Shazam! is the latest installment from DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. since James Wan’s Aquaman debuted over Christmas. We leave the Seven Kingdoms of Atlantis for the streets of Philadelphia for a laugh out loud superhero origin story.
The story is extremely well done and flows very well. It’s rather straightforward revealing both the origins of Billy Batson’s Shazam as well as the villainous Doctor Thaddeus Sivana.
The gist of the movie sees Billy Batson discovering not only his superhero powers, but the powers of friendship and family. It’s not an easy discovery. He will be hunted down by Sivana, who aims to defeat the young Shazam before he gains full mastery over his superpowers.
The Cast and Characters
Batson is a troubled youth, who is constantly running away from his foster homes. But he’s got a good reason. He’s searching for his family. And that’s really what’s at the heart of Shazam!.
In the beginning of the movie, he’s not the most likable character. He’s a rebellious youth, who doesn’t really respect anyone at all, even the law. He looks out for number one and doesn’t really care about anyone else. However, there are some glimmers of hope. For instance, he stands up for his brother Freddy Freeman when he’s being bullied at school.
It’s those tiny rays that are eventually expanded upon that make you end up loving the character at the end of the film and truly rooting for him to overcome Sivana.
What’s really interesting about Billy’s transformation is that it’s not internal. It’s done through the help of his foster family. Especially his new brothers and sisters. It’s also done over time. It doesn’t happen in a snap instance. There are multiple encounters with his family that show him a better way.
Actor Asher Angel does an excellent job of portraying a range of emotions whether it’s the dickish teenager getting one over on the police. The stand-offish foster kid, who is already looking for his next chance to runaway, or the kid who eventually comes to love and respect his family. He’s a believable teenager and expresses all the emotions you’d expect a teenager to have.
As for Zachary Levi, he does an excellent job of portraying a teenager as Shazam. His mannerisms and the actions he undertakes really highlight that this is a teenager in a superheros body. He does what you would expect a teenager would do, and it makes for some great comedic moments.
Dr. Sivana has his own character evolution. In the beginning, he’s a victim of bullying. But instead of working to overcome it, he fills himself with hate and never lets it go. He carries a grudge on his shoulder the entire movie and uses it as motivation to do the work of evil.
Sivana is an excellent foil to Batson and Shazam because he never evolves. He remains focused on himself and carries that through to the end of the movie. How the two deal with their respective families are polar opposites.
If there was one weakness to Sivana’s character it was fleshing out the characters that grant him his powers and allow him to rival Shazam! They could have used a little more personality. It would have also been useful to understand what their motivations are.
The Marvel Family
Billy’s foster family includes Freddy Freeman, Mary, Pedro, Darla, and Eugene. Freddy gets most of the screen time as he works with Billy to test out his powers as Shazam. Jack Dylan Glazer’s acting is very good. He’s a superhero nerd and will go to great extents to see just what Shazam is capable of. There are also some extremely tense moments between Freddy and Billy. You can feel the frustration emanating him and rightfully so.
The rest of the family doesn’t get as much screen time. But they play pivotal roles for Billy. Mary played by Grace Fulton provides an extremely inspiring speech that definitely makes Billy think twice about.
Ian Chen’s Eugene Choi perfectly captures a young kid who can’t get enough of his video games. But he also has heart and is willing to help Billy when he needs it.
Jovan Armand’s Pedro Peña is probably the most underused character, and that probably has to do with the fact that he’s more of a quiet, silent type.
Faithe Herman’s Darla Dudley will definitely be a fan favorite. She’s got the cute factor on lock. Herman’s comedic timing is excellent.
The action sequences aren’t groundbreaking or earth-shattering. There isn’t a massive drag out fight like in Man of Steel with Superman and Zod. The fight sequences are more pointed.
Director David F. Sandberg does do a good job of mixing in humor to some of the sequences as well as keeping it serious when it needs to be.
There wasn’t really anything that stood out, they served their purpose. There were fists flying and some solid CGI. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see more lightning from Shazam.
Overall, the action in the movie was entertaining.
Comic Book Feel
Sandberg’s Shazam! definitely adapts Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s 2013 Shazam! graphic novel. There are scenes pulled straight from the comic book that will definitely have DC Comics fans smiling. In fact, a number of the best moments of Shazam! first using his powers are ripped straight from Frank’s artwork.
Direct David F. Sandberg’s Shazam! is the best superhero movie of the year so far. It features a powerful story with a strong hero’s journey with an emphasis on family. You will find yourself laughing quite a bit whether it’s from Shazam! trying to figure out his powers or the ridiculousness of a teenager occupying the body of a superhero. This movie has heart. You don’t want to miss Shazam!
- A strong hero's journey
- Excellent comedic timing
- A number of scenes are ripped straight from the comics
- The source of Sivana's powers are not fleshed out enough
- Some members of the Marvel family were underutilized
- Could have used more lightning from Shazam!