Shazam! owes much of its success to a charismatic Zachary Levi, who is always the most interesting person when on screen, constantly delivering punchlines metaphorically and literally (he’s funny but he also punches the bad guys, get it?).
An ancient wizard, desperate to find a champion, gives Billy Batson, a foster kid known for running away, the ability to have the powers of a superhero if he shouts the wizard’s name, Shazam. Not only does Batson gain the powers of a superhero, but he also transforms into a buff adult version of himself wearing a red super suit with a lightning bolt on his chest. When Dr. Sivana, someone rejected by the wizard at a young age and prompted by revenge, becomes empowered by the seven deadly sins, it is up to Batson to mature and use his powers as Shazam to stop him.
Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse was a surprise hit that hit all the right notes both in terms of humor and characters. I remember being skeptical that I would like the film, but after watching it my skepticism was allayed, as I found the film to be very enjoyable. Despite having a similar skepticism heading into Shazam!, I was much aware of the possibility it would strike a chord with me the same way Into the Spiderverse did, especially considering how well reviewed it was. Unfortunately, Shazam! did not produce the same astounding effect. However, that is not to say there is no fun to be had; Shazam! is still a very likeable film. Warm is a descriptor that could be used when describing multiple of the film’s elements. The foster parents played by Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans: warm. The chemistry between young actors Asher Angel and Jack Dylan Grazer: warm but also dynamic. The overall message of the film: warm and positive for children. It’s hard not to like Shazam!, because the film has a very welcoming, enthusiastic tone.
One of the more interesting aspects of the film, is its ability to avoid being an overly family-friendly and juvenile venture by incorporating moments with darker, sinister undertones and also having more serious themes being injected into the character development. Some of the subject matter dealing with being a foster child, losing a mother, being rejected by one’s family, and being disabled all work to balance out the rest of the film’s silliness.
As I mentioned in my opening statement, Zachary Levi was impressive in his DCEU debut. He has the charm and energy of a superhero and appears to be having a lot of fun in this role. He believably acts as if he has a kid’s soul and is able to genuinely play off the physical discrepancy. On another note, he may not be Heath Ledger’s Joker, but Mark Strong fills in the role of the supervillain nicely, inserting an intimidating presence when on screen.
I cannot say that I loved Shazam! and being one of those people who liked early DCEU features Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I hardly share the sentiment of others who found it to be their favorite DC film. But Shazam! also has that standalone individuality that I criticized Captain Marvel for lacking, and I would recommend it to those looking for some box-office action while anticipating Endgame. 7/10