For my reviews of the other films in the DCEU, click the following links:
- MAN OF STEEL (2013)
- BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016)
- SUICIDE SQUAD (2016)
- WONDER WOMAN (2017)
- JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017)
- AQUAMAN (2018)
So, arguably the second most made-fun-of superhero outside of Aquaman is getting his own movie now, huh? And it seems like he’s getting just as much praise as the King of Atlantis.
Actually, in a few ways, this movie’s existence makes perfect sense. Contrary to popular belief that Batman was the first DC superhero to be made onto either the big or small screen, Shazam was the first. Er, sort of. Back when he was officially called Captain Marvel… you know, before Marvel coined the name for their now-popular female superhero. Hey, for more information on that, you can do your own research. I know this character as Shazam, so I’m calling him Shazam. You purists can hate whatever the hell you want. The point I’m making is that Shazam was the first. He had a 1941 movie and, apparently, it was pretty good. Damn… should have seen that. It would later be revived in a ’70s show that lasted three years, so that sounds like it enjoyed some success as well.
Personally, I was introduced to Shazam via the legendary JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED show. My generation knows exactly what I’m talking about. Where Lex Luthor is a reformed man, Superman ain’t buying it and tries to prove that he’s still a villain, but Shazam comes in and the two boy scouts throw down, Superman concedes that he was wrong, Shazam quits the Justice League, feeling that the heroes he idolized don’t act like heroes anymore. That was a great episode and holy shit, I still remember it that vividly. Admittedly, I just watched that scene and I was taken right back to my adolescence. God, I love that show. I know there’s a lot more to his character than what that one episode brought, but I understood the jist. He’s an even lighter version of Superman. Similar powers, but more magic based.
Well, no more history. Let’s get to the good stuff.
The story looks like it’s about an orphaned boy who is taken in by an otherwise nice family and somewhat befriends his foster brother. Defends him against some bullies, escapes… somehow encounters the wizard Shazam, inherits his powers because… reasons, and begins a fun journey of discovering his powers and fighting a bad guy.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Asher Angel (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), Zachary Levi (THE STAR , THOR 2 , and TANGLED ), Jack Dylan Grazer (BEAUTIFUL BOY , IT , and upcoming films IT: CHAPTER 2  and DON’T TELL A SOUL ), and Mark Strong (KINGSMAN , and 2 , MISS SLOANE , SHERLOCK HOLMES , and the upcoming 1917 ).
In support, we have Djimon Hounsou (CAPTAIN MARVEL , KING ARTHUR , TARZAN , GUARDIANS , and the upcoming CHARLIE’S ANGELS ) and Adam Brody (CHIPS , YOGA HOSERS , and upcoming films READY OR NOT  and PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have David F. Sandberg, known for ANNABELLE: CREATION (2017) and LIGHTS OUT (2016). Penning the screenplay is Henry Gayden, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. One of the producers is Dwayne Johnson, known for FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY (2019), and the upcoming RED NOTICE (2020). Composing the score is Benjamin Wallfisch, known for SERENITY (2019), DARKEST MINDS (2018), BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017), HIDDEN FIGURES (2016), and upcoming films HELLBOY (2019) and IT: CHAPTER 2. The cinematographer is Maxine Alexandre, known for THE NUN (2018), ANNABELLE: CREATION, OTHER/DOOR (2016), and the upcoming CRAWL (2019). Finally, the editor is Michel Aller, known for THE NUN, ANNABELLE: CREATION, and LIGHTS OUT.
Overall, this movie looks like it’s going to be so much fun. I’m curious as to certain motivations and who exactly Mark Strong’s character is (I haven’t seen the final trailer). Hey, I just wanna laugh and have a good time. High hopes, y’all.
This is my honest opinion of: SHAZAM!
In the 1970s, a young Thaddeus Sivana (Ethan Pugiotto) was bullied and seen as less than worthy by his father (John Glover). He then experiences a fantastic event and whisked to a mysterious cave, headed by the powerful wizard, Shazam (Djimon Hounsou), the last of his kind, and the last guardian of the evil physical manifestations of the Seven Deadly Sins. However, his magic is fading and needs a new champion to protect the world, and the champion must be pure of heart. Should those prerequisites be met, he’ll inherit the wizard’s powers. However, Thad proves that he’s too susceptible to the Sins’ influence and isn’t worthy. As a result, he’s thrown back to his life.
In the present day, set in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a now-adult Thad (Mark Strong) has dedicated his life in searching for a way back to Shazam’s realm and surrendering to the power of the Seven Sins, promising him power. After a string of those who have had similar experiences, he finds his way there and allows himself to be consumed by the Sins.
Meanwhile, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a fourteen year old kid who has ran away from more than one foster home, desperately looking for his mother, whom he hasn’t seen since he was a toddler. When his search runs dry, he caves in and accepts to live with a new foster family, the Vazquez family and their home for other foster kids. Befriending Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), a disabled kid, he stands up for him when a pair of bullies attack him. He runs from the bullies and finds himself face to face with Shazam. Knowing that Billy is his only hope, Shazam convinces Billy to take his powers by saying his name, and becoming an adult-sized superhero (Zachary Levi).
Before this movie came out, all over the place I was seeing “best of the DC films.” I have to admit, I bought into the hype. It looked funny, always a fan of Zachary Levi, so I had no reason not to believe what I was hearing. Now that I’m walking away from it I say… I like it. I think it’s good. But… no, this isn’t the best DC movie. As far a more engaging protagonist is concerned, I still think WONDER WOMAN tops it, and as far as laughs go, I got a whole lot more out of AQUAMAN. With that said, sure, I’d say I’d rank this as better than MAN OF STEEL, so it’s got a cushy place as number three on my list and I think that’s saying something.
One of the “major” negatives I had with the flick was how janky and not well-put-together Sivana’s backstory was. Er… well, this may take some explaining. We open on his childhood, talking to the wizard, fails the “purity” test, and goes home. The next time we see him is when he’s an adult, and the scene is almost the exact same. Comes in, talks to the wizard, only this time he gets that orb that becomes his eye and gets possessed by the Seven Sins. I don’t know, I feel like there was a way to combine these two scenes and make it flow a bit better and not feel like repetition.
Speaking of this scene, I know it’s implied that the Wizard is weak, but when Sivana was a kid, he just zapped his hand and prevented him from touching the death orb. Why is it different now that he’s an adult? If the zap was more of an intimidation factor toward a kid, then why not just… send him back to his world? The Wizard’s been doing that for countless people over the decades and probably longer, so I can’t believe doing that takes much out of him. Go all Doctor Strange on Sivana’s ass and put him through a loop that prevents him from entering their sanctum. Or… I don’t know, change the “password” for the sanctum? Change locations? I don’t know, I feel like there were methods to preventing this from happening. Or, here’s an idea. When Sivana does get the death orb, why doesn’t he kill the Wizard right there and then? In retrospect, his downfall was his own doing by keeping the proverbial door open for the Wizard to find his champion and leave room for a rival.
Even some of the legalities and logic doesn’t make any real sense. I mean, the resident bullies actually hit a kid with a car! No, that’s straight hit-and-run, which turns into assault when they start bullying Freddy. Call the police! This isn’t something that they can hide from! I know, we want to see Shazam go Street Fighter bonus level on that car, but, in hindsight, it was obvious why logic didn’t take over.
This more falls inbetween both a positive and a negative. In regards to the Seven Sins, some of the designs are pretty fun and clever. Greed has four arms and Glutton is big and fat with an enormous mouth that practically takes up his entire body. However, some of the designs feel… unclear. I’m pretty sure that Lust is the skinny one with the long-ass tongue, but I have no idea which one is Sloth, Pride, or Wrath. And I have no idea why Envy is the small useless one. One would think that Sloth would be the useless one. I mean… it’s literally laziness.
But enough with the bashing. I said I liked this movie and thought that it was good, and to that I hold. Let’s get into the positives.
The very introduction of Billy was absolutely brilliant. Angel is perfectly cast to play both the cliché 40s kid, as well as the more realistic sarcastic and pessimist that he really is. His opening line, “holy moly” is so charmingly cheesy, but that was certainly the intention, making it work very well. It’s not like fourteen year olds say phrases like that, so sarcastic is the only way to go. In retrospect, Billy is a very well-defined character. He’s got such a negative outlook on life, but certainly deflects with sarcasm. Thing is, you know precisely why. He wandered off, lost his mom, and hasn’t seen her in ten years. At first, I was thinking that his pessimism doesn’t quite line up with his good-nature, but then I thought about it some more. He still has hope in finding his mother. His spirit hasn’t quite been broken enough for him be cold toward anyone. That hope still keeps his good nature in check. Still, at the end of the day, he’s a teenager. An unruly teenager. Giving someone like that superpowers is bound to have some self-indulgent, even selfish moments. He skips school, he takes selfies for money, shows off and isn’t the least bit subtle about his powers, but never crosses any particular line that makes him unlikable. Even when he does something that we know isn’t nice, we have to remember that he’s going through something that forever changes his life. No one would handle that well. Still, he’s a good kid who has his moments of selflessness and, when push comes to shove, he is protective and caring toward his foster family.
Of course, Levi is a great Shazam. If the DCEU is going to stick to this more light-hearted direction, then he’s going to fit in great. Pretty sure Zack Snyder’s vision is dead and done. In any case, Levi oozes charm as he tries to act like a freaking-out teenager in an adult body. The role of Shazam couldn’t have been more perfect as Levi is almost predominantly known for playing man-children, thanks to CHUCK. He never gets too annoying, playing it as straight as possible, bringing a ton of energy to every scene that he’s in. I love him and would love to see him act alongside the rest of the League.
Despite how weird his intro is, I have to say that I really like Sivana as a villain. He has a sympathetic backstory, perfectly setting up his motivations as an adult. You know exactly why he became bitter, angry, and vengeful. He was verbally abused, belittled, all his life. Plus, Strong is always so imposing as a comic villain. Plus, love that death eye of his.
One of my favorite aspects of the mystery surrounding his mother is that you legitimately don’t know how that’s going to end. Was she simply a mother who abandoned her son? Did something happen to her to prevent her from looking for him? Maybe she was kidnapped? Was she somehow involved with him becoming Shazam and that’s why he was the last resort for the Wizard? Was this even a mystery that would be solved in this movie? There were a ton of possibilities and I couldn’t predict a damned thing. That’s kind of rare.
One of the more refreshing elements to the story is how the kids figure out his identity. Partly because he Peter Parkers it like HOMECOMING where he just sucks at hiding his identity. However, I give credit that it makes more sense in this movie because he’s less seasoned a hero and therefore hasn’t worked out the kinks and nuances. With Peter Parker, it’s established in CIVIL WAR that he’d been Spider-Man for awhile. One would think that he’d be more effective at keeping his identity a secret, and yet more than a few people figure it out over the course of a single flick.
And I absolutely love the climactic fight scene. All the Sins fighting the Shazam family, the other foster kids as adults, perfect acted to suit their counterparts. It’s too much fun and funny.
Overall, the movie is good. I have more than a few issues that certainly prevent it from being great, but not less than good. At worst, the comedy is charming, at best, it’s hilarious. There are some quality characters, the acting is great, and it does make me want to see more. As a recommendation, DC is on a role with their live-action stuff, so I say it’s worth checking. No need to rush out, but it’s worth it on the big screen. I don’t know if I’ll want to watch it more than twice, myself, but at least once more would be nice.
My honest rating for SHAZAM!: 4/5
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