I got the opportunity, thanks to Fandango, to see the new DC movie, Shazam two weeks prior to its release. I was very excited about the later afternoon showing and I have been looking forward to it. DC seems to be starting down this path as I also saw Aquaman early.
At this point, after only seeing Shazam once, I am preparing to make a serious claim. That claim is that Shazam is my favorite DCEU movie to date, moving past Wonder Woman for the top spot.
Separated from his mother as a child, Billy Batson(Asher Angel) spent years in foster homes and running away from foster homes, still hoping to find his birth mother. After a run in with the police, Billy wound up going to a new foster home with a large new foster family. It was during this time when Billy was discovered by a wizard named Shazam (Djimon Hounsou), who gave Billy his powers so he could become his new champion.
Meanwhile, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) was desperately trying to find the wizard once again. Sivana had met the wizard as a child, but failed to prove his worthiness to become his champion. Driven by power and revenge, Sivana took in the power of the Seven Deadly Sins. He wanted more power …he wanted the power of Shazam. You can understand why Sivana does what he does after seeing his back story and this helped create a well rounded villain.
This movie is really fun, has an amazing sense of humor and has more heart than any DC film prior to it. There is more happening here at a smaller level, a level of family, that we have not seen yet in a DC super hero movie. There is not the large, grandiose must-save-the-world type situation in Shazam. It is more of a personal, smaller story, though at times it felt like more than a character story.
Asher Angel was fantastic as Billy Batson, but the film was in danger of being stolen by Jack Dylan Grazer. Grazer, who played Eddie in the remake of It, played Freddy, one of the foster kids at the new home, and he is tremendous. Freddy is not only the comedic sidekick to the super hero, but he is also the voice of the audience. He also has an extremely emotional arc all his own to handle during the movie. Grazer delivers everything he is asked to do wonderfully and really shows that he is one of the most solid young actors working today.
The entire crew at the foster home were good. It was cool to see Jerry from the Walking Dead, Cooper Andrews in the film as the “father” of the foster home. Marta Milans did great as Victor’s wife Rosa in a limited amount of screen time. Faithe Herman was the other major standout in the foster kids as Darla, who you just love immediately.
So much of this movie really works as the “Big Red Cheese,” Shazam (played by Zachary Levi) goes about discovering what he can do and trying to wrap his head around what he has to face. While Zachary Levi is in the super hero role, Asher Angel gets the bigger dramatic beats in the movie, especially the subplot with his mother. Angel showed that he is another young star to keep an eye on.
The CGI was great as well. The villains, which has derailed DC movies before (hello Steppenwolf), look great and have a distinct character about them. They are frightening and look to really be a threat to our characters. These are more than just the normal CGI from DC. Aquaman’s CGI had made distinct improvement and Shazam seems to have taken it a step further.
It was also very funny to hear how the film bounced different names around for the character in the film. Obviously, he can not call himself Shazam, because if he does, he changes form. They cannot call him Captain Marvel as they used to do so it became a running joke from everything from The Red Cyclone to Captain Sparkle Fingers.
My only gripe with the film is with Zachary Levi. While parts of the time I liked him as Shazam, I did not like how he yelled all the time. There are a lot of actors who seem to yell as a fall back point, and I did not like it here. I would also say that in the Shazam form, Levi did not feel like he was the Billy Batson character in a larger body. Billy (Asher Angel) seemed way more competent than Levi did. They felt too different at times.
Other than that, I really enjoyed this movie. I even enjoyed the third act, which is something that I have never liked in a DC movie. Even Wonder Woman’s third act was a dramatic downgrade from the rest of the film. Man of Steel’s third act tanked the whole movie for me. Shazam, though, had a strong third act that even shook off many of the typical super hero genre cliches that you see in the final battle. Everything here worked very well.
Shazam had a great deal of themes, but the theme of family was at front and center. It was powerful to see how both Billy Batson and Thaddeus Sivana had parental issues (surprise, parental issues in a super hero) and how they each dealt with it.
There are several meta moments too, as Shazam exists in the world with other heroes but understands his place. This is a movie where the kids are front and center and that brought an air of freshness to this film that was welcome. There is a unbelievably funny homage to Tom Hanks’ movie Big as well that worked on all levels.
Shazam is a heck of a good time and I am excited to have a chance to see it once again. It is over-the-top in every positive way and has more humor and heart than any DC Comics movie ever before.