One thing in the film industry that has become predictable is superhero films. Don’t get me wrong, I like many of them and love some of them. There is just a chance that comic-book-film fatigue could set in, the possibility that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
The rush to get these films out and into a theater so they can make a billion dollars seems to be too great. Rushing films out the door also hinders the development of the film and the film's story going out the door.
Marvel knows this and Marvel has been smart about the whole process. They laid out three phases of films spanning roughly 22 films. All meticulously planned out. They have even planned a break after “Avengers: Endgame.” A break that means after the first phase-four film, “Spiderman: Far From Home” we won’t see another Marvel film for roughly a year, as they plan the next phases.
The DCEU always felt rushed and unplanned and after the The Dark Knight trilogy, DC rushed to have billion dollar films like Marvel. This is something that hurt DC film. Well, that and changing the universe too much: Godlike Superman and the overly dark tone to every single character.
“Wonder Woman” has been DC’s best work to date. The one downside to “Wonder Woman” was the tone and that tone took the individuality away from the characters and made them feel far too similar.
“Shazam!” is full of individuality and character, especially as regards its hero Shazam. One of the actors responsible for bringing that individuality and character is Zachary Levi.
Billy Batson is a 14 year old kid who is given powers of a superhero. Shouting the word “shazam” turns Billy into an adult superhero.
“Shazam!” is built on the inner superhero premise and the intriguing notion that we all have a superhero inside us. For the film to sell this premise to the audience, the film needed a relatable lead. The adult version of Billy Batson/Shazam is played by Zachary Levi. Levi was born to play this role. His acting career was born out in a way that made him born to play this role.
Levi before “Shazam!” was best known for playing Chuck Bartowski in the television show “Chuck.” In that show, Levi’s character of Chuck Bartowski is also a normal person turned into a hero, not a superhero but a hero all the same. The roles of both Chuck and Billy Batson are similar or have a familiar feeling to them. They are both whimsically quirky with a childlike or trusting naivete to the character. The jokes are modern and don’t feel played out, even down to the flossing.
“Shazam” is a fun, often funny film that takes a more childish approach than any of its DC predecessors. This gives the film character. The one thing DC could do to make it’s films better was to make each superhero feel different from one another. “Shazam!” feels different and not just different from any DC character but different than any Marvel character.
Asher Angel plays the 14 year old version of Billy Batson. The 14-year-old version of Billy Batson is a common character archetype, the orphaned child who runs away and pushes people away but is always looking for some type of familial validation, often from a rejecting family member like a mother or father. The brilliant part of ‘Shazam!” is that the character of Billy Batson is two different characters: Shazam and Billy Batson. The adult version, Shazam, helps Billy open up a personality that the audience can love and brings the Billy Batson character closer to a foster family he was pushing away.
The character that “Shazam” brings to the audience is different than anything from any superhero film out there. The film is not shot in any artful way and the cinematography brings nothing new to the table. The characters are the only reason to see “Shazam!”
“Shazam!” is a fun family-oriented film that both young and old can laugh at and enjoy. The uniqueness, the childlike wonder, the comedic style of the film, and the relatability of Zachary Levi make “Shazam!” worth the effort.
What is not worth the effort is the story. The story feels fresh and new, mostly because Shazam is a more obscure comic book character. However, the origin story and villain feel cartoony and childish. The seven deadly sins? The wizard gives you powers? There is no depth to the story, the closest it gets is Billy Batson’s relationship towards his foster family and how that strengthens and grows as Billy does as Shazam.
“Shazam” could have had depth and made the film a deeper and better version of itself. It chooses not to and stays with the superficial surface character work. “Shazam” is a unique, funny, and fun film but it is ultimately a boring superhero journey that does not have depth or grow as you watch the movie. The film chooses to stay childish and that makes “Shazam!” best for the child.
So, bring your child and go see “Shazam!.”
IRATE SCORE: 2.5/5
Jason Guyer is an avid moviegoer and works in the graphics department at the Eagle Times. For questions or comments he can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org