‘’Billy Batson, I choose you as champion‘’
Arriving a few months after the ocean acid trip that was Aquaman, David F. Sandberg’s Shazam! has finally bolted onto cinema screens. Zachary Levi and Asher Angel are Billy Batson, a teen orphan who is given an otherworldly opportunity to possess the godlike powers of a superhero. Billy is constantly moving from town to town, fearful of attaching himself to a new family and friends incase they hinder his primary motive: searching for his mother. When his search lands him in hot water, he finds himself sent to live with a new foster family, where he meets Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer).
Freddy is an energetic personality, enamoured with the folly of existing DCEU heroes (particularly Superman and Batman). On the other hand is Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong). Having being raised in an environment where he longs for validation, his thirst for power is unmatched. I won’t say much in regards to his motives but even at times Shazam! doesn’t quite know what tone it’s displaying, Mark Strong is clearly having a ball in another villainous turn in the same vein of Frank D’Amico from Kick Ass.
Thankfully, Shazam! for the most part, sticks with an endearing tone that is bolstered by Levi and Grazer’s innocently idyllic performances. Grazer almost steals the show with his pitch-perfect comedic timing and admirable wonder, yet Levi absolutely owns this role. If you had any worries about Shazam! being cheesy, then you’re right to hold some reservations as Sandberg definitely leans into comedic beats that are spiritual to the late Penny Marshall classic Big. While it does feature all the heroics and super-powered might you’d expect, Sandberg directs this as one big hangout fest where your best friend happens to have insane powers.
Big chunks of the runtime are spent with Billy and Freddy figuring out the mantra and ethics of a superhero together. It was genuinely refreshing to see a hero of this calibre acting age appropriate in regards to how their powers manifest consequence. Whether it is being reckless by shocking ATM’s into a state of pouring money or attempting to drink the “finest beers”, Sandberg takes time to study the effects that power has on both child and adult minds. The “superhero” element of Billy’s newfound Shazam moniker is second to his agenda of having fun.
The image of a Superman-like character, busking to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” is one the DCEU’s best comedic moments yet. Although the bar isn’t that high. Shazam! is one of the first movies in the pantheon of cinematic universes that is committed more to being a comedy, than an action bonanza.
Sandberg doesn’t disappoint on the action front too. Harkening back to the visceral power of Zack Snyder’s aerial combat, Sandberg’s set pieces are pure electricity.
I’d also like to take a moment to mention the grin-inducing score. Benjamin Wallfisch’s compositions evoke the finest layers of Alan Silvestri, providing Shazam! with a score fitting of wondrous child superhero.
You’ve probably heard the word “fun” mentioned heavily in the radius of Shazam!. This is in no way a detriment or excuse for Shazam! to be mindless. The DCEU has found themselves with an adventure that wants to examine the idea of potential and how its outcome is rendered by the hand its wielded by. Shazam! is one of the DCEU’s finest exports yet. This really is lightning in a bottle.
Cast: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer Michelle Borth, Djimon Hounsou
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