Updated: Jul 30, 2019
We went to see Shazam tonight, and after Aquaman, we had some pretty high hopes. Here is what we knew going into this movie. We all have a superhero inside of us -- it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In 14-year-old Billy Batson's case, all he needs to do is shout out one word to transform into the adult superhero Shazam. Still a kid at heart, Shazam revels in the new version of himself by doing what any other teen would do -- have fun while testing out his newfound powers. But he'll need to master them quickly before the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana can get his hands on Shazam's magical abilities.
This movie was every bit as much fun as I expected it to be but still surprised me with some darker content than was advertised. One of the first things that stuck out about this movie was the kid actors. I don't know what's going on, but there is some serious talent in shows like Stranger Things, It, and this film. Zachary Levi is just as good as I expected playing a 14 year old in an adult body. He makes every scene fun and gives the whole movie a Big meets Superman feel. It also reminded me of those awesome 80's movies like The Goonies, and ET where kids go on adventures and have to learn lessons along the way. That may have something to do with the 80's themed tv shows I mentioned those awesome kids actors are in earlier. This Shazam Movie doesn't pretend to be anything else. It's not an MCU movie, it's not a dark Batman movie, or a trying too hard Suicide Squad. It's its own thing. It's hopeful, playful, and has some really awesome themes.
Shazam or Captain Marvel
Let's talk about the character of Shazam. Shazam is actually the Wizards name who gives Billy Batson his powers. The whole time I was wondering if they were going to call him Captain Marvel because I thought I saw that in one of the trailers but it didn't happen. Another interesting thing is even though there was a ton of hype and talks around the movie the last year, talking about Zachary Levi, what tone this DC movie would have, is it part of the DCCU ( DC Cinematic Universe ) and how no one is talking about how Captain Marvel is in a live action show again after some 40 odd years minus that one cameo in that Beastie Boys music video. That's pretty crazy. This character had a live action movie in the 40's, TV show in the 70's, and a slew of animated appearances. When the character was introduced as Captain Marvel, the Wizard Shazam told him he had to say his name to get his powers. The name Shazam is actualy an acronym of six "immortal elders" Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury.
Billy Batson/Shazam and Freddy
The chemistry between these two, both young Billy Batson and when he turns into Shazam with Freddy is perfect. I did like how young Billy wasn't absolutely pure of heart like he was in the comics. In the comics, the Wizard Shazam seeks out Billy because of is virtue unlike this movie, where the Wizard basically accepts Billy as his champion out of desperation. The subway scene was well done also. In the comics, the Wizard wears a green cloak and asks Billy to follow him down into the subway station. That wouldn't work now a days would it lol. The subway scene in the movie gave us a few opportunities to learn more about this Billy Batson. One, even though he has become quite the criminal and detective as he travels from city to city searching for his mom, he still has a good heart. He get's chased by some bullies whom he attacks after they bully his disabled foster brother, Freddy. What kind of kid physically assaults another kid with a crutch in 2019? That was a stretch lol. Make a kid an adult and give him Zeus's power, cool, make these kids accost another kid, no. No thank you. Back to the Subway. I thought it was really cool how the whole subway scene mirrored the animated version that came out a couple years ago. It's that little bit of familiarity that makes these live action movies fun for me. I love remembering stuff like that. When Billy gets to the Rock of Eternity, the Wizard vaguely explains he needs a new champion to fight the forces of evil and that Shazam's powers come from high magic. During the Wizards explanation, we actually get a chance to see the Black Atom. If you don't know by now, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has been casted to play Black Atom for what feels like 10 years. After this film, I am more exited than ever to see it. I also can't wait to see Kevin Heart play Mister Mind (That was a joke).
Billy and Freddy start their friendship off the way you'd expect. Billy is pretty selfish and single minded and Freddy just tries to make Billy feel welcome. Im guessing Freddy's older sister did this for him, so he is paying it forward. The two are basically the same age and have a lot of things in common but superheroes are not one of them. Freddy is a walking wikipedia of superhero knowledge and even the psychology. Billy wants nothing to do with this and after Billy becomes Shazam, this fuels a rift and public argument between the two at the dinner table, confusing his family and laying some easter eggs for later. Zachary Levi even had great chemistry with Freddy. It didn't feel like a new relationship. Zachary Levi still has all that hopeful youthiness and plays the role like his younger counterpart.
I also liked the sequence where Freddy started filming everything and posting it to youtube. I feel like that is exactly what a kid would do today. Freddy gave him all sorts of fun names like Captain Sparkle Fingers, The Red Cyclone, and Captain Thunder. They go through every test a kid would think of. This gives us a fun bonding moment for the two and really cements their relationship as brothers.
Mark Strong was a pretty solid choice for this role. He plays the classic British bad guy. The movie did a great job setting Thaddeus Sivana up starting the move in 1974 and introducing us to the Wizard Shazam. Sivana who is ridiculed and made into an outsider by his brother and father, gets swept away to the Rock of Eternity where we hear the Wizard's spell for the first time. We learn about how the Wizards needs a new champion who is pure of heart after the Seven Deadly Sins (In the form of seven CGI monsters who sit perched as stone statues in the Hall) were released upon the ancient world. Here we have this downtrodden kid who seemingly gets a once in a life time chance to become something more than he is. Someone worth the respect his family hasn't ever given him. He is promised power and at the last moment is shown an "eye" that houses the Seven Sins and allows them to tempt Thaddeus proving his unworthiness. Just like that, Sivana is snapped back to the same moment he was taken from leaving him confused and sounding crazy as he talks about the Wizard and power he should have had. The family gets into a car crash and his father gets injured. Then, out of no where, we are thrown into present day and Sivana funding a psychological study because the Wizard didn't stop with him. Over the next 40 years, the Wizard snatched up something like 55 kids and adults and this study connected their story and let them know they were suffering form a form of group psychosis. This whole sequence comes to a head when Sivana realizes that one of the subjects videoed the abduction and has the correct combo of ancient symbols that open the doors to the Rock of Eternity. That is where his story basically ends. He goes back, releases the Deadly Sins, and then takes on an Evil Queen from Snow White wanting to destroy the one being who could become more powerful than he has become. There is one more scene that is gold. The two characters Shazam and Sivana are fighting and do the classic floating talk where the super villain tells the hero his whole story. Only this time they are like a mile apart. It is amazing. Sivana goes on this amazing Mar Strongesk diatribe tying in all these grandiose ideas and platitudes while, the whole time, we cut back to Shazam and we can't hear him. I loved it. It brought some great levity to the fight scene that was probably a little too long.
Im going to wrap this up and not spoil anything else. The fight scenes are good, most of the CG was good, there were some parts that could have been better but overall, solid. Starting with these new DC stand alone movies, Shazam was a home run for me. It used a lot of the source material so it felt familiar yet fresh and new. They didn't waste an amazing villain in Black Atom and set up Shazam for a sequel. The characters have story arcs and grow and evolve, and the story has a good ending. There were some dark parts so if you want to take your kids, maybe don't if they are under 13 but you do you. It was a great intro to magic in the DC universe too. I'll watch this again and buy tickets for the next one the day they are available!