Shazam! is a DC Comics hero with a very interesting origin: a young boy imbued with superpowers by a wizard. The lore combines fantasy with science-fiction and stars a very young boy as the protagonist. Taking on such a property and translating it into film is an ambitious endeavor but in this instance, DC really hit a home run.
One of the strongest aspects of the film was the impeccable casting. Asher Angel does an excellent job of portraying a kid from the wrong side of the tracks with a heart of gold: a child stuck in the foster care system, looking for his long lost mother. Billy Batson is not exactly the altruistic paradigm that is Marvel’s Peter Parker but his impulsiveness and lack of confidence make him all the more relatable to the audience. Additionally, Zachary Levi’s performance as a child who has shapeshifted into an adult superhero feels authentic and comical. Levi’s comedic timing and delivery shine through in his performances as Shazam. Most notable are the scenes depicting Levi as a superpowered busker on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (the “Rocky Steps”) and when he prevents a convenience store robbery.
Not to be outdone, Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman also gives a great portrayal of a superhero fanboy within the DC universe. Without Freddy, and his obsession with super beings, Billy would not have a purpose. In terms of storytelling, Freddy is what propels the story forward. This is in addition to the rest of the ensemble, such as the menacing and incredibly talented Mark Strong as Dr. Sivana, who are just impeccably well-cast.
Aside from the cast, where Shazam! Really shines is in its storytelling. A very dark, opening scene involving Dr. Sivana’s family and the abuse he endured, explains the preoccupation he has with the Wizard who later encounters Billy Batson. The same can be said of Batson’s backstory: the audience is introduced to Batson as a ne’er-do-well only to find out shortly thereafter, that his propensity to misbehave largely stems from being separated from his mother at an early age. The only complaint that may be relevant is regarding the antagonists in the film. At times, antagonists such as Freddy’s school bullies seem excessively and unrealistically cruel. While some school bullies may be vicious, it is difficult to imagine one, let alone a pair, that would openly mock a peer for having foster parents and being physically disabled. However, such issues do not take away from the film as a whole.
Shazam! is a fun adventure for the whole family and rates an overall 8 out of 10 for storytelling, tone, and entertainment value. Shazam! will be released in theaters on April 5th.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures