Continuing the rebirth of DC Extended Universe from the ashes of Justice League, which brutally smothered the mega-franchise’s hopes of emulating Marvel-like success for their own cinematic universe, Shazam! marks another step in the right direction for DC Films in their heading from darkness towards light, as they leave behind the superficially dark narratives & murky colour palette of Zack Snyder’s films and embrace the bright & shiny hues available in their canon. The film is also in tune with the studio’s new perspective & creative decision to put more effort into individual character stories instead of recklessly trying to build another shared universe.
The 7th instalment in the DCEU, the story of Shazam! is set in Philadelphia and follows a 14-year old foster kid who is looking for his birth mother. His continuous search over the years has made him a nuisance to both his child service agency as well as the authorities. However, in his latest foster home, he meets another boy his age and the two develop an unlikely friendship. But everything changes one day when he finds himself inexplicably transported to a different realm after being summoned there by an ancient wizard to be his new champion. Now endowed with the ability to transform into an adult superhero by simply speaking the wizard’s name, he embarks on a new journey of self-discovery.
Directed by David F. Sandberg (known for Lights Out & Annabelle: Creation), Shazam! marks his departure from his horror genre roots as he is entrusted with bringing a new superhero into the DC family, at which he does a rather neat job. The picture has a very lighthearted feel and is wonderfully witted from start to finish. The premise is a simple one but Sandberg does well to keep things interesting by wholeheartedly embracing the inner child in an adult exterior concept and just running with it, thus offering plenty of genuine laughs along the way. The antagonist is one-dimensional and the action scenes aren’t that captivating either but its sense of fun is never lost, plus the ride is enjoyable for the most part.
With Sandberg at director’s helm, one would imagine the film’s darker moments would have a nightmarish feel but it is not the case here. The film aims for a classic superhero feel, with goofy elements & glossy costume thrown into the mix, and it really works out in its favour. Playing well to its strengths & fully aware of its limitations, it doesn’t try to do anything that may seem out of place. Even the absurdly ridiculous eye-rolling scenes kind of fit the tone that the story establishes while paving the groundwork. It’s amusing, fun & entertaining in just the right doses but the final act does overstay its welcome and goes on for longer than it needed to. The action is actually its weakest element, for there is nothing about it that stands out.
The best bits belong to Zachary Levi & Jack Dylan Grazer who are in as the eponymous superhero & sidekick (sort of) respectively, and the segments featuring the two trying to figure out & make sense of the former’s superpowers together with test reels are its real highlight. They are both excellent together and their chemistry just clicks. Asher Angel & Levi play the young & adult version of the same character and they both make sure that their performances has a certain unity to it, which in turn makes Levi’s rendition all the more commendable. Mark Strong takes the role of the antagonist but there isn’t much he is able to add to his one-dimensional character. The rest of the cast ably play their given roles but it is Levi, Grazer & Angel who drive this narrative.
On an overall scale, Shazam! is no game-changer but it makes efficient & effective use of all the available resources to deliver a thoroughly fun, endlessly enjoyable & effortlessly entertaining extravaganza that will manage to keep the audience amused for the major portion of its runtime. Approaching the subject from a childlike perspective, keeping its lighthearted touch alive n kicking at all times & powered by a riotous performance from Zachary Levi who turns out to be the fitting choice for the role, the latest entry in DCEU definitely ranks above most of their instalments and it’s one of the very few films in the franchise that delivers exactly what its premise promised. A wonderful blend of heart & humour, Shazam! carries enough spark to light up the road that lies ahead of DC Films.