Yes, it will spark joy
DC Films has made a reputation for itself in the realm of superhero movies; theirs is action-packed, serious in theme, gritty and sometimes, very dark (literally and figuratively). Too often, the characters have heart and display heroics, but lack humor, hope and optimism (save for Wonder Woman). I guess that’s fine if you’re neck-deep into the world of comics and superheroes, but for a normie movie-goer like myself, something less dour and a bit more laugh-out-loud is more than appreciated.
Enter: Shazam!, a movie about a 14-year-old boy who can transform into an adult superhero of the same name. It is perhaps the franchise’s attempt to bring back the fun in movies (theirs and in general), particularly in the superhero genre. And in a time where beloved characters are annihilated, turn to violence or on one another in the name of justice or what’s right, Shazam! easily becomes a welcome and memorable respite.
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The movie & cast
Feel-good and unexpectedly pure (seriously, profanity is bleeped out), the movie begins quite like how many DC films begin: dark and opens with the story of Doctor Sivana played by Mark Strong. But it pulls back just as quickly and lays out the foundation of how a teenaged Billy Batson (Asher Angel), in and out of foster care, finds his way into a mystical dimension and later in the body of a grown superhero played by Zachary Levi. Now gifted with ancient powers—strength, flight, immunity from fire and bullets—Batson uses his super abilities to do what a 14-year-old would: get money, buy beer and skip school with foster brother Freddie Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer). Things get serious when an equal but opposite force appears in the scene. Behold, Doctor Sivana and he’s looking pretty sinister and evil. But unlike the supers we’ve seen in recent years, Batson doesn’t immediately want to save the world. He’d rather perform tricks in front of a crowd and shoot lightning from his fingertips to the tune of Rocky’s theme song. But who can blame him? Inside the honestly, god-like body of Shazam is a teenaged boy who just wants to be a teenager. A chase that features a bit of action, slapstick comedy and jokes in between ensues throughout the city of Philadelphia, while the absolutely joyous and satisfying climax comes near the end of the film. Just when viewers like myself are completely clueless about what the hero’s going to do next.
As for the characters, Angel and Levi were excellent at their roles and were believably the version of the other. The young supporting cast, particularly Grazer and Faithe Herman as Darla, Batson’s youngest foster sister, were annoyingly adorable and showed depth even as younglings.
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Feelings and post-credits
Shazam! is probably the first of its kind in DC film history. But fantasy and comic books aside, the movie wins in its strong and very necessary messages about family; it goes to show how family comes in different forms while reinforcing the importance of nurturing the young. It’s funny—sometimes too funny—throughout, but is unafraid to take it to the dark side when necessary (the monsters are brutal and scary but fantastical). I could’ve used a little more action though but Shazam! did what it set out to do: spice up the narrative of supers.
For comic book fans, Easter eggs are littered throughout the movie, especially during the post-credit scenes (there are two by the way), so don’t be in a hurry to leave. But don’t think too much about it—minor plot holes be damned—just enjoy the fun, family-friendly, profanity-bleeping superhero movie that is Shazam!
Shazam! is in cinemas April 3, 2019.
Art Alexandra Lara