Holy Moley!: A Review of Shazam!
When 14-year-old Billy Batson was bestowed with awesome magic power, in order to transform into a powerful superhero, all he has to say is “Shazam!” I arrived at an early screening of Shazam! last Saturday, hoping for a great cinematic introduction to an underused but fan favorite character. With Shazam!, DC has brought more humor, heart, and hope in a cinematic universe that, for the most part, has been limping since Man of Steel. While the modern DC movies have shined every now and then with films including Wonder Woman, I believe that Shazam! is DC’s best attempt at making a movie that balances originality, entertainment, and an inspiring message wrapped around a relatable character.
Shazam! is very much based on the comic books by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, but the film deviates from that plot and finds ways to make its own story. The movie follows Billy Batson on a quest to not only find himself, but also a family where he can have a sense of belonging. As he should, Billy shines as the protagonist of the movie, and his scenes as a 14-year-old are as entertaining as those when he becomes the superhero Shazam. One of the main reasons that Shazam has always shined as a character is because of his youth and childlike energy, and the movie takes advantage of this perspective in Asher Angel’s portrayal of Billy as well as Zachary Levi’s Shazam. Although Billy can sometimes be seen as irresponsible or reckless, he ultimately has good intentions, and by being given the power of the wizard Shazam, Billy has the opportunity to grow and become more selfless. He is able to accomplish this goal in part by the relationships that he forms with the foster family he joins.
One of the main themes of Shazam! is the conflict between family and loneliness. The power of this movie comes from the relationships Billy forms as he finally begins to accept a family that he seems to belong to. The exchanges between the foster kids and parents are fun, humorous, and at some points emotional, which helps flesh out most of these characters. While the movie focuses primarily on Billy’s relationship with Freddy Freeman, the other children including Mary, Darla, Pedro, and Eugene are also strong characters, even if some are less essential to the story than others. Billy’s new foster parents are also enjoyable to watch on screen, as they do their best to bring together foster kids with different backgrounds in order to offer them a new family. Overall, the family dynamic may be the film’s greatest strength, as Billy’s quest to find belonging makes him a more compelling and likable character.
Billy’s opposite and rival in the movie comes in the form of Dr. Sivana, who is portrayed as similar to Billy in many ways, although his search to fill his void of loneliness is much more sinister. While Dr. Sivana isn’t the most compelling character in the movie, I appreciated the movie focusing on making him a unique character whose motivations are clear and developed. Additionally, Sivana can be further developed if DC were to use him again, which is hinted at when he meets another obscure Shazam enemy. Although these two characters aren’t well known, I hope that their appearances in future DC movies can show moviegoers the humorous dynamic that comic book fans are familiar with from these villains. Overall, while Dr. Sivana is not focused on enough to make him one of the best comic book movie villains, it would be exciting to see him in future films starring Billy Batson and his family.
Shazam! tells the story of Billy Batson learning how to be a hero, and it does a great job of doing so. Although DC’s movies aren’t always consistent in terms of quality, I would say that Shazam! is possibly the company’s best movie in the past decade. However, though it offers the great action and entertainment you’d expect in a superhero movie, the different personalities, conversations, and relationships are the strength of the film.