Despite his similarities to DC’s boy scout mascot, Shazam! is not one of the most well-known superheros from the world of DC Comics. The only thing I know about Shazam was the mega-watt, All-American smile and the yellow lightning on his red suit with a white cape flying in the background. I didn’t even realize that he had a cheesy ’70s show, when superheroes were considered kids’ stuff and not the bankable franchise it is now.
And when your fictional hero lives the fantasy every child has had at one time about what it would be like to become an actual superhero, well you have audiences in the palm of your hand.
(This review is spoiler-free)
Shazam! is the story of Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a teenage boy who comes across a wizard (Dijmon Hounsou) that grants him the power to transform into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi).
Written by Henry Gayden and directed by David F. Sandberg, this movie was carried by a great performance by Zachary Levi. Besides being impressed by his physique in the uniform, the real muscles he flexed were his comedic ones. This film zips with a lot more jokes than the spandex tent pole movies we’ve expected from DC’s stable of cinematic caped superheroes.
Levi plays the title character with an infectious, naive, golly-gee charisma that entertaining to watch. When he is on screen, wowed by his new grown-up form or his powers (lighting from his fingertips), the movie soars to the skies. I always found the scenes where the hero tries out their new abilities the best; from Peter Parker discovering he can shoot webs and swings around New York to Clark Kent’s first flight in the red cape.
You have your other elements that make a superhero movie what it is: a stock villain, a random wizard who bestows the powers onto a streetwise 14-year-old foster kid (played by Asher Angel), a shiny MacGuffin, and CGI monsters. A supporting cast of foster children, including IT breakout child actor,Jack Dylan Grazer, helped add a funny but emotional soul to the heart. While I don’t think the genre necessities weighed the movie down, I kept waiting for our fun hero to return.
This movie is told in two stories: Batson finding out how to be a true hero and part of a family and the nefarious, power-mad villain, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, who is seeking validation and escape from his family’s shadow. As far as stock villains, you could have found worse than Mark Strong, who did the best he could with the character. One part you wanted to see, the other was a yawn.
It’s hard to be original in this genre and want to please all the fanboys and girls who love the character. But when you are introducing a character who isn’t in the A-list, it’s better to play it safe. As far as this entry in the DCEU, both fans, new and old, will be pleased watching the guy and his glowing lightning bolt shine.
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