DC goes “big” with its latest hit

David Eckstein

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From one horror director (James Wan) scoring big with Aquaman comes another horror director (David F. Sandberg) scoring big with DC’s latest entry, Shazam: a film about a superhero who figuratively and literally walks the line of both a golden age hero and a modern day teen.

The film centers on Billy Batson (Asher Angel, Zachary Levi), a troublesome 14-year-old orphan who has spent most of his life in foster home after foster home while searching for his real family. His latest home consists of five kids, including disabled superhero enthusiast Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer). Billy’s life turns upside down when he finds himself transported to an unknown realm where an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou) bestows upon him his godlike powers transforming him into an adult superhero by uttering the word “Shazam!”. Billy and his best friend Freddy must discover Billy’s newfound powers when a super villain named Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) finds magic powers of his own and plans to commit nefarious acts.

After so many years of Warner Bros. making films that revel in the grandness of comic book films, we finally have a movie that’s a lot lighter as we get a ton of comedy in a film that celebrates its zany tone. I could go off both hands on a number of times I laughed in the theatre. Angel and Levi do a fantastic job, when you find out that these two actors practically play the same character you think of all the funny and creative things they can do with this concept and they take full advantage of that. The scenes between Levi and Grazer are easily the funniest scenes in the film and are worth the price of admission alone. The people behind this film know that this is a ridiculous idea but they give their all into it. Strong especially gives it his all, his serious acting and the way he carries out his evil plans makes him a perfect counterpart to Levi’s childish antics.

This film not only has a good sense of humor going for it but a lot of heart as well. The foster home in many ways represents the heart of the film. The people in this home when you get to know them are some of the warmest people in the world, they’re energetic, funny, and just enjoyable to watch. It could have been so easy to only have them as side characters or cut them out entirely, but they all serve a role not only to the story but to each other as characters. I love their personalities and how they work off each other. It’s easily the strongest part of the movie aside from the comedy. Where it left out or glossed over the film wouldn’t nearly be as good as it is. You can make the argument that the comedy does undermine some of the drama but if any film can have a ton of humor, it’s this one.

The film in terms of tone and spirit deviates from the likes of Wonder Woman and Aquaman and feels like something that came out after Richard Donner’s Superman II; I mean that in the best possible way. It’s definitely a smaller story with tons of camp combined with a large amount of color throughout the film. This alone makes it a must watch for fans of that era.
Director Sandberg, a man whose usually associated with horror films shows that he can make a movie that’s not only funny and colorful, but also have a ton of heart to back it up.

At a time when people are becoming accustomed to the big grand epics that a lot of films are trying to be nowadays, Shazam goes for a more personal approach to show us what makes these characters so great. I don’t know what’s next in store for DC films as a whole, but if they have the same amount of talent and heart as this film does then you can bet people young and old will continue see films like this in the years to come.

Rating: 4 out of 5 sails

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