Shazam!” – Review (A Refreshing Origin Story from DC Comics)

Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie/ & (c) DC Comics
Caption: (L-r) JACK DYLAN GRAZER as Freddy Freeman and ZACHARY LEVI as Shazam in New Line Cinema’s action adventure “SHAZAM!,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

“SHAZAM!” is the newest film from Warner Bros and DC Comics starring Asher Angel, Zachary Levi, Mark Strong and Jack Dylan Grazer. Directed by David F. Sandberg, this is the origin story of 14-year-old Billy Batson who when he shouts the word becomes the adult superhero known as Shazam. He will discover his powers, learn to use them, and face his first hurdle. This character is unfamiliar to me. I knew little to nothing about Shazam going in and to be honest the trailers looked fun, but they didn’t jump out at me. Nor did they build a ton of hype pulling me to see it. I went in with a blank slate simply wanting to learn about this hero.

Turns out I had a great time watching this introduction to the character and found the movie to be charismatic, loaded with adventure and woven with heartfelt personality. The script added some charm and ambition to the usual origin-story tropes to make the film feel surprisingly fresh overall. It was lighthearted in subject-matter, but not light in tone which I appreciated. This created ramifications to the actions in the narrative. It added weight to the emotion of things with a darker tone which was an enjoyable change of pace to see in the current MCU flooded comic-book movie market where the consistently light tone subconsciously kills some potential intensity that story angles can create.

The dialogue was very well-written and highly comical. There was a natural chemistry between the younger characters that felt appealing. The banter and interactions between them felt authentic and it resulted in solid laughs throughout. The script also infused the characters with grounded substance which I felt helped build a connection to their personalities and perspectives. I was able to understand where they were coming from, I felt like I got to know them. This made the characters feel like real people, and in this case, real kids. Thus, when young Billy Batson is given this gift of these powers, the reactions he and his friend experience felt authentic to what a couple kids would do in that reality. It was innocent fun that I could easily connect with which was a nice balance to knowing that something ominous was looming in the backdrop.

Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie/ & © DC Comics
Caption: ZACHARY LEVI as Shazam in New Line Cinema’s action adventure “SHAZAM!,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

I enjoyed how this story-line kept a smooth progression between the origin-story of Shazam, and the coming-of-age story of Billy Batson. It kept the curiosity in wanting to see how where the story would take both versions of the character. While at the same time being able to teach a person out of the loop like myself, about the foundation of the powers that create Shazam. As well as what his capabilities are, and the history those abilities. The story progression works in an emotionally driven back-story to the villain played my Mark Strong. I loved how this movie framed the protagonist by giving him genuine motivation. There was an imposing vibe created for his villainous arc, and with the immaturity of Batson it built a natural fear for the hero which is not often accomplished in comic-book movies these days.

I enjoyed the performances across the board as well. I’m unknown to Zachary Levi. I think this is the first thing I’ve seen him in, but I thought he did a great job. He was able to capture that sense of being a kid inside the body of a grown superhero. His mannerisms, and his delivery of the dialogue were nicely crafted and even when he was in full superhero-mode he always felt like a young teenager and I that is the point of this hero. Asher Angel did a great job in his role as Batson and felt capable carrying a bulk of this movie on his shoulders. He captured the range of emotions to sell me on his being a troubled kid and with a ton of charisma in his performance, I was easily able to gravitate to him and root for his success.

Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie/ & © DC Comics
Caption: (L-r) ZACHARY LEVI as Shazam and JACK DYLAN GRAZER as Freddy Freeman in New Line Cinema’s action adventure “SHAZAM!,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

The special-effects vibrant and crisp. I enjoyed the visual styling of the movie overall. It was fun seeing the growth in Shazam’s powers as he learned to used them. I also think Sandberg did a great job through his direction of utilizing that idea when capturing the action onscreen. The sequences were loaded with spectacle and varying levels of intensity. They also showed a fresh area of creativity as the constant focus of ‘growing into the hero role’ was always a priority. It resulted in some action set-pieces that were equally as adrenaline pumping as they were comical. The settings and backdrops were also nicely chosen with some action-packed day sequences that were visually appealing. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this movie, but it was a wildly adventurous superhero story that had some grounded heart.

It was slightly long. I think the second-act was stretched and could have trimmed a couple of repetitive scenes. I also think it tried to do a little too much in the final-act and resulted in some things feeling rushed. But it wasn’t a deal-breaker. The tone later in the film also felt like it got a little lighter than it needed to. But it was still a heartwarming coming-of-age story mixed with the weight of a superheroes first mission. The energy level was constantly high, and the ambition was refreshing in the era for a formula can hinder variety.