The DC Extended Universe has had a rough sailing in the past few years. Its grand assemblage of tentpole superheroes like Batman vs Superman, Suicide Squad, and Justice League have all been critically panned and done middling business at the box office. The few glimpses of hope have been in the form of standalone origin movies like Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and the recently released Shazam!
Weaving an enchanting tale of magic, bravery, and familial ties, Shazam is the story of a kid who becomes a superhero by just reciting the magic word – Shazam! It’s a light-hearted journey filled with giggles and gags, and enough action to keep you invested throughout its running time.
That was a TL;DR for those short of time, but now, let’s have a look at what makes Shazam such an endearing watch!
We all know about movies formerly made on eponymous superheroes like Batman and Superman – the campy flicks starring Adam West, Warner Bros’ first venture with Tim Burton’s Batman, and the numerous films on the caped crusader starring Christopher Reeves. But what about Shazam? How has this superhero been depicted on celluloid?
In case you were not aware, SHAZAM (which is an acronym for the six immortal elders: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury) was the bestselling comic in the 1940s, beating even Superman in terms of sales. The character was initially named as ‘Captain Marvel’ but due to trademark conflicts with Marvel Comics, it was reintroduced as ‘Shazam!’ in 1972.
How did kids get their fix of Shazam back then?
Through a seemingly strange and now thoroughly dated live-action TV show by Filmation (it seems dated even for that time). Just look at this:
Filmation followed up with an animated series in 1981, called ‘The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam!’
Since, early 2000, there had been talks for a live-action feature film on Shazam! But due to negotiations and changes in development schedule, the previous plans of Dwayne Johnson starring as Black Adam were shelved for a separate movie and Zachary Levi was cast in the title role.
How has the latest installment in the DCEU fared?
Charming Cast Powers The Heart Of The M
A movie is as good as its cast and the script. Shazam has a delightful coterie of kids in a foster home, each having their own quirks and charms to leave you in splits. The main narrative is not even about superheroes, but about two kids and the journey they follow for a semblance of stability in life.
Billy Batson (played by Asher Angel) is a foster kid who runs away from homes in search of his mother. He has a cavalier attitude, doesn’t give a fig about superheroes and just has one single focus in life – to find his mom.
In parallel, there is the story of the villainous Dr Thaddeus Sivana, who begrudges a bitter childhood with his cold-hearted father. How their fates intertwine and the characters they become is what forms the crux of the story.
However, there is a much warmer vibe to Shazam than the generic superhero meets supervillain narrative. The foster kids around Billy Batson, especially Freddy, who becomes his sort of sidekick, and their interactions with different creative gewgaws is the movie’s oeuvre.
In fact, the kids do a much better job than Zachary Levi, who at times literally comes across as an adult trying to play a kid. He was trying a bit too hard, we felt, but it nevertheless adds to the goofiness of the movie.
Wit and Giggles Coupled With Solid Action
What do kids who have grown up on a diet of superhero movies wish the most?
To be a superhero!
On discovering Billy’s newfound persona as a superhero with hyperspeed, superstrength, electric power etc, there is no taking the Spider-man route of ‘with great powers comes great responsibility’. The kids go nuts, trying out different ways to leverage Shazam’s powers to create cool videos, charge phones of random passerbys, and doing associated cool shit just because IT IS SO MUCH FUN.
This evokes a lot of giggles that continue till the very end. Yeah, no platitudes or sermons about doing good for the society and other yakkity yak. If you are a superhero, why not just have a lot of fun and kick some villain ass?
The action in the movie, though not exactly on a level of large-scale superhero films with global cataclysms, is still solid and fast-paced to provide you the desired adrenaline rush.
Lots Of Heart, Lots Of Fun
Which other DC movie is scheduled for a release in 2019?
None other than the Joker, which garnered rave reviews for Joaquin Phoenix harrowing portrayal of the titular character’s descent into insanity. Sounds pretty morbid, right?
This is why Shazam is such a refreshing entry into the DCEU with its light-hearted, less angry and positive approach. Heartfelt and humorous, with kids debating the nuances of superhero abilities engaging in awkward dinner conversations, and dealing with school bullies, Shazam packs a clean, delightful punch for a fun family viewing.
Final verdict: 4/5 stars