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In all honesty, I'm not the biggest fan of the DCEU. I loved Wonder Woman and enjoyed Man of Steel but found huge problems in Batman v. Superman, Aquaman, Suicide Squad, and Justice League that made them hard to really enjoy. But that's not the case with Shazam! which is easily my favorite film in the DCEU to date and one of the most enjoyable, charming, and straight up likable superhero films I've ever seen.
David F. Sandberg (known more for horror) directs Shazam! with such ease and charisma that you'd think he's been directing superhero films his entire career. While it is certainly an origin story, Sandberg makes it feel his own by instilling the movie with plenty of charming characters, funny dialogue, and an old school feel that reminded me of classic 80's movies like The Goonies. While it is a 2+ hour film, Sandberg manages to keep the pacing very fast and never boring. Shazam! is a breezy & entertaining film for sure.
Shazam! follows 14-year-old orphan Billy Batson (Asher Angel) who is on the search for his mother who he hasn't seen since he was a young child. While searching, he's caught by police and sentenced to a foster home where he meets superhero fanatic Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) who he eventually bonds with. After defending Freddy from a couple of bullies at school, he boards a subway car and is transported to another realm where an ancient wizard named Shazam! gives Billy the power to transform into a superhero (Zachary Levi). With the help of Freddy, Billy must learn how to control these powers to fight the evil Dr. Thaddeus (Mark Strong) and save the world. While the story structure is extremely similar to most superhero origin stories, Shazam! remedies this by giving us some slight dramatic elements that really work. Billy's search for his mother is both tragic and heartbreaking when it comes to its conclusion, and it surprised me that something like that was in a movie this goofy and funny. The foster family adds more warmth to the story of good vs. bad, and the humor is top-notch with only a small number of gags not landing. Overall, this film represents a great use of a generic origin story structure.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The amount of love I have for this cast of charming characters cannot be described in mere text; but I will try. Zachary Levi is absolutely terrific in the role of Shazam! and embodies the physicality and mentality of a 14-year-old kid. He delivers some of the funniest moments with expertise and fits well with the look of the character. Asher Angel as Billy is a little bit more underplayed compared to his superhero persona but does an exceptional job with the dramatic moments of the film. Jack Dylan Grazer as the comic book fanatic Freddy is a highlight. He's energetic and likable in the role and pairs very well with Zachary Levi's Shazam! Mark Strong as Dr. Thaddeus surprised me the most because I wasn't expecting to like the villain at all, but actually did. We understand his reasoning of why he's doing what he's doing and it's not just a generic "take over the world" scheme that we see all the time. Overall, the characters and acting are a huge highlight to the film!
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score is triumphant and has an old school, almost Superman, vibe to it which works perfectly for the action. The selection of songs is used accordingly for the various montages of Billy figuring out his powers. The movie’s sound design is also very good mainly because it's much more subtle than other DCEU movies. Shazam! doesn't over indulge with the action so it's limited in punch, kick, and destruction sounds compared to Man of Steel or Batman v. Superman. It's nice to see an action scene with 2 characters flying that doesn't sound like an absolute mess. Overall, it's a great sounding movie.
I almost feel bad for complaining about the special effects considering it has a much smaller budget than most DC movies, but...yeah...it's not great. It's very hit and miss, but when it misses, it's very, very obvious. I’m mainly speaking of some of the characters flying and some of the CGI characters in the movie that looked a little too fake. A lot of it looked very rubbery and shiny and took me out of the movie at times… not that it all looks bad though. The Shazam! lightning bolt transformations were super well done and extremely cool. Some of the action towards the end looked much better than previous scenes of action. Also, some of the particle effects were really well done. Overall, it's a mixed bag but certainly not as gross looking as previous DCEU movies.
Shazam! is such a charming and friendly little movie. It's a warm blanket of coziness that I haven't experienced in a superhero film since the first Ant-Man movie. The stakes might be low, but the enjoyment is extremely high in this scrappy little superhero film. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Shazam! and I'm more than looking forward to the future for this character and the DCEU.