Movie Reviews

Published on March 23rd, 2019 | by gareth

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Shazam!

Growing up I was a regular viewer of the Shazam and Isis “Super Power Hour” on television. Back before the days of mega-budgeted Super Hero movies; we had to content ourselves with cartoons and low budget television offerings which did their best to capture the look and action of comic characters within the budget and technology limits they had to deal with.

Warner Bros. has brought their latest DC hero to the big screen with “Shazam!” and it looks to launch a new franchise for the studio and build on the success of “Wonder Woman” and “Aquaman” following some earlier disappointments with their planned hero franchise films.

The film follows the story of young Billy Batson (Asher Angel), who has grown up in and fled several Foster Homes after being lost at a Carnival years earlier and unable to find his mother. Billy has never stopped trying to find her and even takes extreme measures to try to find her that has gotten him in trouble with the law.

While trying to stick up for a family member at his latest Foster Home; Billy is forced to flee from some local goons and finds himself facing an ancient Wizard (Djimon Honsou; who tells him he will now have superior powers when he speaks his name as he is now a guardian against the forces of evil.

Billy does not believe this but upon uttering the name; he transforms into a powerful hero in adult form. Zach Levi plays the title hero and soon finds himself eager to test his new powers and his Super Hero obsessed Foster Brother is more than happy to mentor him and make all sorts of viral videos of his efforts and training.

Their efforts soon draw the attention of an evil individual (Mark Strong), who covets the power Billy has for himself as along with the Seven Deadly Sins; he looks to become an unstoppable force for evil and sets out to destroy all that stands in his way.

The film is aimed more for a younger audience as much of the humor is squarely focused on Middle School level jokes. There are more than a few references to “Big” along the way which does sum up a good portion of the backstory as when he is in hero form; the young boy without a family is a popular and dynamic adult.

In many ways this was one of the more odd aspects of the film. Billy is a dour and untrusting individual most of the time; however when he is hero form he is a jovial and goofy individual who acts like a teenager. I could see an increase in confidence but it is odd considering that they are the same person.

Levi is very energetic in the part and goes all in and he does a great job of conveying a kid in a man’s body. The biggest issue with the film is that there is mostly a lot of humor aimed at a much younger audience and large gaps with minimal action which made sitting through numerous childish antics a bit tedious at times.

Despite this; the film was entertaining and one of the better adaptions of a comic. The door is wide open for future adventures and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.

3.5 stars out of 5

Second review by

Joseph Saulnier

Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury all lend their power to the DC Extended Universe for a movie that is breaking the mold.  Last month, Captain Marvel debuted to the world, this month the original makes a name for himself, and what an introduction it was.  Don’t believe me about Shazam! being Captain Marvel, much less the OG.  Look it up.  I’ll wait.

Shazam (which we will leave off the “!” from here forward) is a story about Billy Batson, an (un)lovable 14-year old orphan who has spent a good portion of his life trying to find his biological mother, whom he was separated from many years before.  One day, Billy is bestowed with the powers of the gods, whose names make the acronym “SHAZAM” (see all the gods referenced in the first line of this article).  While learning to control his powers, he must decide what kind of hero he wants to be, all while discovering the true meaning of “family.”

Showing a brave departure from the traditional formula, Shazam is filled with bright colors and images, with a more wholesome story at the center of it all.  Casting was superbly done.  Zachary Levi (Chuck, Thor: The Dark World) as the titular character (even though it’s not really his name, this Captain Marvel stuff is weird) was, in my opinion, a brilliant casting choice.  Sure, there are other people who could have played the role, but his ability to portray goofiness and childlike wonder (possibly not acting?) is truly a plus for this role and he did it so well.  Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes, The Kingsman franchise) plays the antagonist, and you can tell he had so much fun with it.  He has been quoted as saying that he enjoys playing evil bastards because of how much fun they are, and it really shows.  The supporting cast, while mostly unknown (and not mentioned here because… spoilers), have also done great in helping to create a believable world within the DCEU.

Oh yeah.  This movie is definitely part of the DCEU.  There are many references to the existing heroes throughout the film, including Freddy’s (Jack Dylan Grazer) bullet that actually bounced off Superman’s chest, and a batarang. The reports of DC and WB not focusing on a connected universe are still accurate, but it doesn’t mean that the individual movies cannot acknowledge the other films/heroes in the same universe.  Plus, cameos are still a thing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see small, non-pivotal cameos pop up as we move into this new era of DCEU films.

The soundtrack was good, but not really remarkable.  I couldn’t tell you off of memory the songs in the movie, but I do know that nothing seemed out of place and the music always fit the ambience of the scenes.  The score and the sound editing are truly where the film shines though.  Good sound editing can always leave you immersed in a film, and Shazam is no slouch in this department.

There’s not a lot more I can tell you without spoiling too much of the movie, and I think with a character like Shazam it’s important to keep an air of mystery going into the film.  Bah.  It is so weird to call him Shazam.  I’ve been so used to calling him Captain Marvel, and the film acknowledges the character Name and “not-name”?  Technically, his name is not Shazam.  In the comics he was rebranded as Shazam in 2012, the film doesn’t really give an indication that this is his name other than the title, but “Shazam” has been part of his persona, even back when Michael Gray played Billy Batson and Jackson Bostwick/John Davey played Captain Marvel in Shazam! (1974 – 1977).  What the film does do, is poke fun at the situation by characters (mainly Freddy) giving him names like “Red Cyclone” and “Captain Sparkle-Fingers” throughout the movie.  Surprisingly, this never got old.

Shazam! (hey, it’s back) is a fun ride for anyone looking for a superhero movie with a bit of a lighter tone than what we are used to in the DCEU.  The charm, and chemistry, of the characters will draw you in, and the emotional moments will make you love Billy with all your heart.  As a parent of toddler twins, this movie got to me, and when you learn more of the truth of Billy’s predicament, you may just react with near genuine hatred as I did.  But then the rest of the movie will bring you right back around to the jovial ambiance it’s trying to create, and succeeds rather admirably.  It’s not without its flaws, for example, about the first 45% of the movie was portrayed in the trailers, but there’s enough content that it keeps you moving forward with eagerness to see what is to come. Definitely worth the see in theaters, in my opinion.  Which, after all, is why you are here.  Isn’t it?

4 stars out of 5

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