Shazam! (2019)

"Look, Freddy, I swear it’s me, okay? Look, I know we’re not really close friends or anything, but you’re the only person that I know that knows anything about this Caped Crusader stuff.""Look, Freddy, I swear it’s me, okay? Look, I know we’re not really close friends or anything, but you’re the only person that I know that knows anything about this Caped Crusader stuff."

“Look, Freddy, I swear it’s me, okay? Look, I know we’re not really close friends or anything, but you’re the only person that I know that knows anything about this Caped Crusader stuff.”

The wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. Shazam! Or previously known as Captain Sparkle Fingers to the comic book readers is the full embodiment of DC and Warner’s new approach to putting out movies in their “shared universe”. Long gone are the days of Man of Steel or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. They have been replaced with brighter colors and contrast and humor, actual laugh out loud funny dialogue that fits the characters that speak their respective lines.

The year 2019 is special for the comic book genre for many reasons. The MCU is set to release the final chapter in the “Infinity Saga” with Avengers: Endgame but before that can come out both DC and Marvel release feature films with a Character that Is named Captain Marvel within months of each other. What is also notable about each film is they both share the talent of an actor in Djimon Honsou. Djimon previously appeared in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy and as the voice of King Ricou of the Fisherman in Aquaman.

The last surviving member (Djimon Honsou) of the council of wizards has been seeking out individuals to become a champion to gain control of the abilities of Shazam. The individual must be pure of heart to become Shazam. In 1974 Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) gets summoned to the Rock of Eternity but doesn’t pass the test that proves the purity of heart. In the years to come Thaddeus will become obsessed with making his way back to gain the Eye of Sin in which Sivana will become host to the seven deadly sins. In present day, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is an orphan with the mission to find his mother whom he was separated from as a young boy. 

“I mean, it’s a pretty sick view. I totally get why Rocky was training so hard to get up here.”

Billy is placed in a group home with five other foster kids who overwhelm him with welcome when his only focus is to find his mom. One of the foster kids Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) forms a bond with Billy that Billy helps Freddy while he gets jumped. The wizard summons Billy to the Rock of Eternity and transfers his power to Billy who becomes Shazam (Zachary Levi). 

At a certain age all boys hope and wonder what it would actually be like if they’ve gotten superpowers; Shazam! fulfills those outcries and wishes. Zachary Levi is perfectly cast in the role as Shazam with the sheer amount of energy he brings to the character. Even better – Levi and Asher Angel are on the same mentally with their respective characters. Same can be said about Zach and Jack’s chemistry on screen together, they have perfect timing with the humor while their performances feel like they enjoyed working together. 

Every superhero film in existence has the protagonist explore his or her powers for the first time. Shazam! Is no different but how these powers are explored is fun and unique that fits the younger characters. Making a YouTube videos testing flight and fire resistance, trying to see if they can score a 6 pack of beer from a convenience store, trying it and getting a bunch of snacks instead, using the power to charge strangers cell phones, and accidentally using lightning to get money from an ATM or a bunch of Dr. Pepper is everything that a teenager would do. Even attempting to come up with cool catch phrases or a bad ass name that will strike fear in your enemies. Director David. F. Sandberg and Zachary Levi capture that spirit with each of those different scenes. 

“No shit. You think? I would kill to have what you have. Because everything I do is like some desperate attempt to get people to notice me, to not feel sorry for me. I mean, look at me. Look at me. Do you even see me? Because most people don’t, because they don’t want to. And now you don’t either. I mean, you think this is who you are? I mean, Billy, you’re fourteen. And now you’re no better than the Breyers. All this power, and all you did was turn into a showoff and a bully.”

The main theme Shazam! centers around is the theme of family. Both protagonist and antagonist have tragic pasts with family. Dr. Sivana is looked at as a mistake that can do nothing right in his fathers’ eyes. He’s more of a burden than a blessing. Billy on the other hand puts majority of his effort into finding his biological mother that when he realizes the truth of what happened it doesn’t matter because he found his family in the foster home. The family scenes are charming and heartwarming – something that is rare in the DCEU. It’s as if Warner and Dc are taking a page right out of Marvel’s book.

One question that is answered in Shazam!  happens during the final act. The scene in question is when both characters are in air and conversing. This is a typical scene in majority of comic book movies – its either in air or on the ground. Screenwriter Henry Gayden uses Zachary Levi’s humor and charisma to his advantage. How do characters hear each other at a distance? They don’t, it’s impossible. 

Shazam! Is easily comparable to the Tom Hanks film Big where its evident David Sandberg took his inspiration from. It’s not as much a knockoff of Big but its more of a love letter to it. It’s a pleasant story choice that Levi makes his own. 

It’s understandable that all characters should be well developed to have their motivations laid out in a real manner. Shazam! does so but uses too much of its time in the beginning to set up Sivana’s back story. It slows the pacing down explaining who this character is and what his future motivations will be. I’d prefer the development but not at the expense of slowing the story down. 

The question has to be asked Is Shazam! A Christmas movie? I say it Is. The story centers around Christmas and is featured prominently in majority of the screens. Of course, its up for interpretation but just like Die Hardthe argument can be made.

Shazam! Is a breath of fresh air for the superhero genre and the DCEU. This is the first film in this small extended universe where the humor works in an organic way instead of being forced in. Shazam! Has strong performances from Zachary Levi, Asher Angel and Jack Dylan Grazer. Often, we see a poor choice of a villain or lackluster character development but with Mark Strong as the villain, the writing and performance are solid for Sivana. If I were to rate Shazam! Id rate it a 4 out of 5. 

So, tell me guys, have you seen Shazam! and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think. 

Shazam! is directed by David F. Sandberg is Rated PG-13 and has a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Shazam! was released on December 25, 2020 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 35 minutes. Shazam! can be streamed on HBO Max or purchased by online retailers including iTunes, Google, Vudu and Amazon.

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