DC Films/Warner Brothers Pictures
Written by Henry Gayden and Darren Lemke
Directed by David F. Sandberg
Starring Zachary Levi, Djimon Hounsou, Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer, Asher Angel, Grace Fulton, Rosa Vasquez, Victor Vasquez, Meagan Good, Adam Brody, Faithe Herman, Ian Chen and Jovan Armand
We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s (Angel) case, by shouting out one word—SHAZAM!—this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult Super Hero Shazam (Levi), courtesy of an ancient wizard. Still a kid at heart—inside a ripped, godlike body—Shazam revels in this adult version of himself by doing what any teen would do with superpowers: have fun with them! Can he fly? Does he have X-ray vision? Can he shoot lightning out of his hands? Can he skip his social studies test? Shazam sets out to test the limits of his abilities with the joyful recklessness of a child. But he’ll need to master these powers quickly in order to fight the deadly forces of evil controlled by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Strong).
The characters are the highlight of this film. All of the young actors are great alone and as a group. Even though Billy is resistant to being part of a family, you get the sense that he belongs with this group and the foster parents do a great job of being there for him. Do they seem a little too idealized, yes. But that works for the story they are trying to tell. Billy needs the structure and love of family despite his protestations. Family does play a huge role in this film from the beginning with Sivana to the finale. Mark Strong is great as Sivana and plays him the way someone would if they were offered greatness only to have it denied because of personal weakness.
It’s a theme that is pervasive in his life and reinforced by his family dynamics. Sivana and Billy serve as opposite sides of the sam coin in many ways. Sivana’s confrontation with his family and the board of his father’s company illustrates the deep-rooted resentment he’s carried with him. As much as I enjoyed the portrayal of Shazam by Zachary Levi, it was hard to reconcile both he and Asher Angel as the same person. Angel seemed to have almost none of the personality that Levi had as Shazam. Angel almost seemed too reserved while Shazam was more boisterous.
The story was really well done. It was fun and funny with some enjoyable themes of family and friendship. It never took itself too seriously and allowed for the characters to bring nuance to certain scenes that engaged the audience. As far as the pace of the film, there were some leaps in story that made it hard to see what, if any, lessons Shazam was learning about how to be a hero. While the film was enjoyable to watch and experience, the end fight seemed to go on a little too long and then the final surprise extended that same fight longer still. It didn’t help that characters kept yelling out what Shazam should be concentrating on and the viewer becomes more frustrated that he’s doing everything but working on the core problem.
The visual effects were incredibly fun. The lightning effects were great and the superheroics looked fantastic on-screen. The villains were hit or miss mostly because they all had the same color scheme. Having them be all grey with red eyes made it difficult to differentiate them and just made them look bland in contrast to the rest of the colors on display. It took away their menace for the most part.
Shazam is an incredibly fun film that audiences will enjoy. Both my kids were hyped for it with my youngest yelling out Shazam! and playing the character. DC does a great job of letting this story be its own entity and lets the audience enjoy the experience of getting to know the character.
One mid-credit scene that sets up a classic Shazam comic book villain that is having a resurgence in the current run of Shazam.
One post-credit scene that is played for laughs to showcase the connection to the larger DC universe without bringing on a full-blown cameo.