiced by Arnold Vosloo) who closes out the scene by overlooking the city skyline.
Following our title card, we cut to the next day where we’re introduced to Billy Batson (voiced by Zach Callison), a young boy who’s unfortunately an orphan as well. He lives in a rundown apartment building and hardly has any food for himself.
After getting dressed and heading out, he finds a homeless man getting hassled by a Punk (also voiced by Josh Keaton) as the young delinquent even steals his money. Billy stands up in the grown man’s defense, but ends up getting bruised by the youthful thug.
After the punks take their leave, the homeless guy named Tawny (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) thanks the young lad for doing “the right thing”. He then asks for some change, to which Billy gives him the only valuable thing he has: a subway token. Tawny accepts it and promises to pay him back eventually.
We then cut to a diner where Billy Batson meets up with Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent a.k.a. Kal-El a.k.a. Superman (voiced by George Newbern). It turns out that Clark is writing an article about Fawcett City’s dilemma with homeless kids. During their conversation, we learn that Billy used to have loving parents before he ended up in a foster home. He tells Kent that despite the fact that he’s been a good kid, it seems that life hasn’t taken notice. Clark says that he understands him and that being “good is hard”.
Just then, Black Adam arrives as he thunderclaps a hole into the diner. He tells Billy that he’s going to kill him since the young lad was apparently chosen to obtain powers. Clark tries to intervene, but gets easily smacked across the street and through a building. Fortunately, this gave Billy the opportunity he needed to make a run for it.
He runs through an alley and even jumps onto the back of a fire truck in order to evade his pursuer. However, no matter how hard Billy tries, Black Adam easily catches up as he picks up the fire engine and throws it at him in order to finally knock off the young lad.
Fortunately, Superman arrives and saves Billy from harm. Afterwards, he and Black Adam proceed to fight each other.
Shortly afterwards, Black Adam shoots out some lightning to send Superman flying. After crashing down, Supes realizes that those bolts were comprised of magic, the other thing that he’s gravely weak again.
Superman manages to fly back and save Billy, but Black Adam continues his assault as his magical lightning ultimately forces the Man of Steel down towards the ground.
After letting Billy go, Superman heads back up to continue the fight. Black Adam’s lightning continues to keep him at bay before he counters with Heat Vision and punches his foe down towards the park, slamming into the base of a monument as the massive structure falls on top of him.
However, Black Adam’s superhuman physique helped him survive the impact as he picks up the monument and slams it down onto the Man of Steel, driving him all the way into the subway tunnels.
Being forced to run for his life again, Billy starts to head down towards a subway station. Suddenly, he’s confronted by Tawny who says that he’s finally going to pay the lad back for his earlier deed and he does so with another subway token.
Afterwards, Billy manages to make it into the subway station, only to have Black Adam catch up to him. Billy then jumps onto the tracks in order to evade his captor. Suddenly, a train starts barreling towards him as Black Adam blocks off the return route. With nowhere left to run, Billy is seemingly crushed by the subway train as his pursuer moves out of the way with a confident smile.
To his surprise, the young lad discovers that not only is he still alive but on the train as well. Suddenly, his subway token starts glowing as it sends out magical sparks throughout the cart.
The uncanny bolts then projects images of Billy’s tragic childhood, starting with the death of his parents and having to live at an orphanage.
Even when a couple adopted him, they weren’t completely caring as Batson was ultimately forced to fend for himself on the cold streets.
Just then, the train stops and lets Billy off deep within a cave before departing. He discovers a chamber with a series of statues on the side and a throne at the very end. The elderly wizard named Shazam (voiced by the late James Garner) was anticipating the young lad, just not this soon.
Shortly afterwards, he tells Billy all about his failed protege. 5,000 years ago, Shazam chose Black Adam to be Earth’s defender. Unfortunately, he became dangerously corrupt with his newfound powers. As such, Shazam was forced to exile him to the outer reaches of the universe. Now, he’s chosen Billy to be Earth’s newest protector. Shortly after imbuing him with his powers, the cave starts collapsing. Before Batson gets magically transported back to the surface, Shazam says to call on him in his “times of need”.
Upon his topside return, it turns out that Black Adam has defeated Superman. Billy tries standing up to his captor, but is easily tossed aside before he’s forced into running again. As he’s getting chased, he cries out “Need a little help here, Shazam!”.
Suddenly, a bolt of lightning comes down and strikes Billy. It’s at that instance that he gets transformed into Captain Marvel (voiced by Jerry O’Connell). With his newfound abilities, Billy is finally able to take on Black Adam. Using his newly discovered powers, he punches his foe several feet away, easily dodges several cars thrown at him and is even able to fly as he speeds right into his foe.
He discovers that he acquired his powers just by saying the wizard’s name. However, he accidentally says it as a lightning bolt strikes him and turns him back into Billy Batson, causing him to fall into the water below.
With his downward momentum preventing him from swimming back to the surface, he uses his remaining breath to say the magic word. Upon its topside arrival, another lightning bolt strikes the water as Billy turns back into Captain Marvel.
However, he’s caught off guard as Black Adam throws him into the ground and prepares to finish him off once and for all. Fortunately, Superman recovers in time and uses his Heat Vision to blast the malevolent foe into the ground.
From there, our two heroes team up. Their combined might ultimately sparks an effective combo move as Captain Marvel grabs Black Adam and flies him towards Superman, where he’s promptly decked in the face.
After being forced onto the ground, Black Adam sees his chance to regain the advantage. As such, his punches the ground as the massive fissure reaches the nearby dam, causing the barrier to start falling apart.
This situation forces our heroes to split up as Superman uses his Heat Vision to blast the cliffsides. This in turn created a series a boulders in order to slow down the massively running water. It proves to be of little effect as it makes its way towards Fawcett City.
Meanwhile, Captain Marvel gives chase back into his hometown. Once inside city limits however, Black Adam takes a woman as his hostage. He demands for our hero to change back into his child form and only then will he let the lady go. With no other choice, the good captain says his magic word and transforms back into lil’ Batson.
Soon after, Black Adam throws the woman into the air. Billy tries to transform back into Captain Marvel, but he doesn’t get the chance. Black Adam clasps his hand over Batson’s face, dooming the young lad in the process.
Fortunately, Superman saves Billy again thanks to his Heat Vision. Having also saved the woman, he tells Black Adam that there won’t be a raging flood in Fawcett City due to his Freeze Breath.
The two of them proceed to fight, giving Billy the chance he needed to transform into Captain Marvel again. From there, he brings the brawl to an end by slamming Black Adam down onto the ground. There, Captain Marvel grabs his neck and is about to finish him off. Fortunately, Superman helps him remember that just because he has super powers, it doesn’t mean that he can use them like the vicious bully that Black Adam has become. As such, Captain Marvel lets go as his foe hits the ground.
Just then, Tawny arrives and tells the good captain that he’ll take care of the situation. It turns out that the homeless man’s true form is that of a tiger and that he also works for Shazam. He tells Black Adam that his master will sentence him to an exile so harsh that it would take him 10,000 years just to get back to Earth.
Not wanting to go through another exile, he cries out “SHAZAM!” as a magic lightning bolt strikes him down. As he reverts back to his mortal form, he quickly withers into dust and dies. It turns out that his superhuman form was what kept him alive during the exile. It was also fortunate for Tawky Tawny that his bluff work since Shazam was also dead.
The next day, Billy finds a copy of the Fawcett Post. There, he’s able to locate Clark Kent’s article talking about his great deeds.
And so, the film ends with Batson being confronted by the same group of punks. They even dare him into saying “just one word”, to which Billy gives a confident smirk.
Since the story feels very intertwined with Billy Batson’s character arc, I’ll discuss those two here. Throughout his young life, he’s been constantly on the short end of doing the right thing. Losing your parents doesn’t help with his early development and even when he’s adopted, his foster parents are incapable of making him feel loved. Meandering through the slums of Fawcett City, it’s only when an otherworldly being tries to hunt him down does another otherworldly being finally help give his life any purpose. The story’s simple enough, but it’s the hardships he’s faced that helps to define his character. Because of the numerous tough times in his life, he probably knew that he can never avoid them. When he’s put in the moment, he’ll confront them no matter the odds. This is why at the beginning of the film why standing up to human bullies stood as one of the numerous reasons why he was Shazam’s perfect choice to be Earth’s champion. Zach Callison does an admirably good job in the role. His voice feels very seamless in capturing the innocence, the bravery, and the concern needed to bring Billy to the small screen.
Staying the hero-villain relationship, we get to Black Adam. He was Shazam’s original choice to be Earth’s protector until his powers made him feel like an arrogant god and was banished for his actions. I do have to wonder about the specific factors that were there that caused him to go down this path. Maybe if he was doing his job for so long but never got the recognition he deserved from the people he served to save and didn’t see much significant change as a result of any good deed he had. Maybe there was the era of his life prior to acquiring his power from Shazam that because he didn’t have proper guidance, there were moments that made him ruthless and wanting to be above everybody else. Since this short was near-TV episode length, it would have been nice if his backstory was fleshed out a little bit more. Other than that, Arnold Vosloo helps him make an intimidating figure. It shouldn’t be a total surprise of him effectively portraying a villain of Egyptian heritage, since he was Imhotep in the 1999 remake of The Mummy and its 2001 sequel The Mummy Returns.
Superman’s also here, but he’s here to give Captain Marvel a better fighting chance against Black Adam. Plus, his earthly guise of Clark Kent was helping Billy Batson get some much deserved notice and he wasn’t expecting a massive fight to come their way. George Newbern and Jerry O’Connell effectively reprise their respective roles from Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. Not much else to say here.
The action scenes are basic, yet thrilling. They showcase how powerful Black Adam is as an adversary and the lengths our two heroes must go through in order to stop him. There’s not a lot in terms of tag team-like moves, but the few that are there are nice as our main characters work off each other in that department. The animation is also top notch, since there’s lot of fluent motions through the tale with eye-pleasing colors to boot. The vehicle’s semi-CGI look can be offsetting (a common thing with the DC Universe Animated Original Movie line), but they’re few and far between.
Overall, this is a pretty good outing. The characters are engaging, the action scenes are simple yet engaging, the animation is mostly solid, the story is well-told in displaying Billy Batson’s character arc, and Captain Marvel really shines as he takes full advantage of the spotlight. It’s worth a watch if you ever manage to get the chance.
Next Time: We’re off to Gotham City, but Batman’s taking the night off. A collar worthy of being a girl’s best friend will lead a certain feline fatale into a steep operation as we close out the DC Showcase line by digging into “Catwoman”.
Superman (created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster), Captain Marvel (created by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker) and all related characters are owned by DC Comics.