Director: David F. Sandberg
Main Cast: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer
Genre: Action, Comedy
Movie Run Time: 2hrs 12 mins
Review Read: ~ 10 mins
The creative writing and direction for Shazam! is like a captain who has snatched control of a ship and moved the rudder towards a better course; away from the sea’s craggy rocks. It’s a movie that, since Gal Gadot’s debut as Wonder Woman, does the DC Extended Universe justice with a warm story and light-hearted scenes. A little bit of that charm may have been taken away due to its little-too-long movie runtime, but it’s a small issue in perspective to what’s to (hopefully) come in DCEU’s future.
You would think that Shazam! may have brought you towards familiarity with the DCEU’s bleak tone of cinematography by introducing the origin of the movie’s villain first – Mark Strong’s Dr. Sivana; the first few frames are scenes of bleak colour palettes and dark writing undertones. But once his origin story gets out of the way (detailing his motivations and ultimately, the tragedy that befalls him to be a villain), Shazam! brings in a whole trainline of quirky one-liners and expected-but-still-amusing archetypal superhero jokes. The whole movie almost felt like it was Zachary Levi’s titular character incarnate pulling an “I gotcha didn’t ya?” on the audience – You think the storytelling is going to get DCEU-quality-dark, but it never goes there, it just seem to do so.
Shazam! is definitely made for Zachary Levi’s spotlight: his persona really fits the role as our larger than life superhero, also known as Billy Batson but in Shazam form (So, let’s call him Older Billy Batson.). Shining along with him is Asher Angel, the younger Billy Batson. In order to make Shazam as a character work the writing had to make sure that younger and older Billy Batson does not stray too far away from their characteristics and how they are one and the same characters. It’s amazing how both Levi and Angel work really well in their character development without having to work together on the same screen. The reflection of Shazam’s inner psyche is well mirrored with younger Billy Batson’s confrontation towards the movies’ themes of family-finding, foster-parenting struggles, and courage to face reality.
Mark Strong was a good inclusion as Dr. Sivana. Although the character’s writing is simple, it opens a window for both very young and old to take in and reflect on the sense and maliciousness of his objectives – it’s a moral that has been told with the ages, and Strong’s menacing outlook and sharp features enhance the maliciousness of Sivana’s arc. What may disappoint some is that the supporting characters may feel a little lacklustre, almost as if they were purposely written to make room for the Levi-Angel-Strong character clash. Then again, a part of the movies’ biggest moments give room for these characters to shine should there be future sequels to come.
The only concrete problem with Shazam! is the length of its editing. The movie spends a little bit too much time dragging fights and the origins of Batson and Sivana. On reflection, the viewing experience felt like it tries to throw in funny lines and scenes to keep things fresh just when scenes are beginning to overstay its welcome. Midway through the movie’s final battle, I was already hoping for a quicker conclusion. Once the credits role, this feeling has become an echo because of their MCU-esque ending scene and post-credits. The final shots of Shazam! brings excitement reminiscing of Nick Fury’s first appearance and the teasing of the Avengers. It seems like the DCEU has taken a step in the shadows of the MCU, and I think fans of both would not mind so long as they make things right.
Shazam! is a movie that has carved a way of redemption for the coming DCEU movies, soft reboot or not. The movie has proven that DCEU in its entirety can learn to not take itself too seriously. We can only hope that future instalments to the franchise can hold the same spirit as Shazam! and Wonder Woman alike.
For more Superhero movie reviews, keep your eyes on Playbomb Reviews.