That’s 7 for 7 with me and the DC Extended Universe. Yes I’m biased but you already knew that, let’s be honest.
Shazam is a big deal for the DCEU because it is officially the first franchise film completely produced under Walter Hamada’s reign, and it was one that he was associated with at New Line Cinema before he became the DCEU boss, so as great as Aquaman was, a lot of people were looking at this movie as the true test of the new direction for the franchise.
Let’s just say people really shouldn’t be disappointed. Wow.
We all know the plot by now. Young kid Billy Batson crosses paths with the ancient wizard who gives him the powers of Shazam and he must battle the wicked Doctor Sivana who is obsessed with usurping that power for his own nefarious ends.
We will begin the praise with the cast. In a word: PERFECT. Top to bottom. As of this review, which I wrote minutes after seeing the movie, I can’t find a casting weakness in it and a big reason for that is because of how everyone is written and fits into the film. This isn’t your standard superhero origin story by any means. This is literally us watching someone learn how and why to be a superhero, and we see ALL of it.
Asher Angel and Zachary Levi were spot on choices for their roles and through them you really see the growth of Billy Batson into Shazam over the course of the film. You see and feel Billy’s story, you understand what he’s going through, he may do some things that seriously make him a rotten kid at times, but you know he’s going to learn that important lesson and it’s going to be awesome when he does......and egads, is it ever awesome.
Mark Strong’s Doctor Sivana continues the DCEU tradition of strong villains, again in this case not because of an incredible standout performance, but because of how he fits the story and the definitive themes around it. Like Billy, you get his issues too and you understand them, even if you know he must be stopped.
Jack Dylan Grazer is dynamite as Freddy Freeman and is one of the best expositional characters you could have in a movie like this. His chemistry with both Angel and Levi is impeccable and invaluable to a lot of this movie’s heart and soul. In fact, right there is the true power of Shazam: heart and soul. This movie has A LOT of it, and it doesn’t rest just within Billy/Shazam and Freddy, it’s the whole foster family unit. The best thing they could have done with this movie is they treated it like a real family film with all of the elements you could expect from any of the great ones you’ve seen, like Adventures In Babysitting, The Goonies and of course Big. Yes, all of those movies popped into my head at one point or another while watching Shazam.
Its that heart that captures the attention of the audience and had my theater captivated, cracking up at the jokes and enjoying the great action. This movie is very well balanced in both and also has great decompression and developmental moments for the characters. You seriously care about this whole family by the time the movie is over and it has a great message about the importance and the unique dynamics of what a family can be like. This will hit home for you if you’re a foster kid, no question about it.
This is another case where I’m kind of stunned that this movie was made for under $100 million because the VFX is very good throughout the whole film. There are a few moments here and there that you can catch if you’re looking, but nothing egregious that the general audience will even catch or likely care about at all.
Benjamin Wallfisch’s score is CLASSIC. Seriously, it feels like you’ve heard it before but it’s different in a great way. He crafts a theme and goes for the bombastic vibe a la John Williams and pulls it off brilliantly.
There’s a lot more I could delve into here if this was a spoiler-filled review, but of course I don’t do that here to assist those who haven’t seen it yet. All I can tell you is that WB held A TON OF STUFF out of the marketing. Seriously, I’m blown away at how they kept certain things hidden and that they were able to convince the brass to keep it hidden when promoting the film. There are so many things they could have shown us and usually would have shown us, but they waited until the film itself to show it. Bravo, WB. That’s a masterclass in how to market a comic book movie without spoiling the big stuff. Seriously, there’s big stuff in this movie that you think you’re ready to see and if you’re a fan of Shazam or DC, you’re just not ready to see it. Trust me on that one and enjoy the ride.
Shazam is a triumph for the DCEU and a great film to follow up Aquaman with. I can’t wait to see it again and make sure when you see it, you stay until the end credits. We can definitely say that about the DCEU now, at least with this film. Here’s hoping that the future of this particular film and the world within it, which is WELL CONNECTED in the DCEU by the way, is as bright as this first effort is.
SHAZAM - 5 out of 5 - In theaters April 5, 2019