Shazam! Moves DC in the Right Direction

Depending on which reality you live in, Zachary Levi is either the first actor to portray Shazam in a hollywood film release or the second after that wonderful performance Sinbad gave us back in the 90’s. If I’m being honest though, I’m not one of the people who claim to have seen that movie. Maybe cause I watched Kazam a ton as a kid, but it is firmly Shaquille O’Neal in my head. Easily the top rapper genie out here, but the new Aladdin isn’t out yet so don’t quote me on that.

This past weekend marked the release of The World’s of DC’s most recent addition, Shazam! A film about a young boy, named Billy, who has been in and out of Foster homes most of his childhood. Billy gets placed with a new family various characters that are all given some sort of minor development and role. He struggles with adjusting to this new home and refuses to give up the search for his birth mother, from whom he was split up from when he was a younger boy. To top it all off, Billy is selected by an old wizard man to be the Champion to protect against the 7 Deadly sins. All of which have inhabited the power hungry Dr. Thaddeus Sivana. All in all the film is funny in a way that keeps the adventure light hearted and relatable, while not detracting from the threat within the story. Zachary Levi plays a super convincing teenager to the point that I never once felt like he wasn’t actually just a bigger Billy. Other standout performances for me were Mark Strong’s portrayal of Dr. Sivana and Jack Dylan Grazer as Billy’s new foster brother Freddy. Strong is known for his villain roles, but this one feels like more than just a bad dude being bad cause he feels like it. His character has some real depth and method to his madness. Grazer plays Freddy as more than just the comic relief act, getting into some pretty realistic angles of having a superhero for a friend. Shazam tows the line between a fun family flick and a satisfying hero film for comic fans of an older demographic. It gets a strong yes for anyone wondering if it is worth the watch.

Now for some spoiler material:

The movie opens with a flashback to a young Thaddeus Sivana. It essentially establishes the motivation behind the villainy he’ll be letting off this movie. Long story short his dad and brother both hate fim and treat him like trash. Thad gets pulled into a portal to see an old wizard played Djimon Hounsou who is stacking up them comics checks after playing pre and post metalhead in Guardians and Captain Marvel, not to mention he is King Lizard Guy in Aquaman. The wizard is looking for a Champion that is pure of heart. Thad starts to fall to temptation, however, when the voices of the evil 7 deadly sin statues that are strangely kept right next to the thing that can release them start to enter his thoughts. He is casted out by the wizard resulting in an outburst that crashes their car. He grows up to fund a research project that brings together anyone who has seen the wizard. He finds a sequence to open the door back up when he is an adult and just moseys on over to the rock that controls the demons. Why would you keep that right there where any potential recruit can just grab it? I don’t know. Savina then murders people left and right including his older brother and father in a boardroom scene that was probably one of the best scenes in the movie. You can really see how this film benefitted from having a horror director.

Billy’s story is that he is running from foster’s homes in a search for his birth mom. He’s taken in by a nice foster couple with 5 other foster kids. I don’t remember people’s names but there’s the oldest sister who is college bound, Freddy who is a disabled hero fanatic, a young talkative hugger, the hacker kid and the chubby boy whose goal it is to get swole. Billy gets the powers and uses them for fun antics with Freddy at first like getting beer and going to strip clubs. He eventually starts skipping school alone and turning his back on his new foster family after a falling out with Freddy. This is the stuff that really made me appreciate Grazer’s performance. No matter how much I love my friend, it’d be so freaking jealous and upset I’m not a superhero. Especially if I were disabled and obsessed with Batman and Superman. Freddy’s stance makes so much sense and it works great for the movie.

The final act of the film centers around Sivana and Billy’s fight. Sivana wants the Champion’s power and Billy just wants to protect his new family after learning from the horse’s mouth that his mother ditched him on purpose. He has this great memento she gave him when he was young of this small compass. It symbolizes his journey of locating her, and she doesn’t even remember giving it to him. It was pretty intense. Not as intense as Sivana holding on to that magic eight ball zinger his whole life just to get a sick burn on his brother before tossing him out of a window. Billy and Sivana have their final showdown at a city fair where Billy recalls the Wizard saying he had 7 siblings with power. Recreating the ritual that gave him his powers he transforms all the foster kids into Shazam like heroes. One of which is Megan Good. I have nothing else to add to that, I just thought that was random. Like where has Megan Good been? A few of the foster kids get some pretty funny payoffs in this fight. The hacker/gamer kid yells hadouken when he shoots lightning, the chubby kid finally gets to be buff and Freddy, who can barely walk, now has the ability to fly. The girls have powers too, but their character payoffs come earlier in the film. The oldest is accepted into the college of her dreams, yet hesitates to leave her family while the youngest is able to keep Billy’s secret despite her talkative nature. Both of which go towards Billy’s arc of understanding that he doesn’t have to go through life alone anymore.

They eventually win the day by luring out all of the demons from Sivana. Once out, he is an ordinary man that gets thrashed by some super teens. Billy rips the mechanism out of buddy’s head and the super fosters just all have powers now I guess? I kind of hope not, cause if they do Black Adam down the line I think it will just feel strange and unbalanced as a 6 on 1 fight. We get a Superman cameo at the end where Billy convinces Superman to visit Freddy during school lunch. It’s framed pretty hilariously as his head isn’t in the shot. I’d bet that’s cheaper than digitally removing the mustache. Just crop it out all together. We also get an aquaman joke and a look at Sivana in prison. He’s writing the symbols from the wizard’s chamber on the walls and hears a voice in his cell. Is it Lex? Joker? Brainiac? It’s actually a Worm with a microphone. I’ve never read a Shazam comic so I didn’t know who it was. They show the worm a few times in the movie, by the end I assumed it was a caterpillar and a reference to Alice in Wonderland. I was pretty hype and thought it meant a movie adaptation of one of my favorite DC Villains the Mad Hatter. It’s legitimately an alien worm, however, named Mr. Mind. He crawls into ears and controls brains and is known in the comics for working with Sivana. It seems silly but the movie set a tone that would lend itself to doing a weird villain like this some justice.

I really liked the movie. It felt kind of 80’s with enough fun and danger to warrant a wide audiences of all types. Hopefully, next go around we get a glimpse of this film’s executive producer Dwayne Johnson as Black Adam. Dude can be the DCEU’s Thanos. I promise. Two movie recommendations I’ll give are Sherlock Holmes, starring Mark Strong as the baddie for Robert Downey Jr’s great detective, and the new IT movie with Jack Dylan Grazer in another 80’s style kid adventure.

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