"Shazam" Review

If you had told me back in 2016 the movie DC Films would nail the most would be Shazam, I think I would have laughed at your face. Let us not forget this was the time when DC and Warner Bros. were releasing the misguidedly grimdark Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as a desperate attempt to catch up to Marvel’s successful “cinematic universe” while also trying to seem different no matter what. We all know how it all turned out. BvS released with complete critical failure and not breaking their coveted 1 billion box office goal, which led to extreme overreaction as they tried to forcedly retool 2017’s Justice League which led to slightly better critical reception but an even poorer box office turnout. In other words, the “DC Extended Universe” was seemingly doomed into oblivion.

Yet there were actual glimmers of hope around this time. Buried between the disaster that were BvS and Justice League was the release of the critical and commercial success that was Wonder Woman, the very first massive success for a female-led and female-directed comic book film and one of DC’s most highly regarded movies since the days of The Dark Knight. It didn’t stop there. A year after Justice League, the solo movie featuring Aquaman released in 2018 with relatively good critical reception and massive commercial success (it broke the 1 billion box office when BvS and Justice League didn’t. Let that sink in).

Now, we get David F. Sanberg’s Shazam, DC Film’s sweetest and most joyful movie since the era when Christopher Reeve made us believe a man could fly with the original Superman movies.

The movie capture the child like wonder of what it means to be a super hero.

If there is a parallel you can draw between Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Shazam is how all these three movies embrace the right spirit of their respective characters without fully abandoning some of the serious fare that mostly dominated earlier films like Man of Steel and BvS. I am not someone that dislikes darkness in their comic book movies (I still think the dark and grounded Dark Knight trilogy is my favorite), but I do draw the line when things get overwhelmed with dark broodiness that doesn’t let the right spirit of their characters shine. Man of Steel and BvS wanted to be heady deconstructionism while these other films understand these heroes are larger than life and go with it. From all the three solo films, Shazam is the one that nails the heart of the character and their world the most.

Kids drinking beers for the first time goes as well and you might think

Shazam is a 1980’s John Hughes coming-to-age movie come to life, mix in with some Gremlins for good measure. The movie unapologetically embraces its story about an orphan 14-year-old boy been given magical powers to become a bulky adult superhero everytime he screams the word “Shazam”. Played as a kid in an understated way by  Asher Angel and with full joyful childlike glee as the adult hero version by Zachary Levi, main character Billy Batson carries the movie handsomely. The movie doesn’t shy away from serious stuff like an undercurrent theme of child neglect and child abuse coloring the background of Billy Batson and main villain Thadeus Sivana (played with gusto by Mark Strong), as well as sometimes startling violent imagery courtesy of the seven deadly sins powering the villain (here’s where the Gremlins comparisons come into play). But just like successful family fare from years past, these “dark” moments serve as great counterbalances to the rest of the movie’s delightful tone. It never goes full camp and it’s as fairly grounded as a movie featuring magical beings can be (and never apologizes for it).

The movie is also straight up hilarious. Zachary Levi has always had a knack for great situational and physical comedy (as mostly seen in his former TV show Chuck), and the moment he appears on the screen, the movie rises up a notch when it comes to the joy department. He perfectly plays the role of a 14 year old kid on an adult body, and paired up with the film’s most witty and sardonic character, Freddy Freeman (played by Jack Dylan Grazer), the movie rivals something like Deadpool in straight up meta comedy (without much of the crass). The joy that carries the movie is infectious, and quite startling when you think this movie still takes place in the same universe as Man of Steel and BvS.

Main villain Thadeus Sivana is an imposing figure but nothing more.

As fun and delightful as the movie can be, it still has a couple rough spots. Before Zachary Levi comes onscreen to take full command of where the film is going, the initial third of the movie is a little awkwardly paced and tonally off. It takes its time to set up its world in a way that feels strange when compared to where the movie goes. It goes heavy on exposition and is a bit lacking in laughs. Also, as well played as the main villain is (carried by the theme of child abuse by his father), Thaddeus Sivana never fully develops beyond being a physical and mystical force, which reminds me a bit of Mark Strong’s role in 2009’s Sherlock Holmes.

But all these issues pale in comparison to just how fun the rest of the movie is. I’m not going to go on a limb and say this revolutionizes the comic book genre or things like that. What I’ll definitely say is that Shazam is a great statement for DC Film’s newfound commitment to move away from the grimdark direction they were saddled with when Zack Snyder was on the helm initially. Shazam knows how to have fun like some of the funnier movies from their competitors, while also finding some texture for not shying away from its dark moments. You’ll definitely have a smile on your face watching Shazam.

With Wonder Woman, Aquaman and now Shazam under its belt as three straight solo movie wins, there is actual new hope for DC as a movie competitor once again.


Written by Alejandro Segovia.

All opinions expressed are exclusive to the writer and do not represent the entirety of Stat X Media.

Movie Scoring rubric:

★ : 1 point  ☆ : 0.5 points

★★★★★: Essential. Excellent movies. Close to flawless. Transcends any minor flaws it may have. 
   ★★★★: Great/Highly recommended. Great movies. Some flaws worth mentioning, but nothing to worry about.
      ★★★: Okay/Recommended. Good movies. Contains things worth watching & experiencing, but flaws can hinder the experience.
         ★★: Caution/Questionable. Mediocre movies. The flaws start to significantly hinder anything good the movie has
             ★: Avoid. Bad movies with nothing redeemable about them (some enjoyment as "so bad its good). Preferably don't waste your time. 


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