When I explained the plot to Shazam to my boss (who strangely hadn’t seen a single trailer for the film) He asked “so it’s basically a superhero version of Big?” I had never thought of it in those terms before, but it’s actually a pretty apt comparison. The filmmakers are very much owning this comparison and there’s even a pretty fantastic Big easter egg in the film.
For those wondering, the character originated in 1939 and was originally called Captain Marvel. However, because they forgot to copyright the name, Marvel came up with their own Captain Marvel and copyrighted it. As a result, DC supposedly can’t publish any comics with the name “Captain Marvel.” In the film itself, the name isn’t used at all.
Shazam follows the story of Billy Batson, an orphan with a chip on his shoulder. He has been bumped from foster home to foster home in what seems like every county in the Philadelphia area, until he is bestowed by the wizard Shazam with power to become a perfected adult superhero version of himself to protect Earth from the literal monster embodiments of the 7 deadly sins.
Those seven deadly sins have an avatar in the film’s antagonist, Doctor Sivana. Sivana is portrayed by Mark Strong, who is no stranger to comic book villains: he played Sinestro in Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern and was a gangster in Kick-A**. Strong brings his A game to the role and the character is not the type he normally plays.
The other performances in the film are pretty fantastic, with the MVP definitely going to Zachary Levi as the adult version of the superhero. Sure he plays himself mostly, but that’s what makes it so great: Levi is obviously a kid at heart much like Chris Pratt is. He’s not as charming as Pratt, but he is really fun to watch.
If the film does have one weakness it is its unevenness, meaning that it alternates between marvelous and mediocre depending on the scene. Even the best DCEU films like Wonder Woman suffer from this, probably because they don’t have the discipline that Kevin Feige seems to be able to exact in his writers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
However, despite it being uneven, it must be noted that not only is Shazam DC’s funniest film to date, but that it is a unique film in today’s blockbuster saturation: it genuinely gets better as it goes along. It peaks in the third act where it genuinely surprised me and put the biggest grin on my face. The third act also made me laugh so hard that I was crying.
Ultimately, Shazam is a really fun, albeit uneven ride. It’s funny and has some genuinely brilliant moments.
The movie is much more violent than I expected it to be, especially since it’s clearly being marketed to kids. It’s not as violent as Wonder Woman, but is a tad more violent than Justice League. It’s more violent than most Marvel movies. I’m hesitant to take my 10 year old daughter to it.