Shazam! has an exclamation mark in its title for a reason – it’s fun, full of energy and a barrel of laughs.
This DC Extended Universe film is a giant step in the right direction for Marvel’s main competitor, with people of all ages sure to delight in the wholesome fun and onscreen banter of the diverse cast.
As comic book fans know, Shazam! is the story of 14-year-old Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a runaway foster kid who gains superhero powers from an ailing wizard (Djimon Hounsou). With a shout of ‘Shazam!’, the baby-faced Batson transforms into an over-muscled adult version of himself (depicted by Zachary Levi), complete with a flowing cape.
Billy’s perpetual search for his teen mother, who abandoned him as a child, is interrupted as he and his comic-book obsessed foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) set about testing Billy’s new-found superhero powers. Numerous montages of precarious, hilarious situations flesh out the second act of the film, with a good dose of slapstick humour sure to keep you laughing.
Although there is a tendency for the supervillain to change the whole mood of a superhero film, the introduction of Dr Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), who commands the physical forms of the seven deadly sins and is hellbent on avenging his childhood trauma, doesn’t limit the levity of Shazam!
With barely tested powers, Billy must prevent Dr Sivana from stealing his power and wreaking havoc on the city. With the help of his foster siblings – Mary (Grace Fulton), Eugene (Ian Chen), Pedro (Javan Armand) and the incredible Darla (Faithe C. Herman) – Billy uses his teenage ingenuity to reckon with his supervillain counterpart.
Although the production of the film is very slick and easy to digest, DC deserves added recognition for the family-friendliness of the film. Shazam! does have a Mature Audiences rating in Australia, however, there is a noticeable lack of sexual themes which seem to permeate current superhero action films. Scenes of violence in Shazam! are kept to a minimum, with the final fight scene featuring enough slapstick humour to alleviate the situation. The jokes quipped by this bunch of misfit siblings are pleasingly age appropriate.
The entire cast is a delight to watch, with the various relationships between the kids bringing much warmth to the film. Zachary Levi is an absolute cracker in his boy-in-adult-body role – he is like an overgrown puppy bursting with boundless joy. Playing the superhero with a mixture of childlike innocence and teenage pigheadedness, Levi breathes new life into this classic DC comic.
Shazam! is set to draw big school-holiday crowds and have them all laughing into their popcorn.
Mark Strong has been openly enthusiastic about playing Sivana, describing him as an “evil bastard” and saying how those roles are always fun to play.