I wasn’t quite sure what to expect walking into Shazam.
It’s a film that’s been on the DCEU slate for quite some time but starring a hero that didn’t make the cut when choosing the line-up of characters for Justice League. Aquaman and Wonder Woman had brilliant outings, but both heroes are much more well known than this films’ namesake. How does the origin story of Billy Batson stack up? Quite high it turns out.
Comedy, action, and heart permeate this film from start to finish. Asher Angel’s portrayal of Billy, the foster kid turned magical superhero shines at every turn. Bolstered by Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman, the duo play extremely well off of one another’s energy. Rounding out the trio in the title role is Zachary Levi who does a perfect rendition of Tom Hanks in Big. The idea of a child being imbued with superpowers is certainly nothing new but Shazam takes that concept and spins it by also putting that child in the body of an adult. Now we have a grown-up who has no idea how to act like a grown-up and also no idea how to use his new powers or even what those powers are.
What stands out about this movie is the journey Billy Batson goes on to discover himself. It sounds cliche because it is but it works so well due to the film taking the time to make you care about Billy. The story behind how he became a foster child, the search for his biological mother, and the feeling of never belonging to a “real” family remain core to the film even when the action and comedy take the front seat. Watching the relationship between Freddy and Billy/ Shazam grow while Freddy helps him explore his new abilities is absolutely hilarious. In a treat that could have easily been spoiled by the trailers, not only are there more moments of the two testing the limits of Shazam’s powers than shown in the trailers but even the tests shown in the trailers are still funny due to the context provided. Laugh out loud funny.
The action is exactly what one would expect from a superhero flick. The effects manage to keep a sense of “realism” and fit well into the world. This is a bit more important than in other DC films because the setting is Philadelphia as opposed to the usual fictional settings of Metropolis, Gotham or Themyscira. Shazam’s powers are revealed to him as they are revealed to the audience and it feels like you are taking on this journey with him.
While most everything else about the film is excellent, the one hiccup is in its villain. Dr. Thaddeus Sivana played by Mark Strong feels generic and dry. Even predictable. Threatening? Yes. Evil? Yes. However, the good Dr. lacks the charisma of other big screen villains seen in recent outings.
Overall, I can not recommend this movie enough. It is smart, funny, and good natured. It’s easily enjoyable by audiences of all ages and doesn’t require prior knowledge of the DCEU. I laughed until I cried and there is an AWESOME twist to the ending that truly puts some fun question marks on the future of the franchise and the DCEU as a whole.
Reviewed for Uncanny Nerd by: Gage of Loading Snacks.