Shazam, the super-hero formally known as Captain Marvel (it’s a long complicated story), returns to the big screen after a nearly 80 year hiatus and it is well worth the wait.
What happens when a 14-year-old boy becomes a Superhero? This hilarious movie is the answer to that question. Casting in this movie is fantastic. Zachery Levi as Shazam, Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy, Asher Angel as Billy, Mark Strong as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, and Faithe Herman/Meagan Good as Darla are real stand outs in a well cast film. The David F. Sandberg directed film (The Hangover, War Dogs) is based on Geoff Johns' new Shazam comic book run, with a villain swap (Sivana for Black Adam). Even though this is another Geoff John’s comic book story adaption, it doesn't feel like a cookie cutter production. This film does its own thing, but references the wider DC universe. If I had to compare this movie to anything, I'd say it was a cross between 1984 Ghostbusters and the TV show The Fosters.
Parents beware! This film is a hard PG-13 rating, similar in tone to 80s Amblin films. A boardroom scene ends with a moment that puts VENOM to shame. Yes, this film has some scary elements, but it is balanced with humor and heart. Comedy and horror both rely on timing and pacing, and both elements are pretty much on point in this movie. Slow burns pay off and the 2-hour plus running time flies by quickly. Stay through the credits for a mid credit scene and an end credit scene.
As much as I enjoyed this movie, there were still things that bothered me. For starters, the school scenes weren't nearly as engaging as the scenes taking place in the foster home. The best part of the school scenes was the sly comic reference in the name of the school. The school pretty much just existed to propel the plot and show these characters were children. The film is set during the Yuletide season, wouldn't these kids be out of school for winter break? Another issue is with the villain Dr. Sivana. As wonderfully as Mark Strong portrayed him, he wasn't fleshed out very well. Readers of the golden age comics of Captain Marvel (Shazam!) , particularly the Otto Binder stories, know Dr. Sivana is one of the greatest comic villains of all time. It was a pity most of his backstory was jettisoned and his motivations were overly simplistic. Some of the kids and their counterparts were little more than comedy delivery devices. The school yard bullies for example are very one-dimensional characters. The third act is sloppy and has the obligatory final battle trope. Maybe I'm nitpicking, but is Shazam a separate identity and consciousness or merely the adult super powered version of Billy? The movie doesn't really say. To be fair the comics shift back and forth on this point too. The movie has many unanswered questions.
All things considered I did enjoy my time with this film. Wow Shazam is a joy to watch and it is highly recommended.
Final Verdict: 8/10