The DCEU has been on uncertain ground for quite some time. Fans and critics have been divisive, and nothing is certain for the future of these iconic properties. The good news is, it seems like Warner Brothers/DC has removed the shackles of a mainline universe and has put more focus on making quality superhero films. This was apparent with the box office juggernaut Aquaman and even more so with the latest film SHAZAM!
SHAZAM! is loosely connected with the DCEU but it benefits from not carrying the weight of the previous films. Instead it gets to be an incredibly fun movie about family, responsibility, and what it means to be a hero. It has the benefit of being a smaller scale story that isn’t trying to tie together bigger overarching plots. At times the stakes are high, but the story is focused, and the characters are relatable throughout.
The movie follows streetwise foster kid Billy Batson. He inherits powers from an ancient wizard and is tasked with protecting the world against evil. When he shouts the name Shazam he instantly transforms into a ripped adult with numerous powers and a ridiculous costume. Shenanigans ensue as he tries to master his powers. Eventually he is forced to step up when he faces a real supernatural threat.
The film was directed by David F. Sandberg. I knew him from his previous film Annabelle: Creation which I really enjoyed. It was obvious right away Sandberg knew what kind of movie he wanted SHAZAM! to be. It’s best described as a cross between Big and Superman. It is established very quickly that this film isn’t going to be dark and gritty, which was a nice change of pace. There were a couple of brief moments when I was worried that it was getting too goofy, but the film always seemed to balance those moments out with heartfelt moments or immense danger. The pacing in this film was nearly perfect.
The cast was fantastic. I loved the dynamic between Asher Angel (Billy Batson) and his newly acquired foster family. It was a believable living situation and all the kids in the household had unique and interesting personalities. I was worried early on that Mark Strong would just be another generic bald evil villain guy, but he was also interesting. His backstory was unique and almost sympathetic at times. I thought it was a mistake not coming out strong with Black Adam for the first film. After seeing Shazam! I think they made the right choice using Dr. Sivana for Billy Batson’s coming of age story. Finally, I must mention Zachary Levi as Shazam. He showed up in the film much later than I expected but he was instantly a joy to watch on screen. He did an incredible job playing Billy Batson in his adult superhero form. There were several moments in the film when Billy was going back and forth between his kid and adult form. If either of the actors weren’t perfect for the role it could have been a mess. Instead it was a seamless transition that felt as believable as this ridiculous premise could be. The cast brought so much heart to this film that it made SHAZAM! an unforgettable journey.
SHAZAM! has just about everything you could want out of a comic book film. The action is top notch, the suit looks great on film, the villain is threatening, and the hero is actually heroic! Billy is very flawed and misguided at times, but he is a good person that wants to do the right thing. If you have been waiting for a fun movie about a Golden Age hero, you won’t be disappointed. SHAZAM! was a refreshing take on a genre that is crowded to say the least.
I give SHAZAM! a 9 out of 10.