While Aquaman was a small step in the right direction for the DCEU, SHAZAM! is a giant motherfucking step even more forward. In fact, I’m trying to figure out if it is my favorite DCEU film, above even Wonder Woman. Maybe they’ll switch in time for me, but that doesn’t negate the fact that I thought this film was an absolute delight. It’s entertaining, it’s comedic where it needs to be, and it is dark when it needs to be (some of the sequences may get a too dark for kids, IMO). It rides that fine line with its tone, but it absolutely, and metaphorically, makes it from one building to the other flawlessly. I know that it is basically the movie Big but with superheroes, but considering that I’m sick of origin movies in general, and I really didn’t have many complaints other than some minor villain and CGI issues, consider this a slam dunk for Warner Bros. and DC.
In fact, if I had to compare Shazam! to anything else origin story wise, I would compare it to the first Iron Man. Different comic book companies, but hear me out, as the first Iron Man and this film actually have a lot in common. For example? It takes its time telling its origin story. Zachary Levi probably doesn’t show up on the screen until maybe 30-40 minutes into the movie, and that is a good thing. Both films also use action sparingly, and only when necessary. Some of the DCEU films, and I won’t name names, use action too much of its run time, and when it is done, it doesn’t serve the story any better, it is just there to be there. Both also care and establish their characters with full arcs, even the minor ones. Too many origin movies nowadays try to set up something quick and go almost straight to the action, because producers feel that is what the audience wants, just Michael Bayified endless mind-numbing action. But that just isn’t true. Yes, I know that some dumb younger folk that don’t know any better will eat what they consider the sweet stuff, even with a shit covered spoon. The producers don’t want to admit this, but there are more people that appreciate a well made movie more than a stupid loud action shit fest. Just look at the nice box office numbers this film made this past weekend…and then think about how that money was with a lesser known DC comic book character!
The movie has almost perfect narrative structure. It doesn’t sacrifice anything just to bring you action you’ve never seen before. It’s a smartly written movie, and very comedic. I think this is the most I’ve laughed in a comic book film since the first Guardians of the Galaxy or Spider-Man Homecoming. Zachary Levi is an absolute treat in this. I’ve always liked him, and have known about him since his great turn on a little Television series you might know: Chuck. Here, he has the charm and personality to pull off a child like wonder performance, considering that Shazam! is an adult superhero that is actually a 14 year old boy with God like powers. The real person that steals the movie from everyone however is Jack Dylan Glazer (you might know him as Eddie from It: Chapter One) Every line of dialogue he delivers is rapid fire and it is delivered with a strong, hilarious, comedic throat punch. Any sequel must include both him and Levi. Although one could argue that everything in the movie is very, very predictable, especially the star studded ending, all of that is easily forgiveable just based on the way the journey and rest of the story is handled.
I’m not going to get into the story much, just know that there is more to what you have seen in the trailers. All you need to know is that a 14 year old orphan kid gets turned into an adult with God like powers, but still with that 14 year old frame of mind. And obviously a bad guy wants those powers. The film has a good message on family and what it is to be a hero. If I had any complaints is that some of the CGI when superheroes are flying are a little shaky, and that I wish Mark Strong was a little bit more in it. He was menacing as fuck as the bad guy and better than half of the MCU villains that have come and gone in a snap. The film does a good job establishing him though, and he has one big memorable terrifying office scene. I know the movie was already 2 hours and 12 minutes long, but maybe five more minutes with him would’ve made all the difference. There is though praise I want to give that counters that minor complaint. The bad guy has these creatures within him that represent the Seven Deadly Sins, and when they are out and about wrecking havoc, and not even saying a word, all of them have more substance and were more menacing than Justice League’s Steppenwolf. Sorry, I had to get it in there. Steppenwolf was been the worst DCEU villain and possibly even worst comic book villain to date.
But anyway, go see Shazam! and see it with friends and family. Sure, there are a couple of dark sequences where a young kid might get a little scared, but those scenes are perfectly balanced with enough heart and whimsy to get them through it easily. It is just a fun, fun, fun, fun movie. I’m starting to think that with Aquaman, the tide really has turned for DCEU and DC in general. We get the incredible looking Joker with Joaquin Phoenix in October (a DC film but not a DCEU one), and then next year we get Wonder Woman 1984, which from everything I’ve seen so far, looks like it might be another winner. I know there are some Zack Snyder defenders out there, I’m one of them in some aspects, and I would like to see a Snyder cut of Justice League, but maybe it is a good thing he is not involved with this property anymore. It is sad to see that he might’ve been the problem, but wouldn’t you rather that it be rooted out than just get more years and years of end products like Suicide Squad or Justice League? You tell me.
My Rank of DCEU Films:
- Wonder Woman
- Man of Steel
- Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
- Justice League
- Suicide Squad