It’s no secret that DC’s cinematic universe has been a bumpy road lately. Without the organic and slow growth of Marvel’s carefully constructed cinematic universe, DC’s films have been good, but not great. While 2017’s “Wonder Woman” gave DC fans a bit of hope, releases such as “Justice League” proved that hope was fleeting, if not false.
However, “Shazam” is a breath of fresh air. The movie is centered around a fostered boy named Billy (Asher Angel) who is selected by an ancient wizard to be “the chosen.” Billy gains powers to transform into the ultimate version of himself (Zachary Levi) as he adjusts to his new foster family, especially his superhero-obsessed step-brother, Freddie (Jack Dylan Grazer). The wizard has inadvertently created a villain (Mark Strong) intent on getting his revenge, especially since he’s driven by the seven deadly sins. When he learns about Billy’s powers, he tracks him down, and Billy has to muster up the courage to defeat the villain.
The film is simple and funny. Unlike all of DC’s other movies, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Angel’s relatable acting perfectly matches Levi’s light-hearted performance, and you really believe that they’re the same character.
While “Shazam” greatly succeeds as a comedic affair, I wish it leaned even harder into the laughs. The script is well-written, but it felt like it was still overly tied to cliches. Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing a character redeem himself, but do we need to see a repeat of “Spider-Man 3”’s ego-trip? Movies such as “Spider-Man 3” more cohesively blend drama and comedy than “Shazam.” However, the ending of DC’s film takes the idea of “Shazam”’s powers and plays with them in an awesome way.
As per usual, the handling of villains in DC films isn’t the best, with only “Wonder Woman” standing alongside
“Shazam” for notably trying to make its villains interesting. While at the very least “Shazam” has an emotionally fueled villain who acts as a foil to Billy, the filmmakers wasted their opportunity to play around with just how evil the villain could have been.
I can easily recommend “Shazam” to superhero fans. It’s some good ol’ fun, despite its issues and missed potentials, and it’s got some inner “magic” that powers it through some derivative moments. I’m actually interested in seeing where DC takes “Shazam” next, especially with the introduction of explicit magic into their universe. I just hope they don’t take it to the same place as “Batman’s Superman.” For those watching “Shazam” in theaters, stay tuned at the end of the film for some fun credit animations and a neat self-depreciative dig!
Contact Peter Hager at [email protected]