We all know that DC execs’ realization that their superhero movie does not need to exactly follow Marvel’s trajectory came very late and with a dire cost. Yet, slowly, the hope rises. Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman has gone through a territory Marvel never ventured (at least until Captain Marvel); then, James Wan’s Aquaman, despite all the flaws, were an exhilarating, likable blockbuster. The breakthrough continues with Shazam!, a magic-powered superhero movie, which comes to fulfill childhood’s fantasy of those growing up with the lots of Power Rangers or BeetleBorgs.
After an encounter with an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou), an orphaned teenage, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is granted magical power that can turn him into a broad-chested, adult-bodied hero called Shazam (portrayed by Zachary Levi). The premise might sound like BeetleBorg, if not Big with superhero twist. Billy’s been in his lifetime quest of finding his biological mother when he’s got the power. When he becomes Shazam, he would spend most of the time hanging out with his foster brother, Freddy (Jack Dylan Glazer) before encountering a power-wielding villain, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong).
If not for the release date, Shazam! could easily become a campy yet memorable Christmas blockbuster that belongs to the guild along with Jingle All the Way, Home Alone or Die Hard. It really takes its time to have a lot of fun with its deliberate childish demeanor: checking up all Shazam’s superhero ability or even finding out the best name (that includes Zap-tain America). While the action sequences were pretty basic (forget about city-flattening battle in Man of Steel), the showcase of Shazam’s super powers is the funniest to watch.
Being an origin story, Shazam! exploits its entire run to explore the hero’s powers with sense of fun. Zachary Levi takes it more than a persona. He manages to channel the hero’s mighty persona and blends it with Billy’s childish manner, which makes Levi’s performance surged with an unusual depth and power. The supercharged humor can be overwhelming at times, but, even when it appears in the middle of climactic battle, it safely lands without damaging the narrative build.
While harboring tons of fun, the center of Shazam! really is Billy’s lifetime quest of finding the family. Asher Angel manages to deliver quite a performance to make audiences sympathetic to Billy; meanwhile, Glazer provides an effective side-kick. There’s a moment where a key moment in Shazam! feels a little too bland and the narrative feels too stretched; but, it’s easy to ignore them once the movie flaunts its warm, hearty side.
In the end, DC’s attempt to revamp their superhero rosters with Zachary Levi’s Shazam! is a promising step towards their future project. In the end, who knows that a fun-loving, absurd icon directed by another horror director is, by far, DC’s most fun entry?
Action, Adventure, Adaptation, Comedy Directed by: David F. Sandberg Written by: Henry Gayden, Darren Lemke based on characters by Bill Parker, C.C. Beck Starred by: Zachary Levi, Djimon Hounsou, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Glazer, Mark Strong Runtime: 132 mins