Horror film director David F. Sandberg takes the reins on the latest DC Extended Universe film Shazam! which gleefully boasts childlike charm, excellent humor, and a ton of fun action sequences with emotion at its core.
When taking a train ride one day, fourteen year old foster child Billy Batson (Asher Angel) suddenly gets transported to a mysterious cave that is inhabited by a magical wizard known. The wizard informs the young boy that he is worthy of obtaining his powers and can do so if he simply says the word “Shazam”. After doing this, Billy transforms into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi) and tries to make the best of his powers while a menacing threat known as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) is making his presence known.
From fairly early on in Shazam!, it is apparent that Sandberg and the rest of the crew behind the film were trying to make this the most lighthearted and fun entry in this ever expanding franchise. Many critics and audiences slammed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad for being needlessly dark at every moment, and the people behind this film have clearly heard those complaints as this is easily the exact opposite in tone of the aforementioned films.
By far the best aspect of this movie is Zachary Levi who portrays the adult superhero version of Billy Batson, known as Shazam. His energy is almost infectious here and borderline impossible to dislike. Every other scene he is exuding with fun and humor and the chemistry between him and Jack Dylan Grazer’s Freddy Freeman is some of the best of the entire year thus far.
One of the reasons why Levi works so well as this character is because he does exactly what most fourteen year old boys would do if given superpowers. After getting his powers, the first thing on his mind is not to go out and save the world from destruction from villains, but rather he tests out his abilities and starts doing dances like the floss. It never once came across the wrong way. Levi embodies this character amazingly.
Angel additionally gets a couple of scenes to really shine, with one in particular towards the third act that is sure to make many viewers get a bit teary-eyed. I feel like Angel will not get enough recognition for his talents here sadly since he is not the main actor in the film, but he is certainly great here.
There are also some exceptionally exciting sequences of action in various parts of Shazam! that were more grounded in scale as opposed to a colossal film such as Batman v Superman, but they were still thrilling to watch nonetheless. All of the action gets increasingly better as the movie proceeds, with the last couple of action scenes in the third act being quite memorable. If you were going into this film with hopes of seeing explosions and superhero destruction every other second, be sure to keep your expectations low and instead expect a heartwarming and occasionally heartbreaking story about family, while also having some superhero elements involved.
When it comes to negatives, Strong’s villian Dr. Sivana can be extremely cartoonish and almost unbelievable at times. His motivations are a little bit unclear and it can be hard to get behind him at times. This movie can definitely be silly on purpose a lot of the time which is great, but it is honestly hard to tell whether or not the filmmakers were trying to make Sivana goofy intentionally, or if it just came across that way by accident.
Sivana also has a big army of mutant minions following him around in various moments of the film, and the computer generated imagery on those creatures did not look all that great. Some of the effects reminded me of an early 2000s film, which was bizarre considering that the rest of the effects used in the film looked good.
There are also a couple of times in which the editing by Michel Aller was just a little bit jarring. One part in the film involves slow motion and the editing styles that Aller used came across a little bit strange during that one scene.
Zachary Levi is electrifying in Shazam!, a lighthearted superhero tale infused with terrific action, great humor, and a ton of emotional beats.
Overall Grade: A-
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material
Cast: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer
Directed by: David F. Sandberg
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Running Time: 132 minutes