Written by J.T. Johnson
Ever since “Wonder Woman” came out in 2017, the DC film universe has been on an upward trajectory (minus the speed bump that was “Justice League”). Warner Bros. has finally learned that maybe, just maybe, we want a little excitement, adventure, and dare I say humor with our superhero fare. Last December, Jason Momoa made a brilliant debut with “Aquaman”.
Thankfully, “Shazam!” very much makes an attempt to continue the more fun trajectory of the DC films and, for the most part, they succeed. Now, the film is definitely not perfect as they do spend the first thirty minutes establishing the world of Billy Batson (Asher Angel) and the foster family that he now stays with that includes his eventual friend Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer).
This first establishing act isn’t bad, but it doesn’t really add anything new to the origin story and is the most boring part of the movie. The ending of the film also contains your usual DC finale with a big action set piece… that takes place at night. Seriously, can any of DC’s films have a little light at the end of the film? Anyway, that’s my biggest complaints about the film as we do get a much needed lighter film than most other superhero fare.
The best part of the film is the middle act when Billy is learning about what kind of powers he has. Freddy is a superhero fanatic, so he helps Billy in trying to determine what he can do when he’s Shazam. For those who don’t know about this character, let me explain.
Djimon Hounsou plays Shazam, an ancient wizard that is beginning to lose his powers. Soon, he won’t be able to hold back the Seven Deadly Sins that he’s been guarding in all that time. Before his powers give way, he must seek out a new champion and eventually, Billy is chosen to be that champion and when he shouts “Shazam!”, he becomes a powerful superhero.
Watching Billy trying to fly and basically being a kid that was just granted great powers is a refreshing take on the superhero film. The filmmakers have stated that their intention was to make “Big” as a superhero film and they’ve succeeded. In fact, they even throw in a giant keyboard in one scene as tribute to their main inspiration for the film.
Eventually, though, Billy must learn that all important lesson that with great power comes great responsi… no, wait, I’m getting my comic books mixed up. Still, Mark Strong eventually shows up as Thaddeus Sivana, a man who eventually gets the powers of the Seven Deadly Sins. This means that Billy will finally have to become an actual superhero if he is to stop this latest threat.
Another important factor to this film is the humor. The movie does not take itself too seriously and that’s to the movie’s benefit. It was also good to see several jokes where DC owns their previous mistakes and manages to make fun of themselves in addition to traditional superhero clichés found in most other comic book movies.
The star of the film is definitely Levi as Shazam as he proves what we already knew beforehand. He’s the perfect actor to play a kid trapped in a superhero’s body. He’s good with the action sequences when needed but it’s just as enjoyable watching him try to buy beer or sneak Freddy out of school by acting as his father.
The movie isn’t perfect, but it is a much needed lighthearted break from what we usually get. “Avengers: Endgame” will be ending a major 22 film epic over at Marvel later this month. “Shazam!” was a very welcomed diversion from the heavier stuff and I guarantee you that I mean that as the greatest compliment and I highly recommend “Shazam!” for all ages!