The Shazam drinking game; take a drink every time Shazam was said in the movie… actually don’t, it won’t end well.
So I saw the newest DC Cinematic Universe movie, Shazam this weekend and I have to say, I didn’t have high expectations. I mean, I didn’t have low expectations either, but that’s for a number of reasons. Look, I have a love hate relationship with DC; I love some of the DC TV shows that air like Arrow, Supergirl and Black Lightning, and I also like their animated properties like Young Justice and Teen Titans (not Teen Titans Go though.) But I haven’t really like several of DC’s movies since the Dark Knight. In fact the only good live action movies that have come out in the past 5 years are Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Feel free to disagree, but that’s my opinion.
Was it good?
So where does Shazam fall on this spectrum? Well I have to say… I really enjoyed this movie! It was so much fun and I’m glad to be saying those words about a live action DC movie for the second time in a row, because after Justice League, I had almost lost hope. Anyway, Shazam was very funny and yet full of heart while being a good superhero origin story. I’m not too familiar with comics, but from what I’ve read, this movie seems to follow Shazam’s (at least recent) origin story very well.
Shazam is about a 14-year-old kid named Billy Batson who is abandoned by his mother and is desperate to find her. He runs away from foster home after foster home hoping to find her, until finally he is sent to live with the Victor Vasquez, his wife and their five other foster kids. Already I like Victor because even though Billy has been known to run away, Victor was also a foster kid so he empathizes with him. How could you not love this character?
One day when running from bullies after saving his brother Freddy, Billy stumbles into the home of the wizard Shazam, and Shazam gives Billy his powers. The whole thing is funny because Billy keeps cracking jokes while Shazam is stoic and the contrast works so well. Billy can now transform into an adult with amazing superpowers, and he trains with Freddy. The difference between this story and other superhero stories is that Billy never tries to be a superhero, he just shows off in front of crowds and collects money for shooting lightning from his fingers. A villain named Doctor Sivana attacks Billy trying to take his powers and Billy gets defeated and has to run away.
Because of Freddy’s TV appearances alongside Shazam, Savana knows that they are working together and forces Freddy to take him to his house. Meanwhile Billy’s new family has found a lead on his mother and Billy goes. It is a powerful exchange where Billy’s mother admits that she was never ready for kids and left Billy hoping that he would have a better life, which Billy realizes he now has. Doctor Sivana calls Billy and he rushes back to save his family. During the fight Billy grabs Sivana’s (formerly Shazam’s) staff and his family all touch it, turning into adult superheroes as well.
A CGI fight done right!
This is one of the best end of movie fights that I’ve seen in a long time. Yeah it’s a CGI fest with everyone flying and shooting lightning but it was done with such care that it didn’t take anything away from the movie. Kudos to DC for making this movie and this should be a lesson to studios to LET DIRECTORS DO THEIR JOBS WITHOUT INTEREFERENCE!
I don’t think they could have cast a better Shazam. I’m not familiar with Zachary Levi’s work, but he really had me believing that he was a kid stuck in an adult’s body. The emotions were on point, the comedic timing was great, it was an all-around great performance from Zachary. The rest of the cast did a fantastic job as well. It was superb casting from DC.
Even the kids were great. Sometimes kids can be annoying in movies or just used as a plot device, like when a villain is attacking and the kid just stands there looking at it and has to be saved by a superhero. Or when people are running from something and the kid trips and magically loses the ability to get back up and has to be saved. You know, those annoying, overdone tropes. Yeah, this movie didn’t have those. The kids were competent, smart, but didn’t try to act too much likes adults.
This movie had some great themes about family and adoption; subjects which I haven’t seen a lot of in movies, especially in a superhero flick and it was handled well. You really felt for Billy’s desire to get back to his mother. I mean, who wouldn’t, they were at the fair and suddenly she was gone and never came back, of course that would mess a kid up! Billy’s tendency to keep people, including his new family at arm’s length was understandable, but he did let his brother in, so for all his speeches about not needing anyone, he turned to his brother Freddy as soon as he got his powers and they bonded (even though Billy could be a jerk about it). But in the end Billy accepted all of his brothers and sisters and they became a super powered crime fighting family. I hope they keep their powers in the sequel.
I have to give this a solid 8/10. This movie handled so many themes and story beats well and weaved them together to form a fun, heartfelt family movie. The only sort of negative thing I have to say is that the villain was mediocre. Doctor Sivana was an angry reject of Shazam’s powers who got evil powers and used them to kill people who opposed him and get more powers. Not much depth there.