Movie Review: “Shazam!”
Separated from his mother when he was a child, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) has spent his life running away from foster home after foster home, all while searching desperately for his long lost mother. Despite his best efforts, every lead has ended up being a dead end. His latest efforts have landed him in a new foster home, one that already has five other children living there. The foster family is an odd, but decent family. However, Billy is a loner who just wants to find his mom, and is not ready to move on to a “new family”.
Billy’s whole life would change, however, when he is summoned by a mystical wizard. The wizard has grown old and needs to pass his power along to someone. He has been searching for the right candidate for a very long time, but needs to find someone who is "pure" and who will never use his powers for evil. That search has brought him to Billy. The manifestations of the seven deadly sins have found their way to earth and only the wizard’s power can stop them, but the wizard is too old and weak to stop them himself so he must pass his power along to Billy now. All Billy has to do is just say the word “Shazam!”.
The Pros & Cons
Billy Batson (-4pts)
The Cast (+8pts)
Dr. Sivana & The Sins (-5pts)
The Home & Family (+5pts)
Pro: Shazam! (+10pts)
This was such a fun premise. Tom Hank’s Big meets the insanely popular superhero franchise, and it was such a fun idea to see explored. It was a silly premise, but that just made for a lot of really entertaining moments. Shazam is an incredibly powerful superhero with a variety of powers, but he has the mind of a teen-aged boy. With the great popularity of the superhero genre, we have seen plenty of super characters saving the day, but this movie felt a bit different.
Yes, Shazam is super, but his mind is that of a kid who is really enjoying having super powers as well as having a bit of freedom from an otherwise depressing life. We see this character having a blast as he plays with his powers, and it was easy for me to put myself in his shoes and wonder what I would have done if I were in this scenario. The kid was having fun, which made the audience have fun. It was also interesting to see how Shazam’s power made Billy grow as a character. It was a fun idea, that I really enjoyed seeing explored.
Con: Billy Batson (-4pts)
On one hand, I liked the growth that Billy went through in this movie because I enjoyed the role that super powers played in that growth. On the other hand, was the fact that Billy’s growth was incredibly predictable. The filmmakers set up Billy in a way that made his inevitable story arc very obvious. While Billy at the end of the movie was very different than Billy at the beginning of the movie, I saw this growth coming from a mile away. The events that took place were a surprise, but his overall development was a bit too predictable, which made it feel less impactful.
Pro: The Cast (+8pts)
I liked the premise of this movie, but the cast was really solid. Zachary Levi did a fantastic job of playing this unique character. He embraced his inner child, which made the silly concept believable and really entertaining. This premise required a lead actor that could make it work and Zachary Levi absolutely crushed it. I honestly cannot imagine anyone who could have done it better.
Zachary Levi aside, the rest of the cast was solid as well. I have not seen Asher Angel in a movie before (at least that I can recall), but I thought he did a good job of playing Billy Batson. My only complaint (which I feel like some people might disagree with) is that the kid version of Billy Batson and Shazam felt like different characters. I cannot pinpoint exactly what made me feel this way (and I do not think it was the fault of either actor), but I thought the filmmakers could have done better at blending the two versions of this character. That being said, I was able to get past this because of how much I liked both versions of the character individually. Jack Dylan Grazer also did a great job in his role as Freddie and (as the two versions of Billy kept switching back and forth) was the constant protagonist throughout the entire story. The three main actors were funny, had decent chemistry together, and made it easy to get invested in these characters. I have no complaints with the supporting cast, but the main cast was one of the contributing factors in what made this movie work so well.
Con: Dr. Sivana & The Sins (-5pts)
To put it plain an simple, the antagonists in this movie were very poorly developed. Hey, Warner Brothers (because of course they are reading this)! The villains are not the part of Marvel movies that you should be learning from! There was just so much about Dr. Sivana and the seven sins that needed more attention.
Why do the sins need Dr. Sivana? How is it so obvious to other characters that the sins are “just using” Sivana? These are the kinds of questions that needed to be answered in order for me to care about the antagonists’ storyline. I am sure that the filmmakers have the answers to those questions but, if those answers are not obvious after having seen the movie, it is clear that the antagonists were poorly developed. It does not help that the sins contributed nothing to the final fight and seemed to be a lot less capable than they were earlier on in the movie. These characters were simply inconsistent, uninteresting, and underdeveloped.
Pro: The Home & Family (+5pts)
The foster home that Billy ended up in was one that I enjoyed. I enjoyed the characters that made up this family, both the parents and the kids. The parents were comedic characters, but they drove home (pun intended) one of the main morals of this story. The kids in the house (other than Billy and Freddie) do not get a ton of attention, but they had a variety of personalities that were entertaining to see in the small doses that I got. The home and the family were the moral center of this movie. They symbolized and personified what it means to be a home as well as what it means to be a family. It was not an all that original message for a movie, but I enjoyed the characters as well as the message that they personified.
Con: Anticlimactic (-4pts)
I do not want to give anything away, but I found the ending to be somewhat anticlimactic. This was partly due to how underdeveloped the villains were and how the sins were conveniently less violent at the end of the movie. Additionally, something happened regarding Shazam that made the main character feel less special, in a way. It was not that this decision was bad, I just though the side characters (some more than others) needed to be developed more, before going in this direction.
On one hand, I liked it because it was different. On the other hand, it seemed like something that should have been saved for a sequel. Did it ruin the movie? Absolutely not, as the ending was still fairly entertaining, but it was a somewhat anticlimactic finish for me, which made it worth mentioning.
Grade: B+ (85pts)
I liked Shazam!, but it was not without its issues. The movie was very unique, but it was also very predictable. This was because the premise was unique for a superhero movie, but the story (Billy's quest to find a family) is one that we have seen before in other genres. Additionally, the movie's antagonists were very poorly written (with Dr. Sivana being a one-dimensional antagonist, and the sins being conveniently weaker when it was time to wrap up the story). This made for a lack-luster climax, but the movie was definitely not without its redeeming qualities either.
The movie's premise was easily my favorite part of the movie, with a very entertaining main character. The idea of a child being put in the body of an adult superhero is one that the filmmakers clearly had fun exploring, and I enjoyed watching how they explored that idea. This was made better by the great cast behind the story. Zachary Levi absolutely crushed this role, as you will truly believe that the character has the mind of a child. He was really entertaining to watch doing his thing, but the rest of the cast was just as strong. The movie had a fun premise, and the filmmakers executed that premise in a fairly entertaining way.