Super strength, super speed, flight, invulnerability and lightening fingers??? It doesn’t get much better than that and one teenager is going to learn about all the fun that you get to have when you’re a hero after he transforms into a mythical super powered champion and gets his chance to save the world in Shazam!
When 12-year old orphan Billy Batson (Asher Angel) encounters a magical Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) he is granted unimaginable super powers that transform him into the super hero Shazam (Zachary Levi), gifting him with a range of powers from a group of mythological heroes including Salomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury. But while he first uses his powers as Shazam for mischief and fun, Batson will soon have to rise to the occasion to take on villainous super genius Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) and save the world.
The DC Extended Universe is rapidly becoming one very fun playground and in Shazam! the ultimate heroes journey kicks off. In this heroic tale, any notion of seriousness is thrown out, and instead, we get to focus in the joys of what it means to be a superhero and how cool it is to save the world. There’s a terrific playfulness and light-hearted quality to Shazam!, and in addition to its powerhouse special effects the film also tickles your funny bone.
Stepping behind the camera and giving us his bold vision for Shazam! is director David F. Sandberg and this fun-loving world is a brand new realm for Sandberg’s directing talents. Having established himself as a very reputable horror director, with works including the terrifying Lights Out, Sandberg really embraces the fun and spontaneity of Shazam! and infuses the film with a passionate zeal that really gets you animated as an audience member. Not only does he have a great balance over the action that is on display here, but he gives the film a real lightness and comedy that helps to highlight his characters point-of-view and which really keeps you engaged with its fast-moving narrative.
Shazam! is fundamentally the story of two characters: rebellious orphan Billy Batson (Asher Angel) and his fun-loving alter ego, the super-powered Shazam (Zachary Levi). Taking on the role of Billy Batson is Asher Angel, and this teenager has some real talent. As Billy, Angel really showcases the dual sides of his character. Sometimes brooding and morose and other times playful and energetic, Billy is a complicated kid whose tragic past has made him suspicious of a lot of things and he really has to learn how to trust in Shazam! His story is really one about learning how to open up to the good things around him and with the help of a certain wizard he’s able to unleash his natural power for good onto the world, and help those in need….even if it takes a bit of a learning curve to get there.
Joining forces with Angel in the role of the super-powered Shazam is star Zachary Levi and the actor definitely had the time of his life with this crazy and outrageous super-powered character. Infusing Shazam with a fun loving optimism and zest for life, Levi really goes for it when it comes to being a superhero and even though he might be a super-powered He-Man with amazing powers and abilities, he’s still able to project a child-like innocence onto the film. His large frame gives him a sense of power and size, but then there’s a zany goofiness and his spot on comedic timing that also find their way onto the big screen and it makes for something truly original. But through the course of the film’s events, both Billy and Shazam have to undertake some serious responsibility amongst all their fun, especially when the going gets tough and a hero is needed to protect the innocent.
Every hero needs both a mentor and a sidekick and luckily for Shazam, he finds both in his best friend and superhero fanatic Frederick ‘Freddie’ Freeman who is played by the delightfully outrageous Jack Dylan Grazer. Through Billy, Freddie is able to live out his most daring heroic power fantasies and he essentially constructs the heroic image of our central character. It’s interesting to see the way in which Grazer plays Freddie as he walks a great line as both mentor and sidekick and he is far and away the most outrageous person on screen, and is constantly pushing for Billy/Shazam to take his powers to the next level. The trinity that forms around Levi, Angel and Grazer is really great to watch up on screen and when these three actors get to work you really are in for a treat.
Shazam! wouldn’t be a superhero film without some serious action, and it really goes for the boom here. Whether he’s zipping across the sky or embraced in a full-on smashdown fight with nefarious villain Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), Shazam really has his heroics tested here. Aware of what has come before him as a filmmaker, Sandberg also finds a unique way of doing something different with his action sequences and the results will have your eyes wide open. Whether it’s a serious fight for the fate of the world or just some lightning bolt fun that might go slightly haywire, Shazam! delivers plenty of visual spectacle.
Along with the action also comes theme, and Shazam! is a very inward focused superhero tale. While we’re used to dramatic and epically scaled blockbuster movies such as Wonder Woman and Aquaman, Shazam! looks inwards and really tells the story of a family and how they grow together. While the fate of the world does indeed hang in the balance, it’s more the fate of Billy Batson’s adopted family that really stays within your mind as an audience member, and it’s here that he truly finds his strength. A hero is nothing without support from those around him and as Billy and Shazam grow into their destiny and powers as one, they find that it’s the support and love of those around them that truly make them unbeatable.
Shazam! has everything you could want in a superhero film: daring action, massive laughs, amazing special effects and a heartwarming message at its core. If you wanted to know how much fun it is to be a superhero then this is the film you absolutely have to see.
Image: Roadshow Films