David Sanberg makes the leap from solid horror chillers to blockbusters with what is surprisingly one of DC/Warner’s most modest superhero movie to date. While “Wonder Woman” and “Aquaman” had massive epic plots about world wars and societies in peril, “Shazam!” is a more personal and down to Earth tale with very relevant overtones about bullies and the damage they can inflict on the people they victimize, as well as the environment around them. Sure, “Shazam!” is a superhero movie, but it’s also one worth watching for its positive ideas, and fantastic energy.
With the shouting of the word “Shazam!” orphan Billy Batson becomes the super powered hero known as Shazam. Given powers by an ancient Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) with the combined abilities of Greek titans, Billy is tasked with defending mankind and must do battle with the terrible Dr. Sivana, a man denied the powers of Shazam! as a boy who discovers the evil abilities of the seven deadly sins. Armed with pure evil, he seeks out Billy to obtain his magic once and for all. Meanwhile, Billy has to learn what it means to be a superhero along with the help of his new foster family, including his brother Freddy Freeman.
“Shazam!” has been likened to “Big” in many cases, and while it essentially does work in that rhythm quite often (there’s even a funny homage included), Sandberg thankfully doesn’t drop us in to a movie that’s nothing but a meta-joke. “Shazam!” bears its own unique energy in a world filled with tales of superheroes, and works as a quite fantastic tale of realizing inner strength, and standing up to bullies. One of the more important overtones is the latter half, with director Sandberg and writer Henry Gayden confronting the idea of bullies and how they can affect our lives. Billy is a boy whose potential is realized when he stands up to bullies hurting his disabled brother Freddy, all the while the villainous Dr. Sivana is corrupted and transformed by bullies, two of whom happen to be his father and big brother.
Billy just happens to be someone who has yet to allow the power of bullies overcomes him, because he’s someone who’s too focused on his own personal journey when we meet him. Once he becomes the powerful Shazam!, it’s an entirely new avenue of self-discovery where he has to realize that everything he does in his life affects other people. “Shazam!” is a lot of fun, first and foremost, with some great action and a heavy emphasis on great power with great responsibility. While “Shazam!” does rely a lot on commentary about bullying, it’s also a great look at how family can complete us, no matter where we find one. For Billy he’s mainly just a boy, but his family helps turn him in to a hero, and vice versa. Sandberg directs a bang up cast including Asher Angel as Billy, and Zachary Levi as the mythical Shazam!
Levi is fantastic in the role and carries a youthful enthusiasm that helps the character remain infinitely relatable and charming. Angel and Levi, along with Jack Dylan Glazer as Billy’s foster brother Freddy make “Shazam!” as a whole bustling with energy and awe, turning the film in to an exciting and wholesome superhero entry that is never afraid to be a bit scary or dangerous every now and then. Shazam!’s foe (Mark Strong is memorable) is monstrous and vicious in his own way, and once they cross paths, he’s unfortunately faced with someone that will do anything to get what he wants: even hurting children. “Shazam!” is yet another step in the right direction for the DCEUniverse. It’s sure to win over a new generation of fans, while paying tribute to loyal followers of the original comic book series.