Shazam! is the seventh release from the DC Extended Universe, but will it prove to be lucky number seven? Let’s give the ol’ magic ball a shake and see…”The Outlook for this Review looks Good”.
It’s fair to say, unless you’re a massive DC fanboy/girl, that the rush to create a Justice League triumph has been less than successful, but Warner Brothers have managed to excel in their standalone outings. Wonder Woman provided feminine might, Aquaman saw us entertained in a watery world, and now David F. Sandberg’s film has us royally treated with a lightning bolt of comedy and fun.
Running away from numerous foster set-ups is orphan Billy Batson (Asher Angel) who hopes to reconnect with his true family. As he escapes a mad yet loving new home, Billy winds up claiming powers from a wizard; who hopes he is the chosen one to prevent deadly monsters from destroying the world. Shazam (Zachary Levi) is his alter-ego, which sees him turning into an adult and developing a range of nifty powers.
A heavy yet delightful feeling with this movie is down to its nostalgic callback to 1988’s Big. Fun fair carnival? Tick. Kid becoming grown-up? Tick. Sandberg and Warner Bros. clearly know this and give knowing winks throughout with a lovely little tinkle on a walking piano during a fight sequence.
It’s within this charming sense of nostalgia that Shazam! levels up against the previous DC films. The tone of this movie, for the most part, is pure walking on air lightness. Once Batson has gained his new identity, the audience are gifted amusing sketch-esque scenes, such as planning to buy a lair or tests of skill during a robbery. These fantastically created skits mold into the story wonderfully and it becomes a movie that plays about with an impish tone like a gleeful child.
What’s great to see, even more than the jokey nature, is the foster family dynamics – which play a vital role. The Vasquez couple who have taken in Billy and five other orphans become a loving shelter for togetherness. Their bumper sticker says it best by proclaiming fostering to be a power. The movie might provide plenty of comedy, but it knows exactly where its heart lies and it keeps coming back to this warming family angle to highlight the tried-and-tested morals of finding yourself in an engaging and homely manner.
The ideologies of goodness, heroics and consequent responsibilities have invigorating life zapped into them thanks to the youthful bounce of Shazam actually being a kid and learning his way with the help of foster-brother Freddy. Their bond in the initial stages proves that a DC film doesn’t need countless inclusions of Supes or Bats to whet the appetite, in fact riffing on their imagery is what makes this film much better.
Shaky ground does threaten to happen in the latter stages and the villainy on show isn’t the strongest of narratives, with the notion of the seven deadly sins not being realized to their fully devastating or interesting potential. It also seems to be a recurrent issue with the DCEU that their films descend into a third act CGI free-for-all and Shazam! is no exception. Saying that, it only really becomes that way for the final 15 minutes and it incorporates monsters and the power of family, so it can almost be forgiven and forgotten.
Zachary Levi is the perfect actor to embody the man-child verve of newly installed superpowers. You can tell he is having an absolute ball as this character and you too can’t help but share that feeling. These antics wouldn’t work as well if it wasn’t for the comic sensation of Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy, who is the perfect partner to Levi.
It’s hugely refreshing to leave a DCEU feature with a bounce in your step and a smile still on your face, so congratulations Shazam! for being the magic ingredient your hero universe needed.