Ok, full-blown honesty here. Shazam! is my favorite DC Comics superhero. And I mean that as I in I liked the character BEFORE the movie ever came out. Though my knowledge of him was limited to certain animated series and what I could look up on the internet, I love the idea of a kid turning into an adult superhero. So when I heard the movie was being made I was pumped, then nervous at some of the stuff I saw, then excited again as the positive reviews and word-of-mouth came out. And I’m happy to say that this Shazam review will be another positive one for the DC Comics movie universe.
I want to start out with this. I’ve had some arguments with a friend of mine over what the Shazam movie should be like. Because he was raised on the classic Captain Marv…I mean…classic take on the character. Whereas I knew of the classic version, but what really sold me on him was the Geoff Johns take in the New 52 continuity of DC Comics. And if you’re looking for 100% classic Shazam…you will be disappointed, because the New 52 version is clearly the big influence here…but that’s not exactly a bad thing.
Anyway, the movie is about young Billy Batson, who is an orphan who is desperate to find where he belongs, and the mother that he lost when he was young. But, the foster system won’t let him go, and so he ends up in the Vasquez house with Mary, Freddy, Pedro, Eugene, Darla, and his new foster parents, Victor and Rosa.
The family aspect was one of the biggest parts of the New 52 storyline, and I’m proud to say that it really shines here. And to my surprise, they made sure to give a lot of depth to the parents, who could’ve easily been relegated to the sidelines with no issues. But instead, Sandberg and team made sure every member of the team was fleshed out.
As for Billy, Asher Angel plays him perfectly as the kid who both wants to be left alone, and yet wants to find his true home. Asher brings a vulnerability to him that shows in many scenes. And yet also brings the bravery and passionate that both classic and modern Billy Batson is known for. Like when he defends Freddy from the Bryer Brothers.
Speaking of whom, Freddy is obviously one of the biggest focuses in the story. He’s the resident “superhero expert” of the family, and has the memorabilia to prove it, and is Billy’s “trainer” and “manager.” He’s hilarious, and witty, and a smooth criminal, just like Freddy should be. But he’s also one to call out Billy for what he does, and doesn’t do.
Moving onto the “Big” star…get it? Zachary Levi is perfect as Shazam, as he brings the childlike innocence and wonder to the role and isn’t afraid to get goofy or weird to help sell that this is a 14-year-old boy in a 30-year-old-plus man’s body. I won’t lie, I was worried when he got cast as Shazam, but I’m happy to say that my fears were quenched in a big way, and I look forward to him in a sequel.
To be honest, I could spend this enter Shazam! review talking about the big villain of the piece. Mark Strong. DC Comics fans know he was Sinestro in the Green Lantern movie, but never got to be the villain. But here? Oh yeah, he’s the villain. He is so good, so intense, and yet, despite what the trailers show, or don’t show in a move I fully support, he’s actually a very sympathetic villain.
Here is a man who as a child was belittled by his brother and father, and when he was almost chosen by the Wizard, he was told that he would “never be good enough”, and that drove him to madness, and determination to prove the Wizard wrong.
And like the movie hinted, the Seven Deadly Sins are in the movie, and it’s actually really cool how they’re incorporated. Because they could’ve been done in a very bad way very easily. But instead, they are literally merged with Sivana, granting him his powers, and fueling him even more to be the bad guy. It’s very fun stuff.
Of course, the comedy of the film has been lauded in the trailers and such, but let me just say, that there is some very deep and very emotional scenes in this film. Such as when Billy truly does meet his mother, and it’s anything but a happy reunion. Your heart will break for Billy when his mother admits what really happened to him as a child. And you can’t laugh that off. You also feel bad for Sivana at times, which is what makes him a great villain.
The movie is never afraid to pull surprises, including bringing a certain “family” into the mix near the end, which was one of my biggest geek moments EVER in a film. And I’ve seen a lot of superhero movies for the record.
All that being said, I would be lying if I said that Shazam! is a perfect movie, it is. There are some things that honestly do hold it back. First, there are some classic “I know where this is going” moments that are hard to watch. Such as Freddy getting embarrassed at school in a certain scene.
Also, while I LOVED that they gave a lot of the family personality, Mary was the one who got shorted. She had one key alone scene with Shazam, and none with Billy. It also appears that unlike in the old comics, they aren’t full-on brother/sister. Which I find odd, but I’m going to let it slide. I do hope in the sequel though she gets more screen time.
There was also a big “come to Jesus” moment if you will between Freddy and Billy/Shazam that made no sense. Freddy opened his mouth at school and all but forced Billy into a situation, which Billy wasn’t happy about and so he blew it off. And then Freddy comes in all mad because Billy didn’t “live up to the superhero motto” or something like that, and made it seem like it was Billy’s idea the whole time. It really felt odd to me.
Still, despite those flaws, Shazam! is a movie that everyone can go and watch and have fun in. It’s got a lot of references to the classic lore (including a certain tiger…) as well as DCEU lore (the credits scene is amazing). You’ll laugh a lot, and yet also feel choked up at the messages of family and love and knowing what a home really is.
And allow me to say in full geek mode…MR. MIND IS COMING IN THE SEQUEL!!! SHAZAM!!!
If you want a DC Comics film that is full of heart, family, and sparkly fingers, then you need to go see Shazam!, this one is a winner from nearly start to finish.