In just over a week people across the world will know one word and the power behind it. That word is Shazam. Starring Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer and Mark Strong Shazam! is directed by horror expert David F. Sandberg and has been described as Big meets Superman.
Shazam! follows Billy Batson (Angel) a young man searching for his other. After bouncing from 20+ foster homes he is placed with the Vasquez’s. This couple has built a miniature foster home filled 5 children and now with Billy, it makes 6.
Billy makes it work the best he can especially with the eccentricities of his new “brothers” and “sisters”. From Freddie (Grazer) with his obsession for superheroes to Darla (Faithe Herman) the youngest of the brood who is incredibly affectionate the foster family is easily one of the highlights of Shazam!
Along the way, Billy saves Freddie from some over the top bullies and after escaping their clutches he finds himself in the Rock of Eternity aka the centre of all magic aka the home of the Wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou). The Wizard is a bit down on his luck it seems as he needs a champion and the best he’s got is Billy who is less than ideal. However, the Wizard decides that it is in his best interest to give this boy a chance and in doing so Billy becomes the titular superhero Shazam imbued with the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. Quite a mouthful if you ask me.
What does Billy do with these incredible powers, powers from myth and legend? Well, he becomes a glorified hero for hire, a YouTube sensation, and a busker (easily the best one).
At the centre of Shazam! is the heart and pure joy of wish fulfillment. Every child (myself included wanted to be a superhero at one point) and director David F. Sandberg understands this. What Sandberg also understands is when to show not only the light but the darkness of this world. Billy and Freddie are having a blast trying to figure out what kind of life Billy can now lead as Shazam. This is all thanks to Levi and Grazer’s electric (pardon the pun) chemistry. They’re so funny together and feel like brothers.
On the other end of the spectrum is Dr. Sivana (Strong) a man powered by enemies of the Wizard. He utilises what powers he has to bring those who have wronged him to their knees and as per usual Strong brings his signature charm and wit to the role.
Sandberg combines Strong’s impressive presence with his own unique horror tones to bring the villains of Shazam! to frightening life. Unfortunately what doesn’t work for the director is the action. Shazam is comparable to Superman in strength and abilities (though their sources are vastly different) and yet the director does not have a handle on the true potential of Earth’s Mightiest Mortal. It’s a shame as the cinematography and CGI are well handed. When it comes to the action however that particular element comes across as a muted Man of Steel.
Another aspect that came across as predictable was the progression of the story. You know where Billy and his family will end up by the end of the film but unless you are a comic book fan you won’t know the exact specifics and for that, there is still a lot of surprises for audiences.
The final issue with the film is the length. Clocking in at 132 minutes the story is overblown. It needed to be more concise and structured to be even more impactful.
All and all Shazam! is top tier DC. It’s a film that shows the strength of family and the power of the human spirit against incredible odds. It has heart, humour and you’ll have a whole lot of fun while you’re watching it.