When Warner Brothers and DC decided to start their own cinematic universe, their genesis was placed upon the shoulders of 2013’s Man of Steel. The film is still to this day very divisive to say the least. People still have their fits about Henry Cavill’s Superman being too dark and moody. While others have said that his take is the best Superman we’ve ever gotten cinematically. Those debates only managed to get hotter when Ben Affleck was cast as an aging Batman in both Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice & Justice League. All three films were helmed by Watchmen-director, Zach Snyder. Snyder, in and of himself, has always been a filmmaker which you either love or hate – there is rarely ever any gray area. It’s also worth mentioning that Warner Brothers hasn’t really been happy with the critical or commercial performance of any of Snyder’s DC films. So when the two most recognizable superheroes in the world can’t cut it, where do you take your franchise?
The unlikely answer to that question has been to give us off-beat (with the exception of Wonder Woman) characters, their own movie. Aquaman, a character who was once the butt of numerous jokes for decades, made 1.147 billion dollars at the box office last year and holds a 65% on Rotten Tomatoes. Now, you can just say the word because another little-known hero is getting his shot at the bright lights of Hollywood: SHAZAM!
Shazam tells the story of Billy Batson, an orphan in a revolving door of foster homes, who receives the power of the Wizard Shazam and ultimately must stop the insanely driven, Dr. Sivana, played by Mark Strong. In his mythos, Shazam (or in his earlier days, Captain Marvel), has always been a character that doesn’t have the largest of rogues gallery. When the film makes the decision to really invest time to not only build its’ protagonist but its’ antagonist – you know you’re in for something special. That’s one of the smartest tricks Shazam! boasts. The film’s first act brilliantly balances the dual narrative of origins stories for Strong’s Sivana & Batson, played by relative newcomer Asher Angel. Both arcs effectively use their screen time to create an emotional depth unique to each characters. Establishing early on, that the next two hours are going to be filled with heart and emotion.
While the film is filled with plenty of heart, it’s really star Zachary Levi that effectively steals the show as the 15 year old turned superhero. Levi is hysterical and absolutely perfect. Those comedic elements are even furtherly executed when you add in the chemistry between IT: Chapter One star Jack Dylan Grazer and Levi. Their chemistry is a refreshing throwback to buddy comedies of yesterday. Comedies like Lethal Weapon, Wayne’s World, and Beverly Hills Cop. Grazer’s character is a bit of a nerd throughout the film. He is fascinated with Batman and Superman and knows probably too much about the superheroes. It’s only natural that Levi turns to Grazer, after receiving his powers, to make for some of the film’s funniest moments. Comedy aside, the two also manage to deliver plenty of heart. Crafting a perfect blend of heart, humor and genuine chemistry.
The first cinematic outing of boy turned superhero is almost perfect – though it does show some weaknesses. Much like Black Panther’s weaker points, there are some areas of the CGI that can feel a bit unfinished in certain areas of the film. Though the biggest complaint comes from the handling of Sivana’s arc throughout the duration of the film’s second act. The film’s second act really detaches itself from Sivana and focuses the majority of its time on Batson’s training as he tackles the mantle of superhero. Sivana is brilliantly handled within the first and final act, he just gets lost in the shuffle of its middle.
Overall, Shazam! is a genuine delight. Led with beautiful chemistry from leads, Zachary Levi & Jack Dylan Grazer, the latest offering from the DCEU is overflowing with heart and humor. Though, it does fall prey to some mishandling with its villain and some minor CGI – Shazam is hot with lightning. This is a film you don’t want to miss and could arguably be the best DC film since The Dark Knight.
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Promo by 3 Rivers Comic Con. Music by Logan McElroy and Shawn Davis. The X-Files are property of Fox. We do not own nor claim any rights. The Flash, Man of Steel & Shazam are property of Warner Brothers & DC Comics. We do not own nor claim any rights. Super Smash Bros is property of Nintendo. We do not own nor claim any rights.