Shazam is the latest DC Comics’ film. It’s an adaptation of the classic, former Fawcett Comics’ Captain Marvel, who was originally a male character. This film’s main character is an orphaned teenager, named Billy Batson, who is trying to find his mother when he is suddenly recruited by a powerful, all-knowing, and dying wizard. In turn, he becomes a streetwise kid, who can now turn into an adult superhero whenever he shouts the word, “Shazam!”.
Shazam is a fun, lighthearted, superhero movie, that also doubles as a wonderful homage to ‘80s kids’ films, including some of its darker material. It’s another success for DC, who, as of late, has been knocking their comic book films out of the park. Shazam appeals heavily to kids, but also manages to retain a lot of entertaining elements that would make it enjoyable for all ages.
The success of the movie is largely driven by its leads. As Billy Batson, Asher Angel is a young, energetic, imperfect teen, but when he transforms into Shazam, he is played by an older Zachary Levi (please let this be his star making turn). Levi, in this role, has been compared to Tom Hanks in Big (1988), as he’s pretending to be a boy in a man’s body. In one of the film’s best moments, he discovers he can fly, and as Benjamin Wallfisch’s musical score ramps up, Levi has an expression on his face that makes him look like he has just discovered the Holy Grail. As Shazam, he manages to convey the awesomeness of being young, and it’s clear he’s fully committed to this childish role.
The rest of the cast is good, too. Mark Strong is fine as Savana, a character who starts out with an interesting and sympathetic backstory before devolving into typical villainy by the end. We’ve seen Strong in this kind of role before, for example, as Lord Blackwell in Sherlock Holmes (2009).
The movie focuses on the subject of family in Billy’s quest to find his mother and getting adopted by a couple who are, seriously, the best parents ever. This is where Billy meets his best friend, Freddie, who becomes his sidekick, and knows his secret identity. It’s rather touching and well-handled.
The movie does reflect its low budget. The CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) is fine, but it purports to be set in Philadelphia, when, in fact, it was shot in Toronto. This becomes particularly obvious when they show full close-ups of the city. In addition, I did feel like there were two different movies, where Shazam and Billy Batson’s parts were not really connected, and it only managed to tie together in the end.
Shazam is a fun, sometimes whimsical, superhero film. I appreciated that the filmmakers weren’t afraid to make a superhero film directed specifically towards a children’s audience, with potential appeal to an adult audience, as well. It is very crowd-pleasing, and there is a nice message about finding and appreciating family. What these DC films, like Wonder Woman (2016) and Aquaman (2018), all succeed at is feeling genuine. I can’t say much more without spoiling it for you, but I can tell you, I highly recommend seeing this film.
Now playing in Hanover at the Nugget Theater, Monday - Thursday at 4:10 and 6:45 PM, and Friday - Sunday at 1:30, 4:10, and 6:45 PM.