Review: 'Shazam!' a breath of fresh air

Category:  The Arts
Thursday, April 11th, 2019 at 8:48 AM

When it comes to superhero movies, DC has a recent history of mediocrity. The studio seems set on creating a dark and gritty universe to rival Marvel’s own cinematic world. They didn’t seem to understand what makes a superhero so incredibly awesome. That is, until now. 

“Shazam!” adds what’s been missing from the DC Extended Universe the entire time: humor, heart and childlike wonder.

The film stars Asher Angel (“Andi Mack”) as Billy Batson. A runaway orphan gifted with the magical powers of the wizard Shazam, he is turned into the titular hero, portrayed by Zachary Levi (“Chuck”). By simply saying the name, he can alternate between his two forms, taking on the responsibilities of his regular life or the super-powered persona.

The best part of “Shazam!” is how the film goes about demonstrating the hero’s powers. Billy is a teenager, even in his powered form, and we’re always reminded of that. There is no immediate sense of justice or doing anything for the greater good. We’re having fun. 

Billy is joined by his foster brother, Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), who helps Billy adjust and explore his powers, albeit in a hilarious and not-so-safe way. Billy does what any teenager would do: abuse his new abilities for personal gain. 

His misuse of his powers puts him at odds with those around him. Billy isolates himself with his decisions, choosing to show off and have fun, avoiding the obligations that not only come with superpowers, but the obligations to his friends and family. 

Family is a big theme within the plot, as almost all the main characters are foster kids, even Billy’s new parents. Billy initially rejects his new home life for the one he yearns for, having spent years searching for his birth family. Only when Billy’s new family is threatened does he feel the need to stand up and become the hero the wizard was searching for.

An unfortunate weakness of the film happens to be the antagonist, Doctor Sivana (Mark Strong), which is disappointing considering the strengths of the actor. In the comics, Doctor Sivana is Shazam’s archnemesis. In the movie, he is a shallow and generic villain whose lifelong goal is to obtain Shazam’s powers for himself, by any means necessary. 

The villainous side of the film fails to launch it away from the overdone origin trope many other successful superhero movies have done away with. Dr. Sivana seems to exist for the sole purpose of teaching our main character Billy a lesson, ultimately inspiring the character to overcome the obstacles on the way to victory. 

“Shazam!” is mostly a breath of fresh air and a step in the right direction for future DC films. It’s fun and captivating from the start: a fantastic time at the theater. One can only hope that DC continues to utilize a formula like this, eventually bringing a slew of movies that not only expand their cinematic universe, but entertain us as well.

“Shazam!” has many fun nods to other already established heroes, a few very well placed. Stick around after the credits.

Jason Hurst | edinboro.spectator@gmail.com

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