Hot on the heels of billion dollar hit Aquaman, DC once again meets the mark with Shazam! Although I’m not sure if this will have the same box office turnout that the Jason Momoa starrer did, (with summer flicks like Endgame releasing soon), the film stands on its own and has performed well at the box office, once again reaching the top of the charts this week. With their third critical hit (following Wonder Woman and Aquaman), I think it might be safe to say that DC are on the right path, their main focus being choosing to support director-centric films rather than building their own film universe.
Directed by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out, Annabelle Creation), the film follows 14-year-old Billy Batson (Asher Angel) who gets imbued with the collective powers of a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) and gains the ability to turn into adult-superhero (Zachary Levi) on will. The character-centric film deals with how Billy adjusts to his newfound powers while searching for his mother and realizing what is it to be both a superhero and part of a family.
Campy, fun and delightful at how it does not take itself seriously unlike most other DC films, this actually works to the film’s advantage. Levi kills it as Shazam and does not waste any time letting the audience know that it’s a teenager in an adult body. His chemistry with foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) and the rest of the foster family is quite heartwarming and dynamic and gives rise to greater surprises towards the final act of the film. Career bad guy Mark Strong plays Doctor Thaddeus Sivana whose backstory with the wizard ended up with him being deemed unworthy of the Shazam mantle years prior and finds his revenge by stealing the Eye of Sin, before returning to Earth as the vessel of the Seven Deadly Sins. He identifies Billy as Shazam and demands that he surrender his powers and easily bests him in combat but Billy transforms back to his younger self and escapes. Sivana deduces his identity and kidnaps Freddy in order to lure Shazam out.
Whilst the action sequences aren’t all that great, probably due to the considerably lower budget, the heart of the story is what drives the film and it has all the right elements to succeed. Reminiscent of “Big”, Shazam! Lingers on a safe narrative with self-aware comedy, somewhat like Deadpool but Sandberg somehow manages to churn out a fresh feel even with the formulaic tropes.
The entire cast deliver well rounded performances, although I might have preferred a better written villain but if we are to take the mid credits scene any seriously, we might be seeing more of Sivana in any forthcoming sequels. Although it acts as a standalone film in the DC Universe, the connections built within the film are well placed and even feature a surprise cameo from another superhero. 2019 has already released two Captain Marvel films, and yes Shazam! was known as Captain Marvel in the comics, although he goes by many nicknames in the film before settling on his exclusive moniker.
It’s interesting to see how DC are changing their plans and I’m personally curious to see what lies ahead, with Ben Affleck having vacated his role as Batman and with Henry Cavill’s future as Superman still up in the air – it seems like Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Shazam have become the new DC Trinity. Either way, if you want to zone out and enjoy a heartfelt funny action adventure, then Shazam! is the movie for you.
Courtesy of Akash SK