“Shazam!” stars Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Djimon Hounsou. Releasing on April 5, 2019, the film is about an orphan who must learn how to harness his godlike powers in order to save the world.
The film is directed by David F. Sandberg, who also directed “Lights Out” and “Annabelle: Creation”. It is based on the DC Comics character of the same name created by Bill Parker and C. C. Beck, and it is the seventh installment in the DC Extended Universe. There are many superheroes that turn out to be either adults or kids, but there’s one superhero that stands above the rest. One that can go from being a kid to an adult and vice versa just by saying a specific word. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, chances are you are not a big-time superhero fan. The DC cinematic universe continues to chug along quite smoothly mostly due to some reconstruction behind the scenes. With “Aquaman” out of the way, it’s time to turn our attention to another DC superhero who is equivalent to Superman. Well, sort of. Much like “Wonder Woman” and “Aquaman”, this film marks the big screen debut of Shazam and since the DCEU is finally starting to make “good” superhero movies, a lot of people are hoping that this will keep the trend going. I was able to attend an early screening of “Shazam!” two weeks before its official release thanks to Fandango, so this review will contain little to no spoilers.
The story centers on Billy Batson (Angel), a teenage orphan who is sent to a new foster home. He then gets transported to a mystical realm where an ancient wizard (Hounsou) gives Billy the power to become an adult superhero just by saying the wizard’s name. With the help of his new foster brother Freddy Freeman (Grazer), who’s also an expert on superheroes, Billy will need to use his powers in order to stop a twisted industrialist (Strong) from doing…supervillain stuff. Let me start by saying that there’s nothing really special about the plot. It’s just another by-the-numbers origin story that we superhero fans couldn’t get enough of. I wouldn’t call it a flaw or anything because that’s exactly what makes a superhero origin film what it is, but I do feel that some people who are already tired of the formula may spend more than two hours pointing out the obvious plot points. Aside from that, this is another win for the DC team. This film is an absolute blast from start to finish. One of the major elements that made “Shazam!” work for me was the cast. Zachary Levi absolutely nailed his role as the title character with his undeniable charisma. Every time he appears onscreen, he delivered nothing but happiness and laughter. Asher Angel was also excellent in his role as Billy Batson, and Jack Dylan Grazer provided plenty of great moments as Freddy. Mark Strong tried to follow suit as Thaddeus Sivana, the film’s main antagonist, but his performance was overshadowed by his character’s cliched motives. I still think that Strong would’ve make a great Lex Luthor, but what can you do? Another thing that I appreciate was the presentation. When it comes to the film’s tone and concept, this is probably the most light-hearted film that DC has to offer. Sure, DC made some other light-hearted superhero films in the past, especially “Batman & Robin”, but I’m talking about the entire DCEU franchise in general. I can seriously tell that DC is trying to copy Marvel in terms of the tone because superhero movies that are fun, light-hearted, and humorous equal more happy comic book fans. This is a different change of pace for David F. Sandberg, who’s known for directing horror films, but it looked like he was comfortable with this approach mostly due to how he blends the superhero action with the humor and storytelling. Speaking of humor, “Shazam!” is probably the most hilarious superhero film I’ve seen because of how it jokes around with the superhero elements and the fact that it’s DC’s version of “Big”. The humor is one of the main ingredients that make a fun and joyous superhero film, and Sandberg offered the right amount to create a satisfying treat for my funny bones. I also enjoyed the film’s story despite its formulaic plot points. In the midst of its superhero shenanigans, the film never lost track of representing the importance of family from a foster kid’s perspective. Even though it’s far from perfect, I can clearly tell that its heart was in the right place.
Overall, like the lightning bolts that came out of the title character’s hands, “Shazam!” is electrifying. Thanks to its talented cast, Sandberg’s direction, and its blend of action, humor, and heart, the film shows that being a superhero can be fun...as long as you understand the responsibilities of being one. Out of all of the films from the DCEU that I’ve seen so far, this is the best of the bunch, with “Wonder Woman” being my second-favorite. I would definitely recommend it to those who enjoy light-hearted superhero films as well as people who are familiar with the title character.