By Jong Lee
David F’ing Sandberg. The director of the most fun I’ve had in a theater since Thor: Ragnarok.
Shazam! is Big meets Superman and it’s absolutely wonderful. There’s no moral code with Shazam!. There isn’t an internal struggle within Billy Batson on what’s right and wrong. Billy goes around charging people’s phones, purchasing the finest adult beverages and posing for selfies. Everything you expect a 14-year old trapped in a superheroes body to do.
Billy Batson is a troubled teenager searching for his mother. He’s been bouncing from foster parents to foster parents ever since he and his mother were separated when he was a toddler. Billy is taken into custody by police and his final chance comes in the form of Victor and Rosa Vasquez. The Vasquezes foster five other kids under one roof (Mary, Pedro, Eugene, Darla and Freddy), a family you fall in love with.
Sandberg nails the cast. From Mark Strong as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana to Zachary Levi as Billy Batson/Shazam! (or Captain Marvel) to the entire foster family. Everyone plays his or her role perfectly. Levi is a man-child and there isn’t really a different way to explain it. Throughout the entire movie, Levi looks like he’s embracing the role and having a lot of fun.
The foster brothers and sisters are amazing. Each one has a unique personality that has developed well throughout the movie and offer something that’s been missing in Billy’s life. They complement Levi, Asher Angel (Billy) and Jack Dylan (Freddy) Grazer well.
The jokes land over and over again. It’s not anything complicated but they’re jokes teenagers would tell. It’s simple but fun.
The script is solid. It sets up as a typical hero origin story but there’s a freshness to the story. Sandberg does a fantastic job interweaving between the darkness of Dr. Sivana and the lightheartedness of Billy and Freddy.
Visually, the movie is just as amazing as any other DC/Marvel movie not named Aquaman. The CGI is stunning but there are a few moments where it could have been polished a little better (think less harsh Black Panther final battle scene).
The only complaint I have, and it’s minor, is the way the final act is put together. It’s not like it ends with a whimper but there are moments in the final act that could have been condensed 5 to 10 minutes to make it feel like a better constructed movie.
Shazam! is the best DC Extended Universe movie to date. Better than Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Better than Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. And MUCH better than Suicide Squad. Shazam! gives Warner Bros. hope that a c/d-list DC superhero can be the cornerstone to your extended universe.
Shazam is out in theaters April 5.