DC Comics continue their crawl back up the superhero ladder, after the successes of Wonder Woman and Aquaman.
Moving away from their big names and investing in the plethora of weird they have, they look skyward to pull in a new heavy hitter should Superman be taking the sidelines as rumoured.
It just so happens to be that the heavy hitter is a 14 year old kid who is granted the wisdom of Solomon; The strength of Hercules; The stamina of Atlas; The power of Zeus; The courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury by a wizard.
Yes, a wizard.
A year after Steppenwolf’s invasion, troubled 14-year-old orphan Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is set to move in with the Vazquez family and their other five foster kids.
One day, Billy gets on a subway car and finds himself transported to a different realm where an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou) gives him the power to transform into a godlike adult superhero by uttering the word “Shazam!” (Zachary Levi).
Billy and his new foster brother Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) must discover Billy’s new powers and how to use them to prevent the villain Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), who has powers of his own, from committing nefarious acts.
For the golden-oldies out there, there’s no doubt that BIG starring Tom Hanks springs to mind when thinking of Shazam!.
A young kid is gifted adulthood by some magical plot device (in this case a delightful wizard played by Djimon Hounsou), except this one comes with the caveat of having to become a champion for the known-world.
The gift bestowed, is to one Billy Batson, excellently played by Asher Angel; Independent, street-smart and wickedly witty, he struggles to find his feet with his new foster family who surround him with the love he believes to be elsewhere.
It’s further compounded by the relationship between Billy and Freddy, his new foster brother enthusiastically played by Jack Dylan Grazer. Somewhat of a superhero aficionado, Freddy introduces (bombards) Billy, and by proxy the audience, to the sort of DC knowledge you’d find on a good wiki.
Of course, this is the type of person you need when you’re suddenly transformed into Zachary Levi as Superman; Except Superman is now a 14 year old wondering what it means to not only love and be loved, but to be a superhero.
Enter Mark Strong as Sivana, to parallel Billy’s journey into superhero-dom with a little bit of “what it means to have family”.
Shazam! isn’t out to reinvent the wheel, so much as it is trying to help DC continue to reinvent its own. Saturated in colour, it’s a heartfelt action comedy centred around the idea of family with superheroes. Levi excels in portraying the aged-up Batson, playfully painting the town red as a kid thrust into adulthood and all the things that can come with.
A well-rounded cast provide the means to warm our cold, cold hearts with a story that seeks to mend you, break you, then mend you again.
Stupidly funny at times, Shazam! is correcting the rocky course DC had been previously set on. While they’re still trying to crawl up towards the greatness they’ve reached with the likes of Wonder Woman, their course of “good” and leaning into the weird with both Aquaman and Shazam! is one that should continue to prove popular with the audience.
And then, MAYBE then…we’ll get that Justice League film we deserve.
It feels better and better to keep walking out of DC Comics films thinking "I enjoyed that!", injecting the hope that used to be so widely prevalent in their universe.
Shazam! is endearing, heart-warming, funny and entertaining as hell and oh my god, thank you for giving Zachary Levi a superhero movie. I bloody love that guy.