Movie Reviews: Shazam!




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     New Line Cinema
     A streetwise fourteen-year-old foster kid turns into the adult superhero Shazam by  shouting the word - SHAZAM!
     Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Housou, Faithe Herman
Bottom Line:

Jon Rutlege

First and foremost, the crew involved in making the first few Shazam! trailers did not do this film justice. They were played up for more slapstick laughs, and it really turned me off. I thought the humor was all going to play to young kids, and there would be almost no substance. It was when the second round of trailers came out, and I thought they might have something, still skeptical I had hoped this movie would be the fresh start DC needs to wash the bad taste of a failed shared universe out of their mouths. Shazam! is precisely the story they need to rediscover themselves.  

Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a young foster kid who is called upon by the wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou). Shazam needs to find a champion to carry on his name. Billy takes on the mantel and when he says the wizard's name he turns into SHAZAM! (not Captain Marvel for legal and copyright reasons ( As the champion Shazam! (Zachary Levi) Billy needs to learn how to use his powers as well as live his life as a kid. He also has to fight Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong) to keep his new powers and protect humanity.

They pulled a lot for the original story, bring in original bad guys for him to fight as well as introduced more characters to launch an entirely new franchise on. There are two after credit scenes that give this film a hint that there are more adventures to come. What other DC films have lacked is an excellent character development story. Someone has finally focused on the humanity of a character instead of just a beaning with powers. The other aspect of this film is that it embraces humor as well as vibrant colors. It is not all laughs, it is a well-balanced story that ranges in its emotions. A particularly great scene was a moment between Billy and his birth mother (Caroline Palmer). In one scene we see it from the eyes of Billy, young and idealistic, and the second time we see that scene it is identical, but it is from his mothers perspective, harsh and desperate.  It's these little touches that make a move really engaging. 

I would say this film is not as good as Wonder Woman (’17), but it definitely beats Aquaman (‘18).  With the clear separation between the dark movies like Batman v Superman (‘16) and Man of Steel (’13), it was a breath of fresh air. In hindsight the needed to build their shared universe slowly.  Shazam! could have and should have been DC's Ironman. Start with some of the lesser known heroes, an origin story as needed, build up their following, and then start adding more of the mainstream heroes.

There are a lot of great messages and takeaways from Shazam! Stories of what family is, what characteristics make a hero, and Edna Mode from The Incredibles (’04) was right "NO Capes."  Like a lightning bolt from the heavens, this movie could be the one that powers up a whole new way of looking at DC hero films. 

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