Director: David F. Sandberg
Writers: Henry Gayden & Darren Lemke
Shazam created by: Bill Parker & C.C. Beck
Starring: Zachary Levi; Asher Angel; Mark Strong; Djimon Hounsou; Cooper Andrews; Marta Milans; Jack Dylan Grazer; Grace Fulton; Faithe Herman; Ian Chen; Jovan Armand; Ethan Pugiotto and John Glover
Let me preface this by saying that unlike many, I knew from the moment Zachary Levi was cast as Shazam, that this movie was going to be good. Then the trailer dropped and I damn near lost my mind. Now the film is here and not only does it live up to my expectations, it surpasses them.
This is going to be a spoiler-free review because, frankly, you deserve to see this movie unspoiled and let the utter joy and purity of it fill you heart and mind. Much like Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (another movie everyone kept telling me was going to be terrible and yet…) this movie wears its heart on its sleeve and is unashamed to be what it is: the story of a child given unimaginable powers and all that entails — good and bad. More importantly, this story is about family and what that word truly means.
As a child of military personnel, Billy Batson’s story has always spoken to me: the constant change, the inability to make long term connections with people my own age, while at the same time not wanting to let anyone too close because you may not see them again…ever. While the circumstances are far different Billy’s loneliness and isolation, his protective walls, are very, very familiar.
Which is why when Billy meets Victor & Rosa Vasquez (adorably played by Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans) and their hodgepodge of foster children, that, even more than gaining the powers of Shazam, is the beginning of him becoming a hero.
It’s also why Sivana was always doomed to become a villain. Despite, on the surface, having everything, Thaddeus Sivana never stood a chance. Growing up the son of a powerful and wealthy man who blatantly favors one child over the other, Thad has a deep wound in his soul that no amount of power, influence or…other will ever fill. His obsession with proving to his father that he’s good enough and inability to let that need go, for his own sake as much as everyone else’s, dooms him from the start.
Speaking of, I have to talk about the performances here. Rarely in a film do you see such a wide range of actors – of different races, body types and backgrounds – come together to give not one, not two but all the way across the board, utterly outstanding performances. There are actors in this film who, before I saw them in this, I was convinced could not act. I’d seen them in several things up to this point and never once was impressed. Here? They blew me away. As for the main actors, this movie would’ve failed utterly and completely had Asher Angel, Zachari Levi, Jack Dylan Grazer and Mark Strong not come correct. Each of them imbues their performances with layers of humor, pathos and pain that a lesser movie would have left aside for either too much grim dark or over the top silliness. Here the balance is perfect while never losing sight of the origins of all these characters.
Also, kudos to the set, costuming and sound design of this film. One of the things that stood out to me, and my mom who was with me to watch the film, is that Vasquezs’ home looked…real. This was no as my mom put it ‘hgtv house’. This home looked lived in. The kind of home with too many children and not enough bathrooms, lights that don’t always work and overstuffed rooms. It was clear in the little things that the Vasquez parents put their children first: the van they drive, the clothes they wear, all these small things are what makes this movie, unlike the The Dark Knight Trilogy or Man of Steel, seem far more grounded in reality.
Finally proving that Wonder Woman was not a one off, Shazam!, especially following so soon after the jaw-dropping and fun Aquaman, proves just how good the DCCU can be.
Here’s hoping the trend continues…
Five magic staffs out of Five
PS: Stay for both closing tags…
PPS: Warner Brothers and The CW sure do like to promote from within huh?