Shazam may be the one superhero movie you can go see if you’ve never seen another superhero movie before. The film stands perfectly on its own two feet, and further signals Warner Brothers’ shift towards successful superhero movies. Zachary Levi plays the adult super-powered Shazam, with Asher Angel playing the young Billy Batson.
Shazam is defiantly funny in its childlike humour, proving not every superhero movie has to be serious to be great.
For those who haven’t seen the trailer, Batson transforms into the superhero by shouting one word: Shazam.
The mechanics behind why Billy is chosen over every other kid on Earth isn’t quite cleared up, especially when Djimon Hounsou ancient wizard (confusingly also named Shazam) is dead set on finding someone pure of heart.
Perhaps it is solely that he’s better than the villain, played by Mark Strong, who was as a young boy also Shazam’s shortlist.
The plot is very much entrenched in good versus evil, literally – the baddies are the seven deadly sins, who take up residence in Strong’s Dr Sivana to wreak havoc on Earth.
But Billy isn’t exactly wholly good, which is where Shazam gets interesting.
He is a foster kid who has been let down by the system too many times to be the trusting, open kid many expect of a young teenage boy.
The young Batson comes off as moody, broody, and disenfranchised – precisely what you expect.
But as the grown-up Shazam, Zachary Levi plays him with a goofy, almost ebullient innocence that seems mismatched to his younger self.
After all, they are meant to be the same person, and Levi’s slight hamming it up creates a distinct separation between Billy and his adult-superhero-form.
Though the pacing is an issue, Shazam is helped by its quicker runtime.
The DC Comics adaptation is also helped enormously by the other foster kids in Billy’s home, particularly Faithe Herman as Darla Dudley, the little sister in the home.
Where the rest of the kids seem slightly self-aware in an almost too-meta way, Herman (who rose to fame for her role in This Is Us) is effortlessly Dara Dudley.
Shazam tried to speak to a deeper emotional core, giving Batson a fraught relationship with his birth mother.
Had the movie explored the repercussions of that kind of abandonment on a young child, Shazam would have had a wholly different tone.
The film may have been better served by eliminating the need to resolve the relationship altogether.
Batson has enough reasons to be moody – he’s a fourteen-year-old kid – and enough reasons to become joyous – superpowers!
Trying to tie up the loose end of why his mother never looked for him was too much of a diversion from the main plot.
And that main plot was certainly well-aimed at its demographic, those who are, or were, teenage boys, while still remaining accessible to everyone else.
The future sequels seem poised to give more screen time to Batson’s siblings, which can only be a good thing as Batson stumbles slightly with the weight of storytelling on his fourteen-year-old shoulders.
At its heart, Shazam is a movie about making your own family, bridging the gap differences seem to make, and having a good laugh while you do.
Shazam is out in cinemas on Friday, April 5, 2019.