GVS Magazine Desk |
DC’s films seem to be on a hot streak as of late, with both Aquaman and Shazam wowing critics and fans and it seems clear that the company has come a long way since the dark days of Zack Snyder’s Batman vs Superman and Justice League. Shazam, the studio’s latest offering is easily one of the most fun superhero movies to come out in some time.
Not since Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok has there been such strong emphasis on humor and making sure that the characters are having a blast. While the DC property is not bereft of darkness, there is certainly enough heart in this superhero film to make it the most family-friendly picture to date.
Right off the bat, the movie introduces us to our villain Thaddeus Sivana whose upbringing leaves a lot to be desired and through him we are taken to a mystical temple and introduced to the wizard Shazam who is searching for a new champion who is “pure of heart”. Although Sivana fails this test, we see the same wizard appear years later to bestow his powers upon our lead, Billy Batson.
Batson played by Disney alum Asher Angel is an orphan boy who is in search of his biological mother and is reluctant to accept his new foster family. After his encounter with the wizard, the teen is able to transform into a super-powered costumed hero when he yells the sorcerer’s name. While the premise is quite simple, the film still spends ample time on the Shazam mythology and the villain Sivana.
While most superhero films fail to flesh out their supervillains, Shazam spent a little too much time on its villain ensuring that we understood why he was the way he was, even if his motivations were a little too generic. In fact, had the movie condensed the origin story of its villain and found a more compelling way to introduce us to the magical mythos of this hero, Shazam would be a five-out-of-five film.
As it stands though, the film takes 15 minutes more than it should begin a story that only gets better as the movie progresses. Powered by Zachary Levi’s charismatic take on the child-turned-adult movie, this Big-inspired DC film ensures that we are having as much fun as our two leads Shazam/Billy and Freddy, Billy’s disabled foster brother.
Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer have strong chemistry and the film would not be anywhere as good as it is if the two actors were not so on top of their game. Levi brings a childlike wonder to his superhero that we have not seen before from any Marvel or DC hero and Grazer who plays Freddy, the mischievous sarcastic sidekick to Billy, is every bit Levi’s equal. Jack Dylan Grazer manages to outshine the younger Billy Batson actor Asher Angle at every level and makes a solid case for a spin-off movie of his own, thanks to how wonderfully charismatic his take on Freddy is.
There are several other kids in the movie who make up the foster family and amazingly all of them get their due. Grace Fulton, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, and serial hugger Faithe Herman make up the rest of the family and bring something new to their roles. Shazam is that rare movie that manages to get children just right and storylines regarding school bullies and siblings never seem trivial or annoying. The movie also taps into last year’s surprise hit Instant Family in being authentic with how it deals with foster kids and families.
The best thing about Shazam is that it embraces the goofy nature of its superhero and the best scenes of the film are all with the adult Shazam going about the world with the mind and heart of a child. If there is any fault in the movie it is with the unfortunate casting of Asher Angel as Billy Batson.
The child actor is not as strong as the other actors in the movie and he is not able to quite inhabit the skin of the comic book character the way his adult counterpart does. This 80-million-budgeted movie is less interested in saving the world and more on family but that is okay, because, after nearly 20 or so films where the fate of the world rests in our hero’s hands, it is all the more refreshing to see one with stakes that are more personal and the humor is so on point.
In a year when Marvel is set to culminate its 21 film franchise with what is shaping to be an epic finale, Shazam most likely would not be the movie we will be talking about at the end of the year, but it will certainly stand out as among the best superhero films in recent year.