By Alice Longton
I think it’s safe to say that after the whole Justice League fiasco, D.C.’s reputation has gone to the dogs. Of, course, I might just be speaking for myself, but bar Wonder Woman (and possibly Aquaman if you watch it without taking it seriously), the D.C. Universe is drowning in the depths of Marvel’s success. Which is why I was very pleasantly surprised to find that Shazam! (yes, the exclamation mark is necessary) is a complete breath of fresh air.
Set as another superhero origin story, Shazam! tells the story of Billy Batson, a 14-year-old foster kid desperately trying to find his mother while simultaneously neglecting every chance at starting another family. His life suddenly changes when he is transported to a magical temple in an alternate dimension, meets an ancient wizard named Shazam who claims he is pure of heart, is gifted the many powers of the Greek Gods, and is tasked with the difficult job of protecting the world from the Seven Deadly Sins. Oh, and when using his powers, he turns into an adult male. Still with me? I know it may sound cheesy – and it is – but the cheesiness is the best thing about it.
D.C. movies throughout the years have had problems with tone, taking kind-hearted and happy-go-lucky heroes (ahem…Superman) and turning them into depressed loners. Shazam! brings the audience back to a time when heroes were over the top and didn’t take themselves too seriously, making for a more enjoyable and immersive experience. The film uses the 14-year-old boy in a man’s body to its advantage, as it is one of the funniest elements of the whole film, and Zachary Levi as the adult Shazam really takes this idea and pushes it to 11 in the best way. The lighter tone is also shown through Billy’s foster family, which is evidently the heart of the whole film. It’s also refreshing to see diversity within a superhero film. As someone with a disability, watching Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) as a pivotal character, who completely owns his disability, is really empowering. The Black, Latino, and Asian representation is also something that is certainly needed in cinema today, and wonderful to see.
There are, of course, issues with the tone, as the transition from humour to action is a little jumbled, and sometimes misplaced. The villain, Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), has a nice introduction, but falls flat as the film progresses, and the dialogue is at time stilted. But while I was watching it, I found I didn’t really care about any of that, because the film’s core, the relationships between Billie and his family, overshadows any criticism. It really does feel like D.C. has finally take flight.
Final Verdict: 8/10 Essentially Big as a superhero