Shazam! is the latest entry into the burgeoning DC Film Universe (or DCEU). Will Shazam! continue the stride that Wonder Woman and Aquaman has made for the franchise? Or will it flounder like Suicide Squad and Justice League before it? Read on to find out our thoughts!
Shazam! manages what so many superhero films have not in a long while - pure unfiltered joy. It so brilliantly captures the joy and wonder any of us would have if we had super powers. Positioned between two more serious superhero films, Shazam! is clever counter programming for those who need respite from the dourness of the current superhero film landscape, but don't want to stray from it. The film is full of heart and captures such a wholesome joyfulness that so many superhero films have lacked, which makes it truly a great time.
The film keeps its story contained and handles it with restraint, David F. Sandberg never loses his grip on Shazam!, it delivers all that is expected from a superhero film, while subverting most pitfalls. He injects his horror sensibilities into the film, but the PG rating holds it back from being all it could be. Still, it was a nice flourish on the film. The film is lighthearted, and for the most part, the tone in the trailers correctly convey the tone of the film. But what the trailers don't convey is how much depth the film has, we did not expect the film to explore certain themes as well as it did. Of course, it didn't do it all perfectly, but considering all that it accomplished, we say bravo. The film does lack a moment that makes you go "wow" in the way Wonder Woman's No Man's Land march did for her; or how through sheer scope, Aquaman made its titular character feel larger than life.
Zachary Levi nails it as Shazam!, never once did it feel like he was dumbing down the character. Jack Dylan Grazer is given so many of the best jokes and threatens to steal many scenes, he was really great. Asher Angel was alright though at times it felt like he was at the limits of his acting abilities. A big problem with the film is that we could never believe that Asher Angel and Zachary Levi are supposed to be playing the same person. Not because of how each character was written, but the way they carry themselves is so different it really stood out. Mark Strong gets another shot at being a DC villain and does a fine job.
In the greater landscape of superhero films, Shazam! might seem to be too small a film to pay much attention to but the film works so well because of its small scale. When so often, superhero films choose to go for spectacle, Shazam! is further proof that it is through effective story telling that these films will resonate. We would go as far as to say that it is as good a film as Wonder Woman, hitting a good balance in tone and story. Shazam! doesn't quite overcome its small scale but it accomplishes a great deal of heart and whimsy, and a surprising amount of depth that makes it worth the price of admission.
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