Sometimes a movie just hits it out of the park. And for the DCEU it’s a much needed welcome. With Shazam, they find their near perfect movie. From the opening teaser to one of the best third act in a superhero movie, Shazam is just plain fun. This movie is everything Aquaman wanted to be but failed just a little short of being. And that is not to say that Aquaman isn’t good, it just means that Shazam is better. Yes, some of the CGI could have used a week or two so that it could have been perfect, but I am ready to excuse it just for how plain fun this film was. From the opening teaser, you are sucked in. Strong direction, writing and acting makes for one of those movies that, in a world where superhero movies are everywhere, just bring a breath of fresh air.
When Zachary Levi (Chuck) was cast as the title superhero, his casting was met with a lot of skepticism. Not because people doubted his acting ability but because one, he didn’t look like a superhero and two, he was mostly known for comedic roles. Now, I don’t know how much of the script actually was what ended up on screen or how much he improvised on set but he is a shining beam of light in this movie and brings everything together in a really nice way. Billy Batson is a kid who gets to become an adult superhero and that could have been too much but Levi plays it in such a way that is full of glee. You truly believe that this is a kid inside a grown man’s body (a weird sentence to write I will admit) and it’s just so wonderful to watch him grow not only as a superhero but also as a human being.
At its core, Shazam is about family. More importantly what makes a family. What I love about this film is the juxtaposition of Billy and Dr. Sivana played by Mark Strong (Kingsman). Both of them come from a broken family. Billy was abandoned by his mother after he got lost when he was a child and Dr. Sivana grew up with a father and brother who belittled him and made him feel like he was nothing. The thing that makes them different is the way that they react to this upbringing. If Billy is able to look past what was done to him and see the good that can come out of it, Dr. Sivana is the opposite and becomes consumed by the idea of becoming Shazam himself. This film might be Shazam’s origin story but it’s also very much Dr. Sivana’s too.
Most superheroes movies have the third act slump where unfortunately it can’t live up to the potential that has been shown. This is not the case for Shazam. This movie has one of the best third act that I have ever seen in this type of movie. Everything works well, the final battle doesn’t feel cliche and it has one of the best moment of the whole movie. At one point, everyone went from applauding loudly, to laughing and then applauding again in less than thirty seconds. And I think that is what Shazam does best. It blends the humour with the drama and excitement so well. It makes you laugh and then punches you in the gut with emotions. It’s a movie that knows how to balance and pace itself so well that you can’t feel the two hours and fifteen minutes runtime.
Shazam balances the different tones that are in the film so well. David F. Sandberg has prior to this only really done horror films, Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation are the most well known, but the way he is able to incorporate his horror background with the humour that his lead actor provided is really genius. It’s something that shouldn’t work most of the time and yet it lands just so well. The DCEU has been plagued with criticism for its tone, while I could enjoy the darker tone of the earlier film, if this is the future of the DCEU, I can’t be mad at it. There’s just something wonderful about the way this film was handled and it makes me excited for the future of not only this franchise but the DCEU as a whole.
Shazam was the underdog. Hell, even WB didn’t really see the point of it because they considered the film a smaller property which is why New Line Cinema was the producer on it and not Warner Bros. But Shazam proves that sometimes smaller works. The scale isn’t grand in the film, yes the other DC heroes are talked about at length, hell Jack Dylan Grazer’s (It) Freddy only wears superhero shirt, Shazam stands on its own. It creates its own little universe, and yet I expect that it will become grander with time but for now this little bubble that it lives in works so well.
Shazam is pure fun from beginning to end. And it might not be on your radar with Avengers: Endgame coming really soon, but if you want to have a good laugh before we all go to cry in front of Endgame, go see Shazam when it comes out in theatres April 5.