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Movie Review: Shazam!
April 13, 2019
The irony in Marvel’s Captain Marvel and DC’s Shazam! premiering roughly a month apart is the fact that both characters existed under the title of “Captain Marvel” at some point in comic book historyーand even at the same time.
Once Marvel trademarked the Captain Marvel name, DC began calling its hero by the name of the wizard who gave Billy Batson his powers: Shazam.
The close debut of both films unsurprisingly sparked a “which Captain Marvel is going to be better” debate on social media.
Truthfully, there’s no need for debate: Captain Marvel delivered in its own way, and so does Shazam!.
Shazam! follows the story of 14-year-old Billy Batson, a foster child prone to running away from home after home in search of his birth mother.
Played by Asher Angel, Billy finds himself placed in the home of Rosa and Victor Vasquez (Marta Milans and Cooper Andrews) and their foster children, Darla Dudley (Faithe Herman), Grace Fulton (Mary Bromfield), Eugene Choi (Ian Chen), Pedro Peña (Jovan Armand) and Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), after an incident with the law.
Billy struggles to adjust to his new family, especially eager superhero expert Freddy.
When the wizard Shazam chooses to pass his powers onto Billy, Billy becomes an adult superhero, played by Zachary Levi, who can transform between his 14-year-old self and hero self by speaking the wizard’s name.
With his newfound powers, Billy has a chance to discover who he truly is.
It’s no secret that Warner Bros. has struggled to produce consistently good movies since it began its own DC cinematic universe.
Wonder Woman was a smash hit, while the highly-anticipated Batman v. Superman and Justice League were underwhelming and Suicide Squad failed to live up to its hype.
Shazam! ultimately proves to be a refreshing change of pace for the DC Extended Universe.
The film is certainly not perfect by any means. It boasts a solid beginning and ending, but a plot that stalls in the middle. Its jokes are charming but can become corny at times (brace yourself for a big-screen superhero “flossing”).
Nonetheless, strong performances from its cast and quirky humor combine with exciting action to produce an origin story that is fun, despite its imperfections.
Shazam!’s driving force is its colorful characters– particularly its younger ones.
Angel steps into the role of the titular hero’s civilian identity with a touching maturity that will surely land the Disney Channel star more movie roles down the line.
However, it’s ultimately Grazer who steals the show as Freddy, who charmingly lives every “superhero geek’s” dream of coming face-to-face with a real hero. Freddy proves to be both the source of some of the film’s most hilarious moments and its most emotional ones.
With a wide range of fun personalities, Billy and Freddy’s group of foster siblings are a delightful addition to its young cast, highlighted by the always-adorable Herman who fans of NBC’s This Is Us will recognize as Annie Pearson.
Levi was born to step into the role of a goofy, costumed hero.
Given the task at hand of portraying an adult with a child’s personality, Levi is near-perfect. It will be exciting to see how he grows into the character, as a Shazam! sequel is reportedly in the works
DCEU films have often suffered from lackluster villains, but Mark Strong as Doctor Sivana is a significant step in the right direction.
Strong has the right appearance and the chilling voice to do a comic book villain justice. His flaw, however, is that he feels out of place at times amidst the film’s humorous tone.
Shazam!’s plot falls flat at times, but its promotion did a fantastic job of hiding the film’s most exciting moments, making those moments all the more enjoyable when they occur.
Shazam! is not a fantastic film, but it’s a great change of pace from the usual moodier tone of DC movies.
Its lighthearted humor, colorful characters and unique settings, topped off with fun fight scenes, make it truly feel like a comic book adaptation.
Hopefully, Shazam! (preceded by the well-received Aquaman) marks an upcoming string of successful, satisfying DC films, courtesy of Warner Bros.
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