Watching a film knowing it is going to be an instant classic is the best way to describe viewing the newly released DC blockbuster Shazam! starring Zachary Levi (Chuck, Tangled). Those who know the down to earth, immensely talented Levi will be pleased to see him portray another of the adorkable characters that he has come to play so well. For those that don’t, be prepared to laugh out loud at a reluctant hero who by his own admission has no clue what he is doing.
Shazam! begins with the origin of the super villain, Thad Sivana (Ethan Pugiotto), being teleported out of his car into the otherworldly realm with an aging Shazam wizard (Djimon Hounsou, Guardians of the Galaxy) who tests the boy with a glowing orb in which he fails. It sets off a chain reaction which causes the boy to blame himself and drives his whole life in trying to get back to the wizard again. As an adult, he becomes Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong, Kingsman: The Golden Circle), determined to reach the place that caused his life to spiral out of control and somehow vindicate himself.
Next, our hero is introduced. Billy Batson (Asher Angel), an orphan, who is obsessed with finding the mother who abandoned him at a very young age. He carries with him a notebook with pages and pages of attempts of him looking for women with his mother’s name who was tragically separated from the boy at a carnival. He ends up being placed in a foster home that looks too good to be true, in a huge house with four other foster siblings. He shares a room with Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer, IT), the kind of boy who is Hollywood’s archetype of the picked-on kid, obsessed with superheroes, but somehow still manages to be wise-cracking and optimistic about his situation.
The boys do not bond initially but when Billy observes Freddy being attacked by bullies, he steps in and becomes the protector of his foster brother. Billy ends up running away and finds himself in the otherworld realm, but there is no test to see if he is worthy to become Shazam; time has run out for the old wizard and he is desperate to pass the torch since Dr. Sivana has been and gone and took with him the seven deadly sins in gargoyle form to unleash on the world.
READ MORE: The Road to Shazam!… Justice League (2017)
This is where the fun begins. Billy goes from a 14-year-old pubescent boy to a fully grown, muscles oozing out of every crevasse, god. The costume is completely over the top, with bright red and gold trim and a cape that would make Liberace jealous. Watching the two boys’ trial and error all Billy’s newly acquired superpowers is by far the highlight of the whole movie. It smartly sticks to exactly how teens would attempt such a feat, by filming and creating their own Youtube channel showcasing all their tests. Then of course they try to fulfil other typical boy desires like buy beer and visit a strip club. It’s all done in lighthearted fun and leaves the audience in stitches.
Watching Billy’s character develop allows the audience to feel the overwhelming despair of a child who is lost after being separated from his mother. When he finally finds her and gets to ask the all-important question of ‘why?’, dripping with desperation and confusion, Billy finally realizes that the answers are no longer important – that living his new life with his new family is. It is one of those scenes that will make the audience hold their breath, fight back tears, and then laugh through them when our hero finally has the light bulb moment and realizes what is right for him.
The action does not disappoint in Shazam! and there are plenty of worthy epic battles taking place within a metropolitan city, the dark other world, and a carnival – which is symbolic of our champion since that is where his life took a wrong turn as the place he initially lost everything. In the end, as in most super hero tales, good prevails, but the message is clear: Billy shines brightest surrounded by his new, diverse siblings who end up working together in a way that screams superhero sequel ensemble (please!!).
With a 12A rating, there are definitely elements that will keep small children out of the cinema. The seven deadly sin characters are CGI gargoyle-types and would be a little much for younger viewers. There are also typical DC implied deaths without too much gore, but death, nonetheless.
There are two post credit scenes that leave the audience laughing and thankfully enough room for a sequel, with the most unlikely of bad guys being teased in the final act. Between them is a wonderful cartoon depicting all the ways Shazam is superior to every other DC character, much like Deadpool is to Marvel minus all the F-bombs. It is one of those elements that most people miss, since they tend to up and leave the cinema as soon as the movie ends; however, viewers are missing out on an entertaining epilogue and should stay in their seats until the screen finally goes dark.