SHAZAM! Oh, nothing happened.
Just like very little happened in this film. While you think that may be a negative comment – it couldn’t be any further from the truth. Shazam is a zero high stakes, comedic modern take on the accidental superhero DC Comics forgot to copyright. Nice work guys. Slow clap. In fact, if you’ve purchased your ticket and are going with the expectation of epic superhero film – you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
Shazam spends little time fluffing around. The movie fires off on all cylinders with the tragic backstory of Doctor Sivana and his rejection at the hands of the Wizard Shazam. Sivana doesn’t receive the mantle of Shazam passed down to him. Instead, what follows is an untimely obsession causing a near fatal car crash and paralysis of his father. The following adage comes to mind – Absolute power corrupts, absolutely!
The next scene introduces us to the film’s protagonist, Billy Batson, a teenager who wears his own obsession like a badge of honor. The obsession to find his mother, who he got separated from, long ago at a country fair. Its an obvious character flaw eating at the core of Billy Batson’s core. To the point where it creates the very issues that block any real human connection. He has no family, he has no friends. Even though he is presented these opportunities at the start of the film.
After meeting his foster family, Billy is presented the opportunity to start at a new school. The first day is filled with the usual tropes – school yard bullies, navigating the social nuances of attending school with siblings and ditching class (we’ll come back to this later in the article). By this point we’ve already met his foster siblings but the sibling who Billy forms an unbreakable bond with is Freddy Freeman.
Just prior to Freddy discovering Billy’s power, we are introduced to the two scenes:
- First; Sivana discovering how to make it back to Wizard Shazam’s lair.
- Second; Billy Batson being given the power of Shazam.
SHAZAM doubles down on the Fun!
As you may have guessed it, Sivana takes the road of evil whereas Billy takes the road of righteous. Or is it, self righteous? This sends them on an eventual trajectory where they fight for something? The stakes in this film are never made clear.
Jack Dylan Grazer, who portrays Freddy, steals the show. His acting chops rival that of Zachary Levi’s. Grazer is able to effectively navigate the chemistry he has with both Zachary Levi (who plays Shazam) and Asher Angel (who plays Billy Batson). Freddy is the glue that holds the movie together. Both with Billy Batson/Shazam and the link of one scene to the other.
What follows the next 60-90 minutes is the depth of exploration in Billy Batson’s character. From his situational comedy that comes with the gradual acceptance of his alter-ego allowing him to skip class. To learning the truth behind his mother’s disappearance.
Eventually hunted down by Sivana, Shazam ends up in the fight of his life. A fight that can only be won through sharing the power with his friends. This links thematically throughout the entire film. With the Wizard’s mention of the deceased wizard council members to his friends. Billy creates his own council of superheroes. Taking down Dr Sivana and his merry men of faux-Gargoyles.
The easter eggs in Shazam are obvious but full of fun. From Shazam throwing Batman dolls at a pursuing Sivana. To the tongue-in-cheek “what we should call you?” jokes referencing the Marvel/DC Captain Marvel debacle.
Shazam! is a zero high stakes superhero film that doubles down on the fun. While the simplicity of the youthful comedic repertoire might be a hurdle for some. The lack of stereotypical end-of-the-world motifs gives Billy Batson and supporting characters room to breathe. On the way out of the film my wife made the comment, “it’s a palate cleanser before Endgame hits the cinema.”
Truth be told. That’s exactly what this is.
The character once known as Captain Marvel traverses the landscape of obsession, acceptance and family. Teaching us that sometimes family is just where you happen to be.
How did we rate this film? 5 Sodas
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