In Shazam, DC continues its inclination towards lighter warmer themes after the success of Aquaman. This time our story is simpler in the epic sense of the adventure and, as we move deeper into the extended universe with the 7th film, the time frame of the events also got tighter. However, in the dramatic sense, Shazam is extremely rich. We have several stories progressing at a great pace and without giving the audience any sense of complication. The kid whose top priority is to find his mom with a sense of guilt that it was his mistake that he lost her in the first place. His struggle to fit it and adapt with any of the foster homes that try their best to welcome him. His newly formed friendship with Freddy who has a lot of loyalty to offer but also needs a great deal of support. His sudden transformation into an adult and his transformation into a superhero & the film does a great job in separating those two angles. Then this immature adult/superhero combo in the face of ruthless evil.
Imagine all those lines perfectly introduced and carefully progressing. Now imagine that the moments where those lines are taken seriously are extremely minimal. With efficient and well placed comedy leading the way whenever possible. This has been the case through the whole film until the final act. Which is basically a prolonged confrontation scene that could’ve been presented in less than half the time it actually took. I can’t say that it was boring, especially with the balance of strengths and weaknesses was very well explored on both sides, but it took a long time which could’ve been put to better use. Especially the quest of young billy to find his mother which, in my opinion, was the best dramatic line in the film both in terms of story and in studying the character of our hero.
Events of Shazam! Follow Billy Batson, a 14 years old who was separated from his mom as a child . He is now a foster kid constantly running from homes and getting himself in trouble to search for his mom. Following one of his attempts, he gets moved to a new home with a loving couple and 5 other kids of different ages. He starts forming a friendship with Freddie, one of the 5 kids, and one day he stands up for him in the face of bullies, only to find himself transferred to a parallel realm where the wizard “Shazam” chooses him as his champion. Now, simply, by saying the word Shazam, he transforms into an adult superhero with a range of exceptional powers, and while still adjusting to those powers with the help of Freddy, he finds himself a target for Dr. Thaddeus Sivana. Who wants nothing except seizing Shazam’s powers to himself, so what will happen?
What makes Shazam most interesting to follow is how interesting the characters are, and I don’t just mean the hero and the villain. As much as the film is tight in terms of scope of events, it is very rich with characters. Billy, his foster parents and the 5 kids that form a family of 8 extremely nice individuals. They don’t take equal screen time of course but they all prove sensible and significant. Our main focus is of course Billy and his alter ego Shazam in addition to the impressive Freddy Freeman. Freddy was played by Jack Dylan Grazer which I first saw in “It” and he was really great, and here he’s even greater as he breathes the most unique type of life into the scenes between him and adult Shazam played by Zachary Levi. The chemistry between the two was really in its best shape, and the question of chemistry is really complicated in this film because we actually have three pairs; Billy and Freddy, Shazam and Freddy .. and Billy and Shazam. Oh yes, Zachary Levi does the most impressive job embracing the complications of the young struggling kid. While taking every opportunity to still give us comedy without ever feeling out of place.
Dr. Thaddeus Sivana is also an interesting character in my opinion. He has history that justifies his actions and his goal. As a villain with super powers he has clear strengths and clear weaknesses, and this is important by the way, because in most superhero films recently, this is very hard to identify and define. Mark Strong’s portrayal was good. Wasn’t exceptional even though he is an exceptional actor of course.
Shazam is fun superhero movie and not just for the reasons that usually make superhero movies fun. I rarely ever see a story in a superhero movie as rich and complicated as the story of the struggle of Billy Batson. Also, I appreciate that I’m seeing it in a light film that focuses mainly on entertaining. When you have a core like that you can get by with less than impressive job in the shenanigans of superhero films, and here we don’t have exceptional special effects or action choreography, but we don’t have the worst either. The only blame I’ll insist on is the time segment allocated for the last act of the film, since it really harmed the whole viewing experience in all its aspects. Even comedy, which was cruising smoothly through the whole film, started to struggle in the last act, especially with insisting on delivering irony using a Santa character! I don’t know whose idea was that, but I think it was really horrible.