Shazam! is the recent installment in what seems to be the decaying DC extended universe of films. David F. Sandberg is in the head chair which is a confusing pick considering his directing experience is primarily in the horror genre. With a script by Henry Gaayden, yet another “no-name”, it is a wonder the studio was able to get this story going. A story wherein a young teenage boy is chosen by an old wizard to possess incredible powers to protect the world from evil. Mark Strong is an antagonist, though! Because his last attempt in a DC comic book movie went so well…..
ShamWOW: Considering the track record of the DC comic book movies, Shazam! already had a low expectation level from the masses. This particular character, though he has been prominent in the comics for decades, may not be the most marketable in the cinema. Add in the body swap comedy aspect of the script which is foreign in this typically darker-toned universe, then there are only two words to describe Shazam!: it works. Shockingly this film amazed and surprised. It is far from perfection, even far from “very good”, but there are several aspects that contribute to Shazam! Potentially being the best DCEU movie that has been released. Here is why.
Levi/Angel/Grazer: The three protagonist stars captivate the screen and deliver entertaining performances. Zachary Levi surprised with great comedic timing and voice work. He embraced the body swap comedy aspect of the film which is always a delight if done correctly and Levi does not miss a beat when acting like a teenage boy in a grown man’s body. Asher Angel who is the boy trapped inside the heroes body is cocky yet vulnerable and that is portrayed well by the young actor. At times you want to shake this kid by the neck but then you kind of just want to hug him? Angel’s range of emotions as a young actor will only get better as the years go by. Then finally we have Jack Dylan Grazer. Calling him a sidekick is disrespectful to his tone setting and theme shifting performance. The film follows his character’s mindset it seems. Which illustrates how much Billy (Angel/Levi) relies on Freddy (Grazer) in the film.
Grounded When Needed: Comic book films can sometimes hit a wall of relatability with the audience. Look at some other DCEU films: Aquaman, sins of the father and masculine kingdom struggle? Pass. Wonder Woman, empowering to women, sure, but relatable because everyone is born as a weapon and has a need to prove their worth as that weapon? Nope, that is a miss again. Two very fine films in the current wave of DC movies. But none so far compared to the grounded narrative of Shazam!. Billy Batson is a troubled teenage foster kid and that emotional struggle is explored and highlighted wonderfully in a couple of scenes of the film. The “family” narrative can at times be dull and overplayed. But Billy’s character development does not make this a forced aspect of the film.
Shazam! is a funny body swap with a warm hearted human approach. The impressive performances in the film should make any fan excited for the future. And it works as a comic book movie.