- 3 out of 5
Shazam! - It's funny, it's bright, it's long
Lots has been written on the interwebs about Shazam! and how he was the original Captain Marvel: how the copyright lapsed and Marvel swooped in and grabbed it - bringing us countless comics and the recent Brie Larsson film.
After the recent huge success of Aquaman as a "stand-alone-ish" superhero origin film, Shazam truly is standalone (apart from a "shot-below the neckline" cameo in the last scene). It has no baggage and stands or falls on it's own merits. Other than the copyright wrangle, I was totally ignorant of Shazam!, His origins or adventures.
So where are we? Well fourteen year old Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a fourteen-year-old kid who moves from foster home to foster home as he keeps running away in search of his mother from whom he was separated as a young boy. He eventually lands up with a sweet couple Victor (Cooper Andrews) and Rosa Vasquez (Marta Milans) who run a busy foster home brimming with kids. Billy shares a room with Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), who is disabled, witty, and has encyclopedic superhero knowledge. The latter comes in handy when Billy encounters a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) who gives him the power to turn into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi), fully equipped with powers that he isn’t quite sure how to use. With a super-villain named Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) looking for him, Billy has, not just to learn how to use the powers, but also how to shoulder the responsibility he’s been given as the Champion of Eternity.
Mark Strong makes an excellent villain and appears to be enjoying his rather one-dimensional role immensely. Asher Angel and Jack Dylan Grazer are standout too as the nerdy teenagers. Zachary Levi plays the adult superhero with great comic and physical timing. And timing is the only real problem with the film. At just over two hours long, it could easily lose 20 minutes off it's running time.
Ultimately, Shazam! is a different kind of DC movie than those that have been released in recent years, but that derives from Sandberg and Gayden building the film from a character-focused standpoint. Because Shazam has a sillier origin story, it makes sense for the movie to be on the lighter, more humorous side. Shazam! isn't necessarily reinventing the wheel and largely sticks to a standard superhero origin story. The filmmakers have added a twist by combining superhero action with nod to the Tom Hanks film "Big" - and some meta humour in a similar, if non R-rated vein as Deadpool - to craft an entirely enjoyable experience in Shazam!, even if at times it feels more like a hodgepodge of other movies. Still, fans of DC and superhero movies will no doubt want to check out Shazam! for its action and heart, and a delightfully entertaining film.