Shazam! is the brightest and sweetest superhero film to come out in years. It is also one of the least ambitious. When superhero films in recent times are tackling things like war on terror and mass surveillance, Shazam! is a warm, funny film about family and the sheer joy of being a superhero.
It centres on Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a 14-year-old kid who is looking for his mother with whom he was separated from when he was a toddler. He keeps running from one foster home only to find himself in another thanks to authorities who insist he will have to stay at one place until he is an adult.
He is settled in one more foster home and asked to give them a chance, but is already looking to run away. In the meanwhile, he gets superpowers from an ancient wizard who says the survival of the world may depend on him proving worthy of those powers.
Mark Strong’s Dr Thaddeus Sivana was rejected by that ancient wizard as a kid and he has spent his whole life uncovering the secrets of magic. When he knows of the existence of Shazam, he confronts the unprepared superhero and demands him to surrender his powers or he will kill his foster family.
It may sound quite grim, and I am pretty sure one certain filmmaker who directed two previous DC movies would have made it a dour affair. But David F Sandberg is having none of that.
Shazam!, an adult, powerful costumed superhero that Billy can turn himself into, is unique in the sense that he positively revels in possessing superpowers, since he is simply a kid in an adult body.
Shazam! is the perfect palate cleanser for comic-book films featuring superheroes who would rather be normal people but think the world and their career would not allow them to be so.
Zachary Levi is simply superb as Shazam, somehow flawlessly bringing out the facade of a young boy from his 38-year-old face. One can see he is enjoying his job. Asher Angel is also pretty impressive.
Jack Dylan Grazer, doubtless a future star, is one of the most entertaining actors in the film. He plays the role of Freddy, a disabled kid in Billy’s foster home who is super-enthusiastic about superheroes and helps Billy realise his new-found superpowers.
Shazam! is a breath of fresh air that DC Films needed.