I like surprises and I like proving people wrong. With SHAZAM! I got both a surprise and I proved people were wrong. Whenever I talked about movies I wanted to see in 2019, I always got the side eye when I mentioned I wanted to see Shazam. I would get comments like “You’re on your own”, “I’m not seeing that”, and “that looks stupid”. It seemed that no one I knew wanted to see this movie except for me. Everyone was trashing it. I even started to doubt whether I should go see it. Lucky for me I don’t mind riding alone and I saw Shazam. There were a few reasons that no one wanted to see Shazam. First, the trailers had turned a lot of people off to the movie.
The trailer showed the jokes and the light-hearted side of Shazam. A lot of the trailers showed kids joking around or Zachary Levi dressed as the hero in funny scenes. Nothing looked serious about this movie in a time where people are serious about their comic book movies. Then there is the fact that this is a DC Universe movie. Wonder Woman was moderately good and Aquaman was awesome but Warner Bros. is not known for producing good superhero movies based on comics. They tend to have a take on the characters that does not include using too much source material and making things their own. They have often missed the mark in their depictions of these characters.
This time they got it right.
The reason the trailers showed a light-hearted superhero movie, has a lot to do with the fact that Shazam is a light-hearted hero. Shazam is not gritty and dark. Shazam is light and fun. One of his nicknames that Dr Sivan calls him in the comics is The Big Red Cheese because he’s cheesy. Shazam is the story of a 15-year-old orphan, Billy Batson, who has bestowed the power of Shazam from the old wizard Shazam. When Billy speaks the wizard’s name, he becomes the hero Shazam and the form of Shazam is no longer a 15-year-old kid but of a grown man. However, even with the body of a grown man Shaam still has the mind of a 15-year-old boy.
So, you see where there is levity and humor in the story of Shazam. This premise of the story asks the question of what a kid would do if he had the ability to become an adult. The answers in this movie were quite hilarious. Zachary Levi totally pulls off the what if the movie Big was about a superhero. There is even a scene in the movie that pays homage to Big. When the transitions are made from Asher Angels Billy Batson to Zachary Levi’s Shazam they are done with believable ease. There is no awkward time in the movie where you would think that you had two separate actors. They truly came together to form one character and it was brilliant.
Shazam also told a story of family. It was about a boy who was orphaned and was in constant search for his real mother. He went from foster home to foster home always running away to find his real mother. The perception in his mind is that they would find each other and live happily ever after. Shazam is a coming of age story. This is a story on how the boy becomes a hero. Given great power and instant adulthood can be intoxicating to a young man and this is a story that shows a kid dealing with this to learn an important lesson. As he starts to understand more of the gift given to him with his new best friend at his side, he slowly starts to open his heart and let people in.
No good superhero movie is worth its ticket prices without a good villain. Dr Sivana is Shazam’s oldest backstory and an understanding of why he is the way he is. Mark Strong does an excellent job of playing this obsessed villain who wants to rule the world with magic. His reasoning is justified and you might even cheer for him at some point then you remember: this is the bad guy. One of the surprises in Shazam was the heartlessness of the villain. This is where the trailers were a little misleading. Dr Sivana was cruel and ruthless and this was not something that was portrayed in the trailer because you didn’t see too much of Mark Strong’s character in the trailers.
The villainy of Dr Sivana evened out the light parts of the movie and gave a legitimate fear for the hero. Just like any superhero, Shazam also had a sidekick through most of the movie. Billy Batson had been assigned a new foster home and met Freddie Freeman played by Jack Dylan Grazer. The Freddie character was a crippled foster kid who befriends Billy and helps him figure out this hero thing. Freddie serves as both comic relief and moral compass. Because of Freddie’s tenacity, Billy eventually lets his walls down to Freddie and the rest of his new foster family to accept them into his heart’
The only problem with this movie is that it is predictable. I’m not sure if that’s because I have been reading the source material on Shazam since I was 10 years old or because the script was transparent. However, in this case, predictable wasn’t a bad thing. You saw where this movie was going but the ride to get there was worth it. After I checked this movie out, I went back to all the naysayers and told them how good Shazam was. They all said that they had heard nothing but good things about it and will go see it. I couldn’t help but say I told you so.
So here is my review of a good movie which pleasantly surprised me and proved that I was right.
I’m good until the next one.
Kenny Walker Jr