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Review: Shazam! (2019)

Zachary Levi is a gift to us all.

In my review for Aquaman (2018), which you can check out here, I declared that it was hands down the second best movie in the DC Extended Universe. Wonder Woman (2017) is still number one because hello, that movie is truly THAT BITCH. Abandoning the dark and serious tones that the DCEU had established, Aquaman took audiences on a vibrant and exciting adventure that was also able to have a little fun along the way. It was really good! Well, after seeing Shazam! (2019), the latest installment in the DCEU, I must admit that the King of Atlantis has rightfully been dethroned as the second best movie in the franchise. Wonder Woman still remains untouched because again, that movie is truly THAT BITCH.

Screen Shot 2019-04-07 at 6.31.17 PM
Credit: / Warner Bros. Pictures

Shazam! follows 15-year-old Billy Batson, a mischievous foster child who after being hand-chosen by an ancient wizard, is granted an array of miraculous powers. When Billy yells the word “shazam,” he transforms into a grown hero endowed with the powers of flight, invulnerability, and super strength. Initially Billy and his foster brother Freddy use his newfound powers for fun and games. However, when the sinister Dr. Sivana appears, Billy will have to use his powers for more than making YouTube videos and hijacking vending machines.

Since starting this blog six months ago, I’ve reviewed five superhero movies. Though all were slightly different in how they handled tone and the central theme of their movie, they more or less followed familiar tropes found in the genre. Shazam! certainly adheres to similar tropes, but my God, is this movie a breathe of fresh air. Even before the movie dives into its superhero antics, there’s a lighthearted and jovial tone that will draw you in and make you care about its endearing cast of characters. Funnily enough when I first heard that a Shazam movie was in development, I was like, “this shouldn’t happen, this is so unnecessary. Why aren’t they more focused on creating a sequel to Man of Steel (2013)?” After seeing the movie though, I’m excitedly looking forward to an entire trilogy of Shazam movies! Oh, and that Man of Steel sequel? I’m perfectly fine if that simmers in Development Hell for a few more years.

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Credit: / Warner Bros. Pictures

Part of what makes Shazam! so damn enjoyable, aside from its brilliantly comedic script and electrifying action sequences, is the rich cast of characters. Asher Angel and Zachary Levi, who share the dual roles of Billy and Shazam respectively, are the definition of perfect casting. Brash, courageous, and utterly relatable, Angel excels in portraying the best of Billy Batson, while still being able to tap into his tragic past to give a more comprehensive view of the young antagonist. Angel’s hit a home run with his first starring role, and I can’t wait to see how he grows into it in the inevitable sequels.

Then you have Zachary Levi. Levi was born to play this role. With boundless energy, unparalleled comedic timing, and an inherent lovableness that could charm the pants off of just about anyone, Levi’s performance ensures that nobody but he could play the titular hero. Levi harnesses all the boisterous charm and heart of a child, making his one of the most memorable and entertaining superhero portrayals in recent memory. Levi’s effervescence is matched only by the group of young actors who make up Billy’s foster siblings, each one an adorable scene-stealer in their own right. However it’s Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy who should get the most praise, as he’s a welcome and earnest comedic relief that makes an already fun movie even more fun. Looking forward to whatever future roles he takes on. Honestly, I fell so deeply in love with this cast of characters that Shazam! is one franchise I don’t mind watching countless sequels and spin-offs of. The finale is particularly satisfying and will have you clamouring for more movies. More of these wonderful characters please!

If Levi’s Shazam is the personification of joyful sunshine, than Mark Strong’s Dr. Sivana is the personification of bleak darkness. Boy, did he radiate an aura of menace! Both as actors and as characters, Levi and Strong are perfect opposites, challenging each other in ways that feel hauntingly familiar. Whether it’s the horrible rejection Sivana experiences  or the loving bonds Billy makes, Shazam! ultimately proves itself to be a story about the power of family. It was a really heartwarming treat. Tone and theme were handled exceptionally well in Shazam! and I was greatly impressed by the movie’s natural ability to blend jaw-dropping action with a healthy dose of heart and humour. Honestly, there were times when it really felt like a movie by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller which is ALWAYS a great reference.

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Credit: / Warner Bros. Pictures

Like Aquaman and Wonder Woman, Shazam! succeeds because of its concise story and message. It doesn’t worry about setting up future movies, juggling dozens of characters, or making reference to past movies. Instead, it tells a straightforward story that gives its title character the screen time and character development required to make audiences fall in love with him. Mission accomplished DC. Really, Shazam! wisely borrows from the best two DCEU movies by marrying the heart and heroics of Wonder Woman with the campy silly fun of Aquaman. I can’t explain it, but when I was watching this movie, I was really reminded of early 2000s superhero movies like X-Men (2000) and Spider-Man (2002). I think because it had all the character, fun, and adventure of a cartoon or an actual comic book. I can’t quite put my finger on it but if it reminded me of the iconic superhero flicks that helped pave the way for the renaissance we’re experiencing now, it’s surely a good thing.

Screen Shot 2019-04-07 at 6.20.07 PM
Credit: / Warner Bros. Pictures

A genuinely joyous movie that will fill you with childlike wonder and excitement, Shazam! single-handedly cured my overwhelming sense of superhero fatigue. You guys, I really liked this movie and can’t even describe how much fun I had watching it. And I wasn’t the only one. People in the audience were hooting and hollering and cheering the movie’s heroes on! With Shazam! DC has proven that lightning is more than capable of striking twice.

Have you seen Shazam! yet? What’s your favourite movie in the DCEU?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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