‘Shazam’ Review: DC’s Mightiest Mortal Shouts His Way To Success

Shazam Zachary LeviTechnically, you’re not supposed to make any noise in a theater, but if you yell “SHAZAM!” while seeing Shazam! because you’re having a good time, I’ll let it slide once.

Yes, there are a few heavy moments that deal with abandonment and the value of family, but the film is also packed with hilarious bits that make this one of DC’s lightest and most entertaining movies yet.

Director David F. Sandberg is primarily associated with horror films like Annabelle: Creation and Lights Out, but he does a great job bringing this lighter, almost parodic material to the big screen. Parts of the film come across as cheesy, but Shazam! frames a lot of its campy, more stereotypical moments as jokes about the larger superhero genre. Screenwriter Henry Gayden, best known for the found footage sci-fi film Earth to Echo, clearly loves this character because his appreciation for Billy Batson and the entire supporting cast of characters beams through in every scene. Future superhero screenwriters should take note because Gayden packs in a lot of material and even sets up teases for future installments in a really succinct, efficient way that never pulls the movie off-course of the primary story it wants to tell.

Shazam! may have two main characters in Billy Batson and Freddy Freeman, but it’s supported by three leading actors. Asher Angel plays Billy, a convincing street-kid who likes to pretend he only cares about himself but actually has a big heart. He’s the perfect contrast to Jack Dylan Grazer’s zany, superhero obsessed and often self-deprecating take on Freddy. At the heart of this movie though is Zachary Levi as the physical manifestation of Shazam’s champion. Levi has the charm and swagger to play a young boy’s idea of a cocky superhero, but he also has the vulnerability to portray someone who’s finally trying to do something good for others and progress with his own life.

Shazam Zachary Levi Sivana Mark Strong

Dr. Thaddeus Sivana is an understandable villain with an interesting, empathetic origin story, but it really does seem like Mark Strong phones in his performance. Sivana’s journey to prove himself worthy of greatness is compelling in theory, but Shazam! doesn’t give enough time to exploring his inner demons and motivation beyond his youth. Instead, Sivana comes across as a relatively simple man whose grand ambitions are merely manipulated by forces more powerful than himself.

The main thing that holds the film back is the relatively basic plot. Yeah, Billy’s transformation from a loner into a bonafide family man makes for a solid emotional core to the movie, but the rest of the story can be predicted beat by beat. Everything about the history of magic in the DC Universe is fascinating, but the movie could have benefited from giving the Seven Deadly Sins more time to corrupt the people of Earth instead of framing them as simply magical baddies who want to destroy the world. The plot is an important and easy thing to critique, but really it’s the characters and their interactions with the world that makes Shazam! so enjoyable.

Shazam! ditches a lot of the grays and cliched settings of other DC movies in favor of a more colorful, varied visual tapestry. Instead of directing fights in dark alleys or on military bases, Sandberg opts for well-lit battle sequences in interesting locations like a mall or Christmas fair that gives the movie an ’80s action vibe at times. Not only do these choices give Shazam! some visual distinction, but moving through the set pieces imbues the fight scenes with a sense of progress since characters can interact with new props and the battles change and intensify as everyone progresses through each new setting.

Shazam! Zachary Levi DC Batman Superman

The visual effects throughout Shazam! are somewhat hit-or-miss. The hero’s movements look really fluid as he flies around or runs at hyperspeed, but the visual representations of the Seven Deadly Sins are a little weak. Thanks to some cool framing by cinematographer Maxime Alexandre there are moments where the Sins certainly look menacing in a group, but whenever the audience gets a close peek at one of the monsters it’s a little underwhelming. There’s one scene in particular with a bus that includes a convincing combination of practical and computer-generated effects reminiscent of the train sequence from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, but even that has a few hiccups. Like I said before though, the parts of the movie I enjoyed the most were more so when Billy interacts with random people as he discovers his powers, and the VFX there, especially Shazam’s classic “lightning from the hands” trick, are pretty good.

It doesn’t feature any major crossovers, but Shazam! is very much planted inside the DC Extended Universe. Like Wonder Woman and Aquaman, part of what makes this film so enjoyable is the fact that the protagonist truly stands-out on his own. Shazam doesn’t need another hero to pop up and make the film more appealing to general audiences. Sure, seeing Shazam and Ezra Miller’s Flash interact in the future could be entertaining, but part of me wants to see Zachary Levi’s superhero lovingly separated from the pack because the movie does a good job poking fun at all the other DC characters in an eccentric and pleasant way.

There are a few nit-pick worthy things that anyone searching for too much reality in their comic book movies can fixate on, but Shazam! is delightful and charming from start to finish. The constant influx of superhero movies has left me, a lifelong comic book reader, a little jaded to the burgeoning genre, but I’m genuinely excited to see what happens next for Shazam and the rest of these characters.

Final Score: 8/10

Suicide Squad Characters That Can Appear In The James Gunn Sequel

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James Gunn Suicide Squad DC ComicsJames Gunn is directing The Suicide Squad for Warner Bros. but that comes at a cost.

When the first Suicide Squad was about to hit theaters DC fans were completely ecstatic. The trailers looked great and the feel of the movie was much different than the darkness that preceded it in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This movie was expected to be one of DC's biggest hits and it turned out to be one of the biggest let-downs of all time.

Suicide Squad was bad and its reviews reflected that. It was one of the only movies I've ever been upset at and it made me want to leave the theater. A sequel was announced because the film did well at the box office, going through a number of drafts until James Gunn was brought on to write it. With James Gunn now officially set to direct The Suicide Squad, it looks like the film will be a bit of a soft reboot.

Last night was a bit of a DC maelstrom of news. We got the release dates and official titles of Matt Reeves' The Batman and James Gunn's The Suicide Squad. Both movies will be hitting theaters in Summer 2021. Throughout all of the chaos a small tidbit surfaced about The Suicide Squad: the James Gunn-directed film will be some sort of relaunch with new characters and actors. Here are the characters I think James Gunn should introduce in his Suicide Squad movie. Hit Next to view all of my choices.

Amanda Waller

Suicide Squad Amanda Waller Viola Davis

Warner Bros. and DC may want to reboot Suicide Squad, but it would be seriously dumb for them to recast Amanda Waller. Viola Davis was one of the saving graces of the first film and bringing her back is the smart thing to do. Amanda Waller is the one that puts the group together and she shouldn't be changed due to a new director.

Black Manta

Aquaman Black Manta

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II made his debut as Black Manta in Aquaman and he didn’t get much screen time. The Suicide Squad is the best place for Black Manta to receive some character development and for audiences to see him grow as a villain. Black Manta is a main squad member in the New 52 and I think James Gunn could do the character justice.

Deadshot

Deadshot Will Smith

Another bright spot from the first film: Will Smith as Floyd Lawton, a.k.a. Deadshot. Will Smith is one of the most famous actors of all time and throughout every review of Suicide Squad his character shines. His charisma and screen presence dominated the film. Not bringing Smith back would be sabotaging the sequel as fans will expect the actor to return following his great performance.

Deathstroke

Deathstroke JoeManganiello

Joe Manganiello made his debut as Deathstroke in the post-credits scene of Justice League. His character wasn't as eager for a team-up as Lex Luthor, but we could see the assassin enroll in the Suicide Squad. It could be great for Manganiello as his Deathstroke film has been put on the back-burner.

Killer Frost

Killer Frost DC Comics

This character is unlikely to show up in The Suicide Squad as she's being heavily utilized in The Flash series on The CW. But, if James Gunn does get his hands on Killer Frost, I guarantee the character will not be a complete shitshow like in the series. Hopefully the director can make Killer Frost as villainous as possible.

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy DC Comics

Poison Ivy will definitely return to the big screen. Pamela Isley made her big screen debut in Batman & Robin with Uma Thurman playing the character and while that film is so campily terrible, fans are looking forward to a modern take on the iconic DC Comics villain. Poison Ivy is rumored to be part of a Gotham City Sirens film and a rumored Birds of Prey versus The Gotham City Siren project. Ivy could definitely make her DC Extended Universe debut in The Suicide Squad and then return for more movies.

King Shark

King Shark DC Comics

King Shark was supposed to be in the first Suicide Squad, but ultimately didn't make the cut. The concept art of the character shows the cold-blooded amphibious mutant in a Hawaiian shirt looking like a totally monstrous shark. If James Gunn does decide to utilize this character it would be fun to see what he does on screen.

Bronze Tiger

Bronze Tiger DC Comics

Bronze Tiger was heavily featured in the first half of Arrow season 7. He was a major help to Oliver Queen during his tenure in prison. But Arrow hasn't done a very accurate version of Bronze Tiger and The Suicide Squad could be the first place we get to see Ben Turner really let loose.

Bane

Bane DC Comics

Bane is an interesting choice to join The Suicide Squad. He is a member in the comics and even the first film had some concept art featuring his mask. Fans are clamoring for Guardians of the Galaxy star Dave Bautista to join the film as the iconic Batman villain, having the actor reunite with James Gunn.

Cheetah

Wonder Woman 1984 Kristen Wiig Cheetah

Kristen Wiig will make her debut as infamous Wonder Woman villain Cheetah in 2020's Wonder Woman 1984. Maybe after the film, Cheetah gets locked up by A.R.G.U.S. and joins the Squad in present day. It would be great to see Wiig's character be explored more in future films.

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