David F. Sandberg’s Shazam! represents a shift in approach for the DC Universe. In a world where it appears we are getting this type of release every other month, Sandberg examines the world of superheroes on a human level. How would you react if one day you had superpowers? Shazam! doesn’t seek to reinvent the wheel but it does stretch the genre’s typical boundaries and has fun at its own expense. There’s such exuberance on the screen that it begins to impact the viewing experience for the audience. While Deadpool and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse were equally fantastic for different reasons, neither film generated the amount of joy Shazam! did.
Henry Gayden and Dennis Lemke’s narrative was deftly constructed around Billy Batson’s origin story and the idea that power comes from within. Asher Angel (who plays the young Billy Batson) and Zachary Levi (who plays Shazam!) were perfect casting choices and their chemistry with Freddy (played by It star Jack Dylan Grazer) was a huge reason why the film was such a joy to watch. Mark Strong was also a strong choice to play the villain, Dr. Thadeus Sivana. Overall the ensemble perfectly executed the retelling of Batson’s origin story.
What was so striking about the film is how much heart it had. Shazam! shows the world how impactful family can be. Batson doesn’t truly understand his powers until the third act when he begins to accept his foster brother and sisters. In the end, Sandberg’s latest project has us all believing that there’s a superhero in all of us.
Benjamin Wallfisch’s score was the perfect blend of pomp and the frivolity associated with Shazam. His notes were the perfect bow which held this release together. However, the icing on the cake for me was how Sandberg managed to keep his toe in horror. Sivana’s quest for domination is driven by some grotesque monsters (named after the seven deadly sins) which were released from their imprisoned state. Their appearance is reminiscent of Gozer from Ghostbusters and the staging of their attack on the members of her father’s board.
Overall, Shazam! brings about a welcome departure from the dreary DC Universe and opens the door to new possibilities. While this film isn’t Wonder Woman by any stretch it’s a hell of a good time.