Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production Companies: New Line Cinema, DC Films, The Safran Company, Seven Bucks Productions and Mad Ghost Productions
Director: David F. Sandberg
Producer: Peter Safran
Scriptwriter: Henry Gayden
Main Cast: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer and Djimon Hounsou
Released: April 5 2019
Running Time: 132 Minutes
Shazam! is a movie that is over a decade in the making. The live-action telling of this story was talked about dating back to the early 2000s, and indeed it even seemed confirmed for development at that point. For a variety of reasons, though, the project was heavily delayed, and so it’s only now that we are able to get the fruits of the labour pertaining to this movie.
The opening scene is of a young boy named Thaddeus Sivana (played by Ethan Pugiotto), who is somehow whisked to the Rock Of Eternity via the power of an old wizard named Shazam (Djimon Hounsou), but he is rejected as the potential future torch-bearer (quite literally) because, in Shazam’s words, he is not “pure of heart”. Many years later, we meet Billy Batson (Asher Angel) who, after another cut-scene shows us how he lost touch with his mother (Caroline Palmer) at a young age while walking through a local fairground, is now 14 and about to be taken to yet another foster home. His new parents (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans) are more than welcoming, though he still finds it hard to take to his new surroundings, including sharing a room with Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), the latter of whom is unable to walk without the use of a crutch, but has an obsession with superhero characters.
And that comes in handy once Batson unexpectedly finds himself transported to the Rock Of Eternity, where the wizard officially anoints him as his new representative for good rather than evil. At this point, though, the wizard has been weakened by an attack from the now-grown up Thaddeus (Mark Strong), who attacks the wizard and steals the Eye Of Sin and unleashes the Seven Sins back onto the world via his command and from his right eye. When Freddy discovers that Billy is now an adult superhero (played by Zachary Levi, who is likeable and believable in the role) named Shazam, boasting a wealth of superpowers (though he takes a while to learn how to fly), he is giddy with excitement, and the two – Freddy and Billy – become closer as a result. It should be noted that Billy can become his superhero alter ego by saying his name, and vice versa.
Soon, though, there is friction between the new foster brothers, despite Billy becoming closer with his other brothers and sisters. And this becomes a major problem once Thaddeus, now a truly evil doctor, finally locates Shazam and goes on a ques to defeat him in order to obtain the powers provided by the wizard, or alternatively, convince Shazam (who he realises is a teenage boy at heart, and in his mind a weak one at that) to hand over his powers. Hence a series of battles, many close calls for the wellbeings of multiple characters, and a climatic ending that brings together several plot strands, including Billy’s ongoing search to reunite with his original mother.
The special effects are top-drawer here, in particular when we see the (pretty horrifying) Seven Sins doing Thaddeus’ work. This leads to some tense moments which may be a bit scary for younger viewers (since this is a 12A), but will be very exciting for the older fans watching this film. The comedy material is pretty strong, as we get plenty of clever one-liners and also a fair few in-jokes, such as Billy struggling to realise how he should act in the role of a superhero. It’s also a fairly easy tale to get to grips with, which isn’t always the case for superhero films. If you’d never seen such a movie prior to watching this one, you’ll become accustomed to the DC universe relatively quickly.
I did feel that the film dragged on, but not because of its ending. If anything, I felt that the opening third was stretched out too much; it is around 40 minutes into the film before Billy takes on the position, so to speak, of Shazam. Had this early portion been streamlined, so that the movie as a whole sits below two hours, that would make for a more enjoyable experience. Instead, there is the fear of looking at your watch or your phone as we move towards the big ending, because we’ve already spent loads of time in front of the big screen. In addition, I felt that Billy’s mother comes across as being somewhat cold, which means that while there is resolution to Billy’s journey back to his original family, it is far from a feel-good moment, and may be something to focus upon should there be a second movie (which is teased at the end, though we waited so long for this film that a sequel could be a long time away).
On the whole, though, I definitely enjoyed Shazam! It is easy to become invested, as well as it being quick and easy to get behind Billy and Freddy. There are spectacular special effects throughout, and as noted, the one-liners elevate this to a higher level too. If nothing else, you’ll be wowed by the gripping action between good and evil in the major fight scenes. For longtime fans of Shazam, the movie that you’ve been waiting for since the early 2000s is finally here, and ultimately it lives up to expectations.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent