Shazam! is directed by David F. Sandberg. The film stars Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Djimon Hounsou.
Billy Batson has been bounced around between foster homes following his separation from his birth mother, ending up in a new group home with a superhero fanatic for a foster brother. When Billy runs afoul of school bullies and runs away, he finds himself whisked away to a strange cave, where a wizard bequeaths to him a power that enables him to transform into a super-powered adult form, so that he may do battle with a mysterious seeker of power who has embodied the Seven Deadly Sins. Billy experiments with his powers to learn of his abilities, but must put them to the ultimate test when villains threaten his city and family.
Shazam!, also known in comics as Captain Marvel (not to be confused with the Marvel Comics character of the same name, who also got a movie this month) is the latest entry in the DC Extended Universe of films, following Man of Steel, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League, and Aquaman. While DC had it rough getting out the gate due to their rushed approach to world/cinematic universe building, they’ve truly found themselves with the last few entries, much to the satisfaction of moviegoers and comic book fans around the world. With the perfect blend of action, humor, and character development, Shazam! isn’t only the best film in the DCEU so far; it’s also the best movie of 2019 so far.
The very premise of the film and its overall tone are perfect. We have distraught foster kids who don’t have the best day-to-day school life. Billy, in particular, has been bounced around the city on his quest to find his birth mother, only to end up becoming the titular hero. How would you act if you were a kid who could suddenly transform into a super-powered adult? Billy uses his newfound powers to show off and make money, and even to buy alcohol, basically looking like a fool and making an ass of himself, before he’s basically full of himself and forced to wise up when real threats appear. What would I do if I suddenly had super powers? The answer is probably every stupid thing Billy does in this movie. It’s believable, relatable, and perhaps most importantly, it’s hilarious! Zachary Levi portrays the adult version of the character, and it’s safe to say he’s found the role he was born to play. Asher Angel fares well as the “normal” version of the character; a teenage foster youth who helps ground the movie in reality during its less comedic portions. It’s easily the funniest superhero since Deadpool came on the scene a few years back, and still manages to bring belly laughs despite a PG-13 rating.
The supporting cast also manages to impress, including Jack Dylan Grazer as foster brother Freddie, who’s a superhero fanatic bringing a “meta” brand of humor to the movie; the scenes between him and Billy after Billy gets his powers are easily the best in the movie, and the chemistry between the two characters is a definite highlight. Mark Strong (Merlin from the Kingsman movies) is fantastic as a villain obsessed with the secrets of the unknown, who becomes the antagonist to Billy’s superhero alter-ego. While his origin story isn’t the most original thing we’ve seen on the big screen in recent years, he’s still a ton of fun and a great bad guy. What really manages to impress here is the overdose of human and action not coming at the expense of the movie having a heart. Friends and family on screen are believable and relatable throughout, which helps keep the movie grounded.
Does the movie deliver in the action department? Indeed it does. Battles between the titular hero and a villain corrupted by the Seven Deadly Sins stand as a definite highlight, even if the movie’s final battle, which does have an unexpected and delightful plot twist, drags on longer than it needs to. What’s most satisfying about Shazam!? The fact that the cast and crew keep your eyes and attention fixated on the screen, even when there’s not a big battle going on. You get that invested in the characters, which certainly isn’t true of every comic movie.
With a 130 minute run time, the movie is admittedly about 20 minutes long than it needs to be. A subplot/scene regarding Billy’s hunt for his foster mother is a bit of a downer and feels out of place, meaning it could easily have been excised from the final product.
Shazam! isn’t a perfect movie, but it’s pretty damn close. DC finally finds the perfect blend of action, comedy, drama, and intriguing and well-developed characters sure to appeal to audiences. The film hits theaters on April 5, 2019. And this one’s worth seeing on the big screen. Don’t pass it by!
Rating: Four out of four stars.
DISCLAIMER: All images in the review are the property of their respective copyright holders, including Warner Bros., DC Comics, New Line Cinema, The Safran Company, Seven Bucks Productions, and Mad Ghost Productions. For promotional use only. All rights reserved