Cast: Asher Angel, Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer
Director: David F. Sandberg
We all know that with Marvel having potentially the biggest release of the year, DC needed to make a big splash if it wants to show the world it can compete with Marvel moving forward. Sure Aquaman was a huge financial hit, but critically it didn’t come close to hitting the mark it needed to. With Shazam! it looks as though DC has finally shown us that the success of Wonder Woman was not a fluke and they’ve established a strong foundation to build a universe around. A fun, light-hearted action film that benefits from Levi having a blast in the lead role make Shazam! a strong contender for best film of early 2019.
The film follows Billy Batson (Angel), a foster child who refuses to stay with any family as he gets involved in criminal mischief with the intention of finding his birth mother. While that is going on, an ancient wizard named Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) needs an heir to inherit his powers and help keep the seven deadly sins under wraps. When Shazam selects Billy as his champion, he passes down his powers to Billy who after saying Shazam’s name magically turns into an adult (Levi) with superpowers. On the other side, the seven deadly sins have escaped Shazam’s control and manifested themselves in Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Strong). This leads to Billy and Dr. Sivana to clash throughout Philadelphia with the intention of one of them getting their way. As with any other superhero movie, Shazam! is absolutely a popcorn movie that the whole family can watch together, but it’s a really good popcorn movie. This movie embraces the goofy nature of the Billy/Shazam dynamic perfectly and immerses us in the world that they created. If you gave a teenager these types of superpowers, they would act almost exactly like Billy would. Being in the body of an adult doesn’t necessarily make you one and this lack of maturity is portrayed perfectly by both Angel and Levi. Levi in particular is spectacular in his role and embraces the childish aloofness of his character in a way that very few actors could pull off. The script gave Levi plenty to work with and he handled his adult scenarios like visiting strip clubs and buying beer with the immaturity that only a teenager would act with. Regarding the child actors, this is the part I was most nervous about going into this movie. Traditionally, many of the movies I’ve seen with young actors are weighed down by their lack of experience, so I was hoping that Shazam! wouldn’t have the same issue. Luckily, the child actors in this movie are fantastic in their own right. Angel handles his major role with ease while supporting actors such as Grazer and Faithe Herman fill in where they are needed and provide the necessary context to the movie when called upon. When you add all these elements together and then throw in a powerful antagonistic performance from Strong and fluid action sequences that keep the film together and interesting and Shazam! ends up being one of the most fun and exciting superhero movies in recent years.
Overall, it looks as though DC may have found their version of the Marvel formula. If they can replicate this in their upcoming movies, there’s no reason why they won’t be able to compete with Marvel in years to come. The character of Billy/Shazam gave this film a lot of breathing room and allowed it to be as funny and charming as it was supposed to be. Shazam! ends up as another notch in David F. Sandberg’s budding career and serves as the foundation for promising things to come from DC.
Overall Score: 9/10