Having disbanded their cinematic universe, instead deciding to focus more on the standalone films for their array of superheroes, allowing them space to breathe and not be under pressure to have everything build to something major, the DCEU picked themselves up off the floor with Aquaman. After the disaster that was Justice League, it was clear they needed to rethink their strategy and with that comes the arrival of Shazam!
When teenager Billy Batson (Asher Angel) has a mysterious power bestowed upon him by an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou), with just one word he is able to transform into the superhero Shazam (Zachary Levi).
When they kickstarted the DCEU back in 2013 with Man of Steel, I would never have guessed that someday they would be releasing a film like Shazam!, an entry into the superhero genre that reminds you how great it can be to just let your inner-child loose. This is undeniably one of the most fun-fuelled superhero films ever made, utterly infectious with the audience so I’d recommend watching it with as big a crowd as possible.
The screenplay is pretty damn sharp, causing a few laugh-out-loud moments for myself throughout, but the narrative also manages to dip into the darker side of things as it tells a story about loneliness and the importance of family, throwing in the wonder of magical powers for good measure to ensure this becomes a major hit with all the family.
Zachary Levi revels in the role of Shazam, capturing the combined cockiness and innocence of a teenager who’s just discovered they have superhero abilities so brilliantly. It’s a joyous performance that effectively contradicts with the performance of Asher Angel as Billy Batson, the teenage form taken when he doesn’t want to use his powers. Batson is a damaged child, having been abandoned at a young age, and Angel delivers an emotive performance that gives the film the grounded angle that will make it an accessible film for many.
Jack Dylan Grazer steals the show though as Freddy Freeman, Billy’s foster brother, his comedic timing working so well alongside Levi’s goofiness as Shazam. Mark Strong makes for a serviceable villain, hamming it up to the max at times, making him to go-to-guy, alongside Ben Mendelsohn, for the villainous roles.
Shazam! runs the risk of overstaying its welcome however, thanks to an abundance of fun had in front of and behind the camera filtering through to the audience, and a number of surprises along the way, it’s impossible not to just sit back and enjoy it. Amongst some of the more serious superhero films to be released in recent years, this could be exactly what the doctor ordered.