When watching another movie with a friend of mine, a trailer for “Shazam” came on. She then, in turn, looked at me and asked, “Is there really a hero named Shazam?” and proceeded to laugh a bit. To be perfectly clear, I am not the biggest fan of DC movies and “Shazam” was kind of a weird choice considering all DC has to offer ( Martian Manhunter, I’m looking at you). But strangely…it works really well.
“Shazam” follows a 14-year-old Billy Batson, an orphan child who was separated from his mother at a young age and is hell bent on finding her. From a pretty humorous intro, Billy is put into a group foster home and while defending one of the other kids in his house from bullies, he gets chosen by a wizard to become the 30-year-old hero Shazam.
If the last part sounds stupid and weird, you’re right, it’s pretty weird and campy when on screen too. But that’s one of the best parts of the movie. It’s really self-aware that it’s a pretty outlandish story and it doesn’t try to make it some dark and deep story. It’s just a 14-year-old with magic superhero powers given to him by an old wizard who fights demons. And yes it’s as weird as it sounds.
The humor is probably where the creative team felt the most confident because it really shows that they have mastered making you laugh. The stand out comedic actor has to be Zachary Levi. You can really buy into the fact that he’s a 14-year-old mind in a 30-year-old’s body. He’s so childish that I can’t even look at him with a straight face, also because as said in the movie, his suit is kind of….stupid.
But the movie isn’t afraid to hit you in the gut with emotions. The foster home Billy lives in has the most emotional moments. Actress Grace Fulton shows the fear of moving away from family for college, Faithe Herman as Darla is a loving little sister that Billy has to get used to, and Jack Dylan Grazer’s Freddy Freeman gives a talk about not wanting people to ignore him or even the smallest bit of attention he does get being pity.
But there is no such thing as a perfect movie, and “Shazam’s” issue is a tale as old as time: the villain sucks. And not like he sucks and that’s why we root for the hero, he sucks cause he doesn’t really have a character other than he was bullied and abused by his family. Studios and creative teams behind movies know that a villain needs more than a tragic backstory to be likable right?
Giving some humanity or charisma to disposable supervillain number 46 will do wonders in turning your weak villain to a relatable person. On the DC side of supervillains, Joker has no real backstory or no life outside of being the clown prince of crime. But he was so charismatic and just enjoying himself that we the audience couldn’t help but have fun with him.
Some can say the cheesy undeveloped villain was for the cheesy feel of the whole movie, but I can’t really say that due to those emotional scenes with the foster family. You can have emotional moments in cheesy movies, but it’s really difficult to do and I think the creative team didn’t get it right this time around.
But overall, I recommend watching, even if you’re not a fan of DC. I won’t buy it on Blu-ray or anything, but I had more fun than I thought when saying I’m going to watch a movie about a 14-year-old turning into a 30-year-old man to fight bad guys and impress girls. But now that DC is hitting their stride in movies, can we finally get a Martian Manhunter movie? Please?