Director: David f. Sandberg | Runtime: 2h 12mins | Action, Adventure, Comedy
14-year-old foster child Billy Batson (Asher Angel), while in the custody of a new family, is bestowed the power of a superhero that goes by the name Shazam (Zachary Levi). While Billy tries to deal with the new change, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) unleashes his own newfound power on the city.
There’s no secret that the superhero genre has it’s formula, even the very early Sam Raimi Spiderman films can tell you that. While Shazam! follows that very same formula down to a tee, Sandberg brings some much needed immaturity to his film and in doing so gives an answer to a question that beckons most teenage minds, just what would happen if you became a superhero?
The first major quality you will find in this film is the charisma of it’s central actor, Zachary Levi, who finally gets to showcase his talents as both a comedic actor and as a leading man. Although he’s no stranger to the superhero genre, his run as Thor’s running buddy in the MCU doesn’t do the actor, or his range, any justice. Unfortunately though Levi doesn’t actually hit your screen to at least 20 minutes into the run time, and while you have to appreciate the building of character and plot the film really doesn’t find it’s pacing until he arrives. But when he does, the film raises it’s bar in quality as Levi embodies both the physical aspect of a superhero, but more importantly the immaturity of a teenage mind.
As soon as Levi is introduced we get everything Shazam! is meant to be, using that teenage approach and applying it to everyday situations really fleshes out this film into the comedy it’s striving to be. One particular scene has Shazam (or Billy) and his foster brother Freddy, played excellently by Jack Grazer, head to a nearby store to buy beers only hours after discovering Billy’s newfound powers, once bought the two boys take a sip and immediately spit it out. The film is chock full of scenes like this, using humour and the naivety of teenagers to not just give us a laugh but to push it’s plot forward.
While the bulk of the film is mostly Freddy and Billy discovering and using the power of Shazam, it’s filled in with occasional scenes of villainy in the form of Mark Strong’s Dr. Thaddeus Sivana. Despite Sivana not being the most fleshed out superhero villain ever, he’s certainly not the worst, and honestly I don’t know how it’s taken so long for Mark Strong to play a superhero villain. Mostly being used as the grounded counterpart to the movie’s immaturity, Sivana’s cold and serious demeanour clashes perfectly with Levi’s teenage over-the-top approach, and keeps this film from getting overzealous with it’s playful tone.
While the film is patchy in parts and takes a while to build, the film gradually finds it way into the funniest and most entertaining DCEU film. But what Shazam! is trying to be is a lot harder than it looks, and Sandberg builds around the teenage ideas of being a superhero perfectly, and if you need anymore proof of Zachary Levi’s undeniable talent, look no further.