Shazam! Film Review
The first thing that crossed my mind after I saw the first Shazam! Trailer was…Oh thank God DC is lighting things up… And boy was I right about the lighter tone in this movie. A much welcomed addition to the constant gloom and doom (both in style and structure) from the previous DC movies, Shazam! Is a breath of fresh air.
Asher Angel is Billy Batson. 14 year old kid from Philadelphia on a mission to find his mother. So with no parental presence, he’s been bounced from one foster family to another, and with his latest re-location in the loving Vasquez household, things are about to get very different for him. Part of the new family is the very talkative, and super-hero obsessed foster brother/roommate Freddie Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), and it’s exactly Freddie’s knowledge about super-heroes that will be the lifeline for Billy. Pardon Shazam!. He’ll become Shazam! after the ancient wizard (by the name of Shazam) picks him to be the new younger Champion of the Council of Eternity. So, every time Billy says the name Shazam! he will turn himself into a 30-something super-hero (adult Shazam is played by Zachary Levi). Wearing a red suit and white cape, Shazam will find out the hard way that with great power comes great responsibility. Especially when the main threat comes from the rich black sheep with daddy issues – Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong).
I was surprised at how corny (in a good way), childlike (in a even better way) and enjoyable Shazam really was. Seriously. DC really have stepped up their game and this just goes to show that you don’t need a lot of money and fancy big names attached to it in order to make a great movie. Really. Shazam was probably made with Zach Snyder’s crumbs and it’s still 100% better than Justice League. But the movie’s success is actually a team effort, and it’s what’s awesome about it. It starts with the steady and confident direction from David F. Samberg, the balanced and honest script from Henry Gayden and all of that movie goodness is wrapped with the bad-ass cast – lead by the amazing Zachary Levi.
But the thing is when I say balanced and honest, I really mean that. Look, this could have easily turned into a mess from Zach Snyder proportions, but Henry Gayden chose a different path. He made the movie grounded, joyful, funny and dark when the situation called for it. Oh and scary. Really scary. Sure, there are some pacing issues, a handful of very un-necessary scenes, but when it’s good… It’s really good. More to the point of character development, progression and character introduction.
For instance, the movie starts with introducing the villain’s back-story. That’s right! The first 10 minutes or so are dedicated to Saviana’s family history and those 10 minutes really set up the character nicely. You get a better understanding of the man he is later in the movie and where all the hatred and animosity comes from. You also get a nice set up for the introduction of the main character Billy Batson and his history, his struggles and his current status. And that’s awesome. But unlike no other movie in the DC Cinematic universe we get to see a bigger inclusion of the other supporting characters. For real. A lot of screen-time was devoted to the supporting characters, and it surprisingly doesn’t hurt the movie at all. We love the Vasquez family and we actually bond with almost every person there. Me personally… I loved Darla the most but hey… You have plenty of awesome supporting characters to choose from. And it’s all (no joke) thanks to the phenomenal writing from Gayden.
But what’s fascinating is how Gayden portrayed not just Billy, but his little sidekick Freddie as well. They’re the Batman and Robin of this little super-hero movie and their bond is unbreakable. It’s really obvious that they need each other, but in a weird angst-y teenage way doesn’t want to admit it.
This brings me to the actors. Yes, the supporting actors are really top-notch, with Jack Dylan Grazer really stealing the thunder from pretty much everybody, but the real MVP of this movie is Zachary Levi. You can tell that the man really understood this character. You see my man Zach is playing a 14 year old kid in a body of a 38 year old man, with the same boyish mischievous spirit that a 14-year old kid from Philly streets has. He’s a true kid at heat, and over here it’s not just a saying. He really is a kid at heart. The duality of the Billy/Shazam character isn’t that easy to pull off, but he does it with flying colors. I mean we see Shazam stealing cash from ATM machines, and performing for money on the street, before we see him cleaning up his act and actually helping people. That’s growth man!
It would have been nice if Mark Strong’s villainous Dr. Saviana was a little more two-dimensional and layered character, but hey Strong really did his best to hide the flaws of his character. He’s not always succeeding, and he’s still a basic bitch of a villain but it’s an improvement in the DC Cinematic Universe.
But all in all, Shazam! was a pleasant surprise for me. I kinda had a hunch that it would be the case, since watching the first trailer. In some cases you just know. But I was also pleasantly surprised about how the movie didn’t take itself so seriously. In fact it mocked a lot of super-hero related stuff and got away with it. So, yeah. Bring it on DC. More of this please and little less of pretty much everything that you’ve been doing up to this point. Except Wonder Woman. That you can do as much as you like.