DIRECTOR: david f. Sandberg (annabelle: creation)
STARRING: zachary levi, jack dylan grazer, asher angel, and mark strong
REVIEWER: lyall carter
We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson's case, by shouting out one word - SHAZAM! - this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult superhero Shazam.
If you think it seems like there's a new superhero movie opening at the cinema every single month, you'd nearly be right on the money. Superhero movies are to the 2010s what cowboy movies were to the 1960s. As a consequence some superhero movies are finding it increasingly difficult to push beyond a formulaic structure - to be fresh, new, and inventive. But I'm very happy to report Shazam! has no such difficulties.
Apart from being pushed from foster home to foster home, Billy Batson is a pretty normal kid. While running away from school bullies he is summoned by Shazam, a wizard. Shazam has Billy grab his staff and shout, "Shazam!' which transforms him into an adult with super powers. But Thaddeus Sivana, who had been rejected by the wizard Shazam as a child, seeks out Billy to gain the powers of Shazam once and for all.
What makes Shazam! such a breath of fresh superhero air is the way in which they deal with Billy gaining his super human powers. He responds exactly how you'd expect a 14 year old kid who'd just received super powers to react. He tries to use super speed and crashes, he's awkward when trying to defend a girl, and he tries to sneak into 'adult' establishments to name but a few. The wonder and fear of his new found power is etched all over his face and gives you that rush of emotion of feeling like a kid all over again. To sum up the feel of Shazam! it's like a cross between a PG Deadpool and Spiderman: Homecoming. Something like that.
The sense of not knowing your place in the world and then finding where you belong in a family or community is a palpable centrepiece of Shazam! The relationship between Billy and his adopted brother Freddy is superbly brought to life by Zachary Levi and Asher Angel who play Shazam/Billy and Jack Dylan Grazer who plays Freddy.
Even though it's a fresh take on a superhero film, Shazam! does have the typical superhero story: unimpressive person gets powers/fights baddie. In future films they will probably need to develop the story a tad as the new Shazam! take on superheroes may not quite be enough to hold audiences second time round.
Zachary Levi is perfection as Shazam! full of a wide-eyed 14 year old boy wonder trying to navigate the world, the baddie, and his issues at home. Jack Dylan Grazer is a standout with acting talent far, far beyond his years.
From the story and the post credit scenes (there are two and one is right at the very end of the credits) it's not apparent where Shazam! sits in the wider DC universe. But I'm super cool with that. Shazam! proves that with Wonder Woman, Aquaman and now this superb addition to their universe, DC is on a roll. Watch out Marvel.
Shazam! shines with originality, flair, fun, and a bundle of great laughs.