They say time flies when you’re having fun, and Shazam! is a tonne of fun. It’s like Suddenly 30 (2004) crossed with a superhero film and it works. Directed by horror director David F. Sandberg, Shazam! is the origin story of Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a 14-year-old boy who can turn himself into an adult superhero by shouting SHAZAM.
Another film in the DC Extended Universe has arrived and Shazam! has succeeded in delivering another strong superhero film off the back of Aquaman (2018). I honestly didn’t have the highest of hopes for Shazam!, but it proved through a character-driven story, strong relationships, and ample humour that there’s still original superhero stories out there. For an origin story, it moves along pretty fast and doesn’t have many slow points. It does hit some roadblocks when it’s focusing on the villain’s story but for the most part it’s a very fun ride.
The story surprisingly has a lot of heart to it and the focus is not on the action but on the relationships between the characters. The central theme of family is heavily explored throughout the entire film and builds the basis of every character in here, yes, even the villain to an extent. It is the strongest with the younger (and older) Billy Batson who spends the film getting accustomed with his new abilities but also discovering what it’s like to be part of a family. The themes are strong and they’re what give the film its sense of character and uniqueness to set itself apart from the rest.
The dynamic between older Billy, aka Shazam (Zachary Levi), and his foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) is fantastic and is the source of much of the emotion and, more importantly, the humour. The film, a lot of the time, prioritises the humour and that really is what makes it such a fun and enjoyable ride. The back and forth dynamic between Zachary and Jack is endlessly entertaining, the two of them exploring these newfound superhero powers is just a lot of good fun. Zachary is fantastic and hilarious when it comes to channeling how a 14-year-old boy would react in certain situations. The way he presents himself and acts to paint that picture of a young boy is great and he steals the show.
The humour bought to the film is very effective and rarely misses a beat. It’s smart, witty and caters towards all audiences. There’s even some great dumb humour for anyone who responds to that. It really doesn’t take itself all too seriously and that’s fantastic because the nature of the story is a little too ridiculous to be taken too seriously.
When it comes to the villain, Mark Strong‘s Dr. Sivana is very standard and not memorable at all. So unmemorable in fact, that I just had to look up his name because I had no idea. Mark Strong is good when it comes to playing a villainous role, he pulls it off here well, there’s just nothing to his character that’s original. There’s nothing about him to set himself apart from literally any other villain. There are also some cgi villains that accompany Strong and the cgi is not great. They stand out and don’t fit visually with the rest of the film. They do work for the story though and their presence makes sense so that part is ok. The action is good, there’s not a lot of it, but that’s fine because the character-specific story and humour is a more than satisfactory substitute.
In the end, Shazam! defies expectations and delivers a strong character-specific story with heart and a central theme of family driving the way. It rarely slows down and keeps things moving along for a fun fast-paced adventure. Zachary Levi is great in here and would make an interesting addition to the Justice League… if the DC Extended Universe is still heading in that direction.