The Magic Word: Shazam!
I went into DC’s Shazam! with high hopes. The trailers looked hilarious and the acting and casting seemed absolutely spot on, and I’m thrilled to say that I wasn’t let down in the slightest. Not since Deadpool have I found myself laughing so hard and so consistently with a superhero film. Shazam! absolutely proves that DC Extended Universe can not only make a great superhero film, but in my opinion, they can make some of the best.
Shazam! follows Billy Batson, a teenager who’s bounced from foster home to foster home trying to find his real mother and never truly fitting in. Portrayed brilliantly by Asher Angel, Billy is both understandably distant and relatably vulnerable as he struggles to realize who his true family is. When he is granted the mystical powers of Shazam, Billy grows into an adult with incredible powers, portrayed by Zachary Levi (pictured above). The awe and wonder Levi gives off at his own strength and abilities never failed to put a smile on my face.
But a film is nothing without its supporting cast, and this film delivers that in spades with the six foster children that Billy calls family. Jack Glazer plays Freddie, a superhero fanboy and by proxy, Billy’s mentor in caped crusading. His chemistry with both kid and adult Billy is absolutely fantastic and a joy to watch. Faithe Herman plays the youngest sibling Daria, whose endless positivity and love for each and every one of her brothers and sisters never failed to warm my heart. The same can be said for the foster parents, Victor and Rosa, played by Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans. Each and every one of them contribute to a loving, beautiful portrayal of a foster family, something, unfortunately, rarely seen in modern media.
This ties into the main theme of Shazam!: Family. Billy spends the whole film trying to find his family, and seeing how his new family shapes his own growth as a person. Conversely, the film’s villain, Dr. Sivana (played by Mark Strong) was never accepted by his family and chose to harden his heart to all those around him. In the end, the film teaches us that its not who raises you that matter, but more, how you treat others around you. That’s what separates and even elevates Shazam! above all of the previous DCEU Films: its heart.
Wonder Woman was an absolute triumph of a film, but unfortunately had a bit of a weak third act. Aquaman presented us with a beautiful new realm in the form of Atlantis, but was otherwise bloated and unmemorable. Honestly, enough has been said about the likes of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and Man of Steel. With Shazam!, the movie is relentlessly entertaining, has a great message for kids, is truly bright and an absolute joy to experience. I can attest to that, not only because of my or my friend Maya Hanks’ reactions, but the audience’s as well.
At the early screening I attended, every single person there was in stitches at every joke this film made. Not only that, but the film inspired genuine awe from children in the audience, with reverent whispers of “Wow…” when Shazam first took flight. I honestly cannot remember the last time any superhero film, let alone a DC one, inspired that much amazement. It’s truly reminiscent of Christopher Reeve’s iconic portrayal in Superman back in the 1970s. This is what DC was always supposed to be – characters we aspire to be, ones beyond us yet ones with values that we can uphold ourselves.
The DC Extended Universe has certainly had its ups and its many, many downs. But if we can get more films like this one, I hope we never stop hearing that magic word.
I give Shazam! 5 stars out of 5.