A shock to the system comes when new life reinvigorates cliches. While Marvel's Captain Marvel is a retread of the same-old-thing, Shazam! offers a fresh take on the genre- a take I did not know I needed or wanted. My wife left the theater saying that this was her favorite superhero film to date and a review was needed STAT!
While several other comic films have resonated a bit more with me, Shazam! is excellent. It is more than I bargained for, encapsulating so much more than just a superhero movie. Shazam! refuses to succumb to the typical tropes that comic book movies fall victim to, while presenting a family drama with rich characters. Despite the movie being a comedy with thematic elements placing it in the DCEU, it is more than that. The relationship built between Billy Batson (Asher Angel) and the audience is one of deep empathy, which is aided by the role of Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer). Freddy serves as our gateway to the world of comics and asks the questions that any of us in proximity to a hero would. Freddy is us in every way: flawed, living vicariously through Billy, and aspiring to attain greater purpose. The audience feels for both Billy and Freddy because experiencing each character’s pain makes them more human. Billy and Freddy’s battles are performed flawlessly by Asher and Grazer, offering deep and meaningful character development.
Looking at the overall mise-en-scene, the film allows for the development of an environment where chuckles are as frequent as guttural howls. The theater that I screened the film in missed lines because the laughter was so loud and consistent. Finding a weakness is a challenge without quibbling. The only point of contention may be the pacing, but even that was relatively strong. The acting was fantastic. The graphics were excellent. The characters, the plot, and the story (even the third act) moved along better than I ever could have anticipated. Shazam! made the source material its own, in a creative way.
Mark Strong gave a consistently incredible turn as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, balanced perfectly by Zachary Levi. Both exude charisma. Strong’s over the top evil paired with Levi’s youthful innocence strikes a perfect balance without venturing into camp. Angel, who represented an amalgam of the two, shows gravitas while maintaining Batson’s innocence. Additionally, John Glover was fantastic as Sivana’s father, reinforcing the message that it is not the circumstances that make the man, but what each of us does despite life’s limitations. Shazam! reaffirms that a hero is a person who does good whether there are witnesses or not. The worthiness of an individual rests not on the size of the person doing the deed, nor the grandness of the gesture, but rather the impact that the act has on the lives of others. The message of hope is also a message of service for family and community.
Shazam! challenges us to connect with others and make sure that we protect those whom we care for. We can all be heroes. We can all make a difference because that is what we need now more than ever. Shazam! is for children and adults, showing the innocent and jaded alike that anything is possible, always reminding us to never let go of our dreams, no matter how outrageous. Shazam! is a lot of fun, but it is also heartwarming, even for those of us who have grown cynical. The hero’s message is that every day is a fresh start and each person can make impossible contributions despite his or her past and circumstantial marginalizations.
The Skinny: Shazam! is a marvelous movie and gives us something worthwhile. I give it 3.5+ stars out of 4 and definitely a big thumbs up! It is absolutely worth watching and investing your time to see in theaters. It opens April 5, 2019, so plan to see it opening weekend because everyone will be buzzing!
Please leave a comment with any upcoming review requests, and do not forget to like and share! Additionally, we are looking to start a monthly Randolph area film club. We will meet to share a movie by revisiting a classic or sharing a new favorite. We will be meeting at Astute Academics located at 6 Emery Avenue Suite 7 (Date and Time TBD). Please message me if you are interested at firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited.