“There’s a superhero inside all of us. We just need the courage to put on the cape.” -unknown
After what seems like a decade of eye roll inducing films so bad it makes one question their life decisions, DC now gives us Shazam!. Even Wonder Woman, as great as that film ended up being, is not without its faults, particularly in the third act. Basically there hasn’t been a single DC release where some kind of caveat isn’t in place to explain why the movie is still worthwhile despite its many weaknesses. I guess you could argue every movie if looked at with enough scrutiny has some sort of imperfection that can be pointed at as being a chink in the armor, but I digress. The one thing I have to remind myself with every new DC release is that the previous films should not or cannot hold anything against the newest installment therefore I must judge Shazam! as its own standalone adventure. I understand this is the direction they’re taking the properties now anyway so here I go.
Shazam! has done what the others forewent and decided to take the subject material not so seriously. I want to clarify that I in no way mean they didn’t care, but rather realized that humor is very much a component underutilized with DC films. It acknowledges what came before it in way that connects the worlds of Superman and Batman but completely stands on its own as a comedic, adventurous effort of what it means to be a hero, even when being a hero is the last thing you could ever want. Shazam! has been described as “Big for heroes” and it could not be a more apt description. In fact the film Big is actually referenced in the film, but I’ll let you find that one on your own. I am so happy to say that Shazam!, in my opinion, is the first true success since Wonder Woman (I didn’t care for Aquaman, sorry).
I think a key to what makes Shazam! so much fun and so entertaining is the effort that was made to stick to what makes the idea of Shazam so interesting; it may look like a grown man but in reality it’s nothing more than a fourteen year-old kid way in over his head. Every new scene operates under this notion, that this is not a “professional” superhero, but a kid named Billy looking for his place in this world. As Billy tries to find the answers to his life he is given the chance of a lifetime to prove his worth, to prove his heart is true and worthy of the title, superhero. If he finds the hero within he will project this upon the world around him and inspire a stand against evil, an adversary seemingly every bit as powerful as Shazam himself.
In a role he’s embodied many times before but no less convincingly, Mark Strong stars as the forgotten, tossed aside soul left with severe thoughts of inadequacy. Given the chance to become the Champion (Shazam) he is deemed unworthy with a heart too impure to carry on what only the noblest have done, so long before him. Of course this is the opportunity needed for the evil forces of the world to take on the powers of Shazam once and for all and so they entice the good doctor (Strong) with promise of ultimate power. Should he defeat the Champion, he would be unstoppable. Seems like a lot for a fourteen year-old to take on.
Every great superhero needs their sidekick and Shazam is no different, enter Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman, the comic book nerd we all need in our lives (Brandon, I’m looking at you). It is at the behest of Freddy that Billy aka Shazam decides to take on the attempt of becoming what so many have idolized since Superman revealed himself to the world. Much like Tom Hanks trying to figure out adulthood in Big, Billy must navigate the responsibilities of being a hero, both the attributes like super strength but also the negatives of such a lofty burden, things like having an arch nemesis. Hanks as Josh faced off against John Heard as Paul, Billy’s enemy is slightly more intimidating; you know, with the superhuman abilities and all.
Bringing a kind of wide-eyed fascination of the world around him, Levi embodies the kid turned hero perfectly. He does a wonderful job of balancing being a grown up kid superhero and moving beyond that, into someone worthy of being called a hero. Much like many of us in our real lives, even with a bad guy hot on his heels, his greatest enemy is the doubt that plagues his mind, a voice within himself saying he’s not good enough. With the help of Freddy and the rest of his newfound family, Billy will search deep inside himself and find that which makes him worthy of the name, Shazam! DC has finally hit a homerun that doesn’t need any explaining, it simply asks that everyone give this one a chance, it is definitely, finally, worth it.
PG-13 For: intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material
Runtime: 132 minutes
After Credits Scene: 2
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Starring: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Mark Strong, Djimon Hounsou
Directed By: David F. Sandberg
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4.5/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 5
OVERALL: 4.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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