Review: “Shazam!” Is A Fantastic Modern Origin Story That Retains The Optimistic Spirit Of Its Source Material
Following the massive success of “Aquaman” in 2018, the latest DC Films release has arrived with “Shazam.” While Warner Brothers has faced many twists and turns in their shared cinematic universe over the last few years, this take on the classic character is a fantastic modern origin story that retains the optimistic spirit of its golden age comic book source material.
The story follows Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a mischievous but relatable young man who reluctantly joins a foster home in Philadelphia alongside Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer). One day, an ancient sage (Djimon Hounsou) bestows Billy with the powers of legendary heroes that can be activated with the invocation “Shazam!” This form gives Billy the body of an adult (Zachary Levi) but still retains his childlike spirit. As Billy tries to master his powers and adjust to his adoptive family, he clashes with the mad scientist Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong), who seeks to plunge the world into darkness with the aid of seven demonic beings.
Rather than try to shy away from the goofiness of its lineage, the film wholeheartedly embraces it. Over the course of 132 minutes, director David F. Sandberg gives the character his first feature length film adaptation that revels in the idealism that’s been a cornerstone of the material since his first appearances in the 1940s comics and film serials.
In essence, the film is like a superhero version of the Tom Hanks classic “Big.” Instead of the dark and edgy storytelling that previous DC movies have been known for, the film is a great example of gleeful childlike wish fulfillment that their longtime rivals at Marvel set the standard for. Much like the 1940s film serials and a host of TV adaptations over the years, the film manages to make its absurd setup work in the context of a $100 million budget blockbuster. The heroic acts range from stopping a convenience store robbery to a spectacular final battle in a roadside carnival.
Overall, “Shazam” represents another compelling argument for the “Worlds of DC” rebrand of their cinematic universe. The film definitely has enough gleeful family fun to stand out among other DC Comics adaptations and is well worth your time.
Verdict: 4.5 Stars Out Of 5
Review by Steven Pryor
At a glance:
Directed by David F. Sandberg (Based on characters appearing in DC Comics)
Starring Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Djimon Hounsou and Jack Dylan Grazer