SHAZAM! is the seventh installment in Warner Brother’s DC Cinematic Universe and the second film made under the watch of newly appointed head of DC films, Walter Hamada. Featuring a superpowered cast of Asher Angel as Billy Batson, Zachary Levi as Shazam, Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddie Freeman, and Mark Strong as Doctor Thaddeus Sivana.
SHAZAM! tells the story of Billy Batson, a 15 year old foster child in Philadelphia who is selected by a wizard to become the successor of his powers. By simply shouting the word, “Shazam!” Billy transforms into the titular superpowered adult version of himself, and reminds us all why we love superheroes.
I’m not going to mince words, DC films in this continuity have been extremely hit and miss, with the unbelievable heights of Wonder Woman and the very low low’s of Suicide Squad. So where does SHAZAM! stand in the current rankings? Well, SHAZAM! is…..AWESOME! Action packed, hilarious, and loaded with heart, SHAZAM! soars into the sky and into our hearts! In the current DC Cinematic Universe, it’s neck and neck with Wonder Woman (2016) for the crown jewel of this universe. It also further cements the idea that Walter Hamada was absolutely the right choice to head DC Films, seeing that Aquaman, his first movie, grossed over 1 billion dollars and that SHAZAM! is going to be absolutely huge when it releases. It won’t open too big, but word of mouth is going to elevate this movie to a huge box office run.
Let’s start with the acting. Zachary Levi. That’s all. That’s the whole sentence. He absolutely kills it as Shazam! He was the perfect choice to portray a kid in a superhero’s body and most of the humor stems from his performance and chemistry with Freddie. He plays the part with such a youthful joy and excitement. You can tell that he was having the time of his life with this role and it’s all the better for it. The flipside of Shazam, Asher Angel is also quite good as Billy. The two of them obviously spent a lot of time together before shooting, in order to have such seamless chemistry. Angel carries most of the emotional heart of the story, and he carries it quite well. Nuanced and real, this kid is going to be a star someday. Angel portrays Billy as a troubled kid who has seen and experienced so many sad things in his life, but still keeps a sense of buoyancy and hope in a world of dark. He truly is pure of heart. The arc that Billy undergoes would not work if Angel and Levi’s performances weren’t as great as they are.
And of course, Jack Dylan Grazer is delightful as Freddie Freeman, Billy’s best friend and foster brother. He is absolutely hilarious and I loved the choice to make him a fanboy of the characters in this universe. We all knew this kid was great from his performance as Eddie in 2017’s IT, and he’s well on his way to stardom. I found Mark Strong as Dr. Sivana enjoyable as well, but he plays the villain in such a cartoony and old school way that it may not work for everybody. Several of his lines are hilarious over the top one liners that could easily bother an audience member, but with the goofy and cheesy tone they went for, it worked for me.
Moving on, a surprising takeaway is that this movie is less about action and big setpieces, and more about family and finding the hero inside. The foster family is so charming in this movie that you’ll fall in love with all of them instantly. Sure, there is a lot of action, quippy one liners, pretty much any staple of the genre you can think of, is in this movie. Yet, it somehow feels fresh. This movie reminds you why you love superheroes. It awakens the inner child in you and it’s a joyous feeling. I felt five years old again when Billy jumps off the roof and shouts his name, as seen in the second trailer.
Also, this movie is genuinely scary! Director David F. Sandberg has a background in horror with films such as Annabelle: Creation and Lights Out, and it totally shows! You’ll know exactly what I’m talking about once you see the movie. I’ll leave you with this: THE BOARDROOM SCENE. You’ll know it when you see it.
As far as negatives go, I struggle to find many in this movie. The effects aren’t perfect and there’s a couple moments where you’ll notice somethings are off. And sometimes the exposition is a little heavy, but it doesn’t damper the experience too much. It’s just noticeable. The very beginning scene is a little rough, but the minute it ends, the movie takes off and tons of fun ensues. The scene is necessary for the film, but it could of been done better. As it stands, it’s comes off a little hammy.
Stay for the end credits on this one. DC has another hit on their hands and as a fan of the genre or not, you should be excited. If DC and Marvel are both making good movies, then we all win. It seems like Walter Hamada has made that scenario a reality.
We all want to be a superhero and when Billy finally becomes one, you’ll want to cheer and applaud in the theater. You believed a man could fly in 1978 and you’ll believe a kid can in 2019.
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