Review of Shazam!

shazam

Why so serious? That’s the iconic line Joker uttered in The Dark Knight and something I often think about when watching a DC superhero movie. Unlike the Marvel cinematic universe, which embraces comedy, DC films have been mostly dark and gritty. All that said, now that Zack Snyder has parted ways with Warner Bros things are starting to lighten up. The “tide” began to turn with surprise box office hit “Aquaman” and Shazam continues the trend with a family friendly adventure that is packed with gags.

Billy Batson is a fourteen-year old troublemaker who has spent much of his young life bouncing between foster homes. He refuses to settle down with adoptive parents, as he still harbours hopes of locating the birth mom who vanished without a trace many moons ago. One fateful day Billy is summoned to a magical lair by a dying wizard named Shazam. The ancient sorcerer has chosen the young lad to be the one who will inherit his powers. Now, whenever Batson utters said caster’s moniker, he becomes a musclebound hero who possesses the abilities of Superman. Oh, and he can also fire off bolts of electricity that are capable of recharging mobiles.

The movie explores what would happen if a child suddenly acquired extraordinary gifts. Billy dabbles with crime fighting, but once his feats make the local news he turns into a celebrity who charges citizens for selfies. His fun is soon cut short though, when a villain named Thaddeus Sivana shows up in town. Thaddeus was once tested for the Shazam powers, but failed the trial and was deemed not worthy of them. Angered, over being spurned, he formed a pact with seven demons who have imbued him with mystical might. Sivana is capably played by Mark Strong, who is no stranger to DC flicks. Back in 2011 he was cast as Sinestro in the awful Green Lantern.

Shazam’s script focuses on the importance of family. At the start of the film Billy is a lone wolf who cares only about himself. The kindness bestowed by his current foster family changes that attitude however. In time he begins to appreciate the new brothers and sisters he now boards with. As someone who has little patience for annoying child actors, I am pleased to report that the kids who play the siblings are a likable bunch. Jack Dylan Grazer stands out in particular. He plays a superhero fanatic named Freddy, who uses his knowledge of costumed vigilantes to mentor Billy in the early scenes. I enjoyed the quips exchanged between the two, whenever the pair were on screen together.

One thing that has hindered past DC films was the burden of simultaneously telling a story whilst also laying the groundwork down for a Justice League feature. Thankfully Shazam is not saddled with that pressure. It’s a standalone piece that dedicates its 132 minute running time solely on Shazam’s origin. That’s not to say that the movie disavows the universe it is set in. Over the course of the film we get a few Batman/Superman references and the end credits close things off nicely with a fun animation featuring other Justice League characters. Speaking of end credits, be sure to stick around till the very end, as there are two snippets during the finale that tease a potential sequel.

FINAL RATING 4/5: The real Captain Marvel is the best DC film since Wonder Woman.

27 thoughts on “Review of Shazam!

  1. I haven’t watched this film (yet) because I honestly really didn’t know what to make of this. I’m not as familiar with DC as I am with Marvel, and I pretty much knew nothing of this character. However, having now read your review…my curiosity for it has certainly been sparked. So, as I have a vacation coming up in october where I plan to catch up on a lot of stuff that I have missed out on, this one is going to be a part of that…trust me! Great post! Nice to see a review from you again! 😊

    • Captain Marvel/Shazam is a lesser known hero, although he has been around since the late thirties. I think you will enjoy this film. It’s very funny, has some decent action and the wholesome story reminds me a bit of the movies I watched when I was a kid.

  2. I don’t usually go in for superhero movies, but I’ve heard consistently good things about this one. And being a standalone film, it’s more likely I’d bother to go watch it without having to be caught up on a story in progress. I was never a big fan of Zack Snyder’s style anyway (I thought 300 was fun in a stupid way but other than that, eh.)

    • Out of the Zack Snyder films I have seen I liked Watchmen and 300. Sucker Punch was terrible. I think his style works for some heroes, but you don’t want to have an entire cinematic universe look like that. The style of a Batman movie should be very different to Superman for example.

  3. Like Raistlin, I didn’t know what to make of this either. He kind of looked like some the Flash knock-off or something. But I especially like the fact that this doesn’t have the pressure of or force itself into Justice League.

    • Standalone movies might work best for DC. I think Batman v Superman was ruined in part because it spent a lot of time setting up future films rather than telling one story. I never thought of Flash and Shazam as being similar, but on second look you are right. They both have a red outfit with a lighting bolt. Well spotted.

  4. You liked it more than I did. I think it was the silliness that got me – then again, I am old enough to remember when he was Captain Marvel before the lawsuits and Marvel acquiring the rights to the name forced the franchise to rebrand itself to Shazam.

    BTW – at one point in the early 1940’s, Captain Marvel was actually more popular than Superman and Batman combined in the US, again until the lawsuit scuppered his momentum some years later. It’s a shame he’s considered “lesser known” when he spawned a cliffhanger serial in 1941 before either Batman (1943 & 1949) and Superman (1948) and his own live action TV show in the 70’s.

    • It’s pretty crummy that Captain Marvel lost his name to a Marvel character who was created many years later. Is Shazam the character’s name? If so, he can’t introduce himself without changing back into a kid.

      • Haha! That would be a problem! 😛

        It’s a weird situation though. For many older fans (older than me) he’ll always be Captain Marvel and even after the lawsuit and the comics were rebranded “Shazam”, they kept the Captain Marvel name but many people assumed the character was called Shazam.

        This became canon in later reboots, when Captain Marvel assumed the role as the wizard Shazam when the original was killed, and his old role was assumed by his family. Or something. If only that original plagiarism lawsuit from DC hadn’t happened and Marvel hadn’t been such dicks, this would still be straight forward to this day! 😡

  5. In all honesty, I actually liked Shazam! more than I did Wonder Woman simply by virtue of the fact that it had a solid third act. Otherwise, I felt it managed to be a great, standalone story with a solid cast and good writing. It more likely than not will make my top ten. My audience cracked up at the “Hadoken” part, though I was a little disappointed they didn’t get the Big reference.

    • Sadly I did not catch the Big keyboard reference. Blame my terrible memory, as I haven’t seen that movie in decades. One part that made me chuckle was when Sivana is making his speech from a distance away and Shazam cannot hear him.

  6. it seems like a very entartaining movie , its in my bucket list now , and it sounds like a fun superhero movie . and thank god its a standalone! im not into sequels of superhero movies , although i do like some of superhero sequels
    have a very nice day 🙂

    • Nothing wrong with a good sequel, the problem is that ever since Marvel got big everyone is trying to build a cinematic universe. Instead of telling a good story some films are just setting up crossovers.

  7. Yeah, this was definitely a pretty solid one. I did have my share of qualms like I didn’t care for Shazam being on the defensive for most of the fight, but it’s a quality intro to the character and it is so rare to get a stand alone adventure nowadays that it’s always a fun change of pace. With Aquaman and Wonder Woman, DC has definitely been rolling with these origins pretty well.

    • Let’s hope DC can build on the success of Aquaman and Shazam. Then they can give Marvel some competition, so they don’t get complacent. I guess Shazam was defensive at first, but given that he is a kid getting attacked by a superhuman I guess it’s understandable.

      • Agreed, competition is always good so having a strong DC will also make Marvel better and the more solid films, the better it is for us as fans too. Very valid point with the defensive part, it’s hard to expect anyone to really just jump in the ring against someone who’s literally smashing buildings and such

  8. Hello The Otaku Judge,

    When I first saw an email alert of this post I was thinking that you had a review of the movie Kazaam 😀 :

    Wrong movie, hehehe, anyway Shazam looks like it could be fun/funny (maybe too goofy though).

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about it,
    -John Jr

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  10. Great review, glad you enjoyed Shazam too – I saw it on cinema release and picked up the blu-ray which I watched last night and it holds up on second viewing. I love the focus on the characters and the theme of family, it gives the film a lot of heart and Zachary Levi is perfectly cast.

    It’s also refreshing to have a superhero film that stand on its own, as much as enjoy the Marvel films, the level of inter-connectivity can be burdensome and convoluted things unnecessarily. I wonder if DC will continue this approach of, yes, having a ‘universe’ but keeping the connections a little looser and less essential – they could still have team-ups in the future but I honestly don’t think they need to follow Marvel’s lead as such.

    • DC tried to mimic the Marvel formula and it didn’t work. Hopefully they stick to making solid one and done movies going forward. Once the characters are established, in popular solo films, they can build to a crossover rather than force a team-up from the offset.

  11. Yet more confirmation that the DC Cinematic Universe is at its best when the superhero movies are standalone and not connected. Other examples include Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Keep this up and DC will be just fine. Maybe they can try for another crossover movie in the distant future.

    • I enjoyed Wonder Woman and Shazam. Still need to check out Aquaman. I imagine I will like it, as the character was one of the few positives of Justice League. Standalone films is the way to go if you ask me. By all means throw in some references, as the movies are in the same universe, but crossovers are best saved for when the characters have proven to be popular on their own merit.

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