Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam
By Danny Brogan,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Action-packed DCU animation has threat, positive messages.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The phrase "Be good and good will follow" is used as an example of how to live your life. Always try to be kind and compassionate. Standing up to bullies and putting others ahead of yourself, both of which may require courage. Don't let your emotions -- particularly anger -- get the better of you.
Positive Role Models
Billy Batson is a young orphan who lives alone in a squalid apartment. He is kind, compassionate, and brave, standing up to bullies and helping others, even if that comes at a cost to him. When he is transformed into Captain Marvel he continues to show these positive traits, although he is at, one point, almost overcome by anger and revenge. Superman is strong and courageous in his fight against evil. Black Adam has come to Earth intent on killing Billy. Like Superman, he possesses superhuman abilities, but uses them to inflict damage and harm.
Set in a fictional metropolitan city, the community is shown to be diverse in terms of race and socioeconomic groups. However, the three main characters are all male with the very few women characters having tiny roles that involve being objectified or in need of saving. A Black character who is experiencing homelessness is referred to as a "bum" and "homeless guy." He is then revealed to be a guardian angel with magical powers and the ability to turn into a tiger. This plays up to some cliched stereotypes of the "magical Negro." A young orphan references being in foster care.
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Violence & Scariness
Hard-hitting, superhero fight scenes throughout. These include close-ups of punches to the face, characters being thrown through walls, laser beams, and buildings collapsing on people. No serious harm comes to anyone although Superman is briefly shown unconscious. A kid is chased through the streets by a supervillain. They are also punched in the face by a bully, which leaves a bruised cheek. They are also seemingly hit by magical train but rather than be hurt, they find themselves on board. Someone is pulled from their car and briefly held hostage before being tossed into the sky -- they are saved before coming to any harm. A meteor lands on Earth leaving a fiery trail. A character is hit by a lightning bolt, which rapidly ages them before they disintegrate. Fleeting reference to the death of parents. A person experiencing homelessness is mugged, having their change taken from them.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A young couple are seen parked up on a hill at night, the implication being that they are on a date. However, they are interrupted by a meteor landing. A character is briefly seen dressed in skimpy clothing, with knee high boots, leaning against a wall. A character says "you look pretty" to them and they blow a kiss in return.
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Language includes "holy moly," and one use of "ass" and "oh my God."
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Products & Purchases
Tie-in to DCU-related merchandise.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Brief reference to "beer money."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam is a short animated superhero adventure with non-stop action and moments of peril, but also plenty of positive messages. When the evil Black Adam (voiced by Arnold Vosloo) lands on Earth determined to kill young orphan Billy Batson (Zach Callison), Billy himself is transformed into a superhero -- Captain Marvel (Jerry O'Connell). Together with Superman (George Newbern), the duo take on Black Adam, resulting in huge, hard-impact fight scenes. Characters are thrown through walls, buildings are destroyed, hands are placed around throats, and there are close-ups of punches to the face. Although there is much peril and threat, no one actually dies or is seriously harmed -- although Superman is briefly seen unconscious. Billy is punched in the face by a bully, leaving a bruise on his cheek. Superman fires laser beams from his eyes, while Black Adam fires lighting bolts from his hands. Billy is shown to be kind and compassionate, always willing to help others, even though he himself has little. This includes standing up for a Black man experiencing homelessness. When this character is later revealed to be a guardian angel, it arguably plays into a problematic "magical Negro" narrative. Language is rare with "ass" and "oh my God" muttered one or twice.
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Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam
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What's the Story?
SUPERMAN/ SHAZAM!: THE RETURN OF BLACK ADAM finds Billy Batson (voiced by Zach Callison), a kind young orphan, targeted by the evil Black Adam (Arnold Vosloo) for reasons unbeknownst to him. When Billy is gifted with superpowers of his own -- turning into Captain Marvel (Jerry O'Connell) -- together with Superman (George Newbern), Billy is able to fight back.
Is It Any Good?
Billy Batson aka Captain Marvel aka Shazam must be one of the most likable superheroes in all of the DC Universe. In Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, we see the kind and compassionate young Billy transform into the amusing, can't quite believe who he is -- "I can fly!" -- Captain Marvel for the first time. It's a well-paced movie with Billy's personality quickly laid out before the crashing and banging begins. Of which there is a lot. We're even treated to a super-quick flashback sequence that fills in various gaps to Billy's backstory, which should prove helpful to those unfamiliar with the character's comic book origins. And all this in the space of just 25 minutes.
The story is a basic good versus evil, with little time spent on Black Adam's reasoning for his evil ill-doing, other than briefly mentioning that if he has the power of the gods, then why shouldn't he behave like a god. The dialogue is also so cheesy you can practically smell it. While the "magical negro" trope involving a man experiencing homeless who turns out to be Billy's guardian angel, along with the lack of female characters, are perhaps something the writers should have been more conscious of. But Billy's charm and the positive qualities he exhibits makes this an endearing addition to the DC Universe.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the violence in Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam. Did it feel too extreme for a movie like this? Why, or why not? Does exposure to violent media desensitize kids to violence?
How did Billy show courage and compassion? Can you think of any times in your own life when you've shown these character strengths?
Did you think there were a lack of female characters? Did you think this was an issue? Why is representation important?
How did this compare to other animated superhero adventures you've seen? What did/didn't you like?
- On DVD or streaming: November 9, 2010
- Cast: Zach Callison, James Garner, Josh Keaton
- Director: Joaquim Dos Santos
- Studio: Warner Home Video
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes, Great Boy Role Models
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Courage
- Run time: 25 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence and some sexual content
- Last updated: October 8, 2022
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