DC has almost been the Superhero franchise that gets picked on and made fun of in the playground which is fitting that a core theme of Shazam! is standing up to the bullies and finding your inner strength.
Arguably there has not been an all round satisfying Superhero film from DC since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.
DC’s tone has been all over the place. Complaints range from Man Of Steel having 9/11 times 9000 levels of destruction in a cape to “MARTHAAAAA” to Wonder Woman’s CGI boss battle, whatever the hell Suicide Squad was. Finally the frankenmovie that was Justice League.
Then DC course corrected so hard it’s turned Aquaman into a psychedelic cartoon.
To top it off DC has said goodbye to Henry Cavill as Superman and Ben Affleck as Batman and probably thankfully Jared Leto as the Joker. It could really use all the help it could get right now.
Lets take a look at what DC has managed to achieve with Shazam!
Asher Angel as William “Billy” Batson manages to bring a mischievous edge to the character I wasn’t expecting which really livens things up
Zachary Levi (Chuck) is Shazam the superhero alter ego of Billy transforms into, Zachary does a great job of channeling his inner child. You very quickly accept that he is the same character down to the attitude and mannerisms.
Mark Strong (Kingsmen) as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana is a fantastic villain and handles it with ease. Also there is enough backstory to the character that you can understand his motivations which elevates him above the scenery chewing villains.
Jack Dylan Grazer (IT) and Adam Brody as Frederick “Freddy” Freeman: Billy’s foster brother and best friend, a disabled, nerdy superhero geek who has some of the best lines with billy and Shazam.
Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel) as Shazam A wizard looking for a successor to take his powers and continue his legacy.
Grace Fulton and Michelle Borth as Mary Bromfield: Billy’s foster sister at his new home who has some anxiety about leaving her foster family to go to college.
Ian Chen and Ross Butler as Eugene Choi has some great lines as Billy’s game obsessed foster brother.
Jovan Armand and D. J. Cotrona as Pedro Peña: Billy’s foster brother who is shy and has trouble opening up.
Faithe Herman and Meagan Good as Darla Dudley: Billy’s youngest foster sibling at his new home who although being a young child actor puts on a good performance as a precocious but trustworthy little sister.
Shazam! unlike some of it’s other DC stablemates doesn’t feel bogged down with back story or exposition. In fact a good quarter of the movie is dedicated to setting up the villains origin story. Although this is an origin story it remains focused and tells an enjoyable story.
There are some genuine moments with Billy’s foster family and his eventual acceptance that he doesn’t need to go it all alone. It feels like a kids adventure movie that was made in the 80’s mining nostalgia for the greats like The Goonies and Gremlins.
Out of all the DC movies it has very few issues, and the ones that are present are more to do with the almost awkward absence of much to do with the rest of the DCEU which could be seen as a good thing.
Apart from a few nods and references to the other Justice League characters existing such as Aquaman, Superman and of course Batman they are in no way featured. So there is no linkage to the other films other than in dialogue. There was one part which unironically reminded me of that scene in Deadpool 2.
Admittedly the plot is pretty basic, but it leaves a lot of room for the characters to inhabit the story.
It does have a few suspension of disbelief aspects and the villain isn’t the most memorable but it isn’t too much of a problem as it might have gotten in the way of the main characters if it was The Rock playing Black Adam.
It could also be said that it borrows a little too heavily from some of the Marvel movies tone wise namely Spider-Man.
The Good Stuff
Shazam! is funny, the jokes hit. Whoever punched up the script basically just memed the shit out of it. The last time I laughed as much at a super hero film (intentionally) was Thor: Ragnarok.
The child actors are good and their performances for the most part deliver. However this isn’t a kids movie.
Any expectations I had around it being just for kids disappeared when a character straight up melted like she witnessed the Ark of the Covenant.
The tone of the movie works for it throughout. It’s funny, its also self-aware and irreverent when it needs to be. But it hangs together in a way that doesn’t feel forced or awkward.
Zachary Levi sells that he is an early teen inhabiting the body of an adult, there is even a direct reference to the Tom Hanks movie “Big” in it.
This is exactly the direction that DC films have needed, it works as a stand alone story and satisfies in a way that none of the other films since the Dark Knight trilogy have.
Lets hope the lightning on this new direction the movies have taken strikes more than once.
You’ll like it if you enjoy:
Light hearted Superhero films.
A change of pace from the more serious DC movies.
A movie you can take the teens to and have a laugh.
Skip it if you:
Prefer the darker DC movies.
Were expecting a movie you could take young kids to.
Expect it to build and connect to the existing DC movies.
In cinemas now