- Damien Francis
Directed: David F Sandberg
M: Mature Themes, Action Violence
Shazam is the 7th film in the DC’s rival cinematic ‘anti-verse’ to Marvel. Following the story of Billy Batson encountering the wizard Shazam, he is imbued with a magical power that upon saying the name Shazam he can transform into an incredibly powerful superhero, but still remains his child-like self at heart. Shazam has the combined powers of the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury (S-H-A-Z-A-M). He must then confront Dr. Thaddeus Sivana who has been imbued with similar magical powers from the seven deadly sins and wants Shazam’s powers for his own.
As DC has begun to steadily improve their films, taking the time to build up their characters through an array of solo superhero stories, Shazam is the next iteration in this line-up. Shazam is actually surprisingly fun, blending a mix of magic, family drama, horror and super heroism to astonishing success.
The movie takes a very different approach to a superhero cast, focusing on children, often with adults playing background characters or the beefed up version of the children.
Asher Angel as Billy Batson has one of the standout performances. You immediately feel for him as well as recognise his street-smart skills. The film takes us into the world of foster families and how difficult it can be for kids to grow up in these settings. It also shows the importance of having a family who loves and supports you. He shows all sides of Billy, both the good and the bad and the movie tries to show all sides, allowing us to experience his journey of change with him.
Zachary Levi as Shazam is another star, playing the super powered version of Billy Batson, his performance is easily my favourite. He combines that child-like attitude and understanding perfectly as well as showcasing what a kid might do when given such vast powers. He brings a real vibrancy to the role, enjoying being a superhero just as much as have while watching it.
The third performance which deserves a mention is Freddy Freeman, played by Jack Dylan Grazer, who brings such energy and raw talent to the best friend of Billy Batson that he becomes the heart of the film and easily one of its best parts. Funny, sincere and real in his portrayal, he imbues his character with something else to make it wholly his own.
The rest of the foster children are also great additions, but none of them are given too much time to get to know them beyond surface level interactions, however the sense of a unique family they provide is a large part of Billy’s own development.
The action of the film is a bit of an odd blend. It feels at times like some classic superhero bouts reminiscent of comic books, but at other times it falls a little flat. Part of the action that makes it work is the sense of both vulnerability, not only to the titular hero, but also to his foster family. The third act is perhaps one of my favourites third acts in a superhero film, adding a clever twist to ramp things up, while also keeping it very personal as the best action in the film is when it remained personal.
The movie is a fun ride packed with great humour. The characters of Shazam and Freddy Freeman are the funniest in the movie. Superhero films seem to have humour as a constant thing now. However, I would argue that certain characters deserve to have more humour and others less. The concept of a child imbued with magical powers that turns him into a Superman powered being is one that should use comedy to its fullest extent, embracing the fantastical, ridiculous world it has set up.
The movie also dips its toe into the horror genre in parts, mostly revolving around the gargoyle looking Seven Deadly Sins as they all have a terrifying and disgusting look. The movie makes sure to keep these creatures as horrifying as possible throughout the film. However, the blend of horror doesn’t always work and at times can feel a little out of place at times.
The story of the movie is fairly generic given some of the other superhero films we have seen. It does build around this story with a lot more interesting detail, but ultimately the story doesn’t add anything.
Shazam is ground-breaking, but its not trying to be. Shazam only wants to have fun and it does this very well, bringing us as an audience along for the ride in a very honest and almost child-like way.
The movie does have its drawbacks. The villain/s in the movie of Dr. Sivana and the Seven Deadly Sins are barely developed and while Mark Strong utilises all of his acting chops to bring a megalomaniacal magically imbued villain to life, his purpose and progression is thin on the ground. He is still entertaining and full of some great lines and scenes, but ultimately he doesn't bring anything new to the villain role.
There are also 2 post credits scenes, so make sure you stick around for both of them. One of them sets up a potential villain and the other is a humorous nod to another DC film.
Bright, visually engaging, with solid storytelling and acting, Shazam is a standout film in the DC Universe, taking it somewhere new and fresh. It doesn’t necessarily break the superhero genre, but it uses all of its best attributes to its full extent and then some.
If you’re unsure whether to see this movie, or what movie you should watch. Shazam is definitely worth the time.
Shazam knows what it wants to be and stays true to that throughout the whole movie, creating something irreverently fun, funny and downright entertaining.
8½ stars out of 10.