Consider this a follow-up to last week’s post. In case you missed it, I’ll leave a link at the bottom. I plotted out my ideal Superman movie, it was a lot of fun.
Six years. In that time, you had movies starring Superman, Batman, Wonder-Woman, hell, you even gave Aquaman a movie! But you couldn’t get it down until Shazam?! Of all the characters for a good DC movie to stem from, I doubt that was the one anyone was expecting.
Sorry if you enjoyed any of the previous movies. But I’m not a fan. The only one I kind of enjoyed was Wonder-Woman.
I had middling expectations of Shazam. I had heard good things about it, but… come on! It’s a DC movie! Even at their best, their horribly mediocre! How could this one be any better?
The answer, of course, was simple. This movie doesn’t try to be anything more than it is. It didn’t try to make a political message or turn its hero into Jesus. It’s a simple, corny story that is designed with one purpose in mind: make the audience feel good. But the question is: did it succeed in that regard?
Plot: ‘Big‘ Starring Tom Hanks, Superhero Edition
You can’t get mad at me for making that joke. The movie did it first!
Billy Batson is an orphan boy, desperate to find his birth mother. He’s run from foster homes constantly, to the point that even the orphanages taking care of him have given up. However, his newest would-be family won’t give up on him, and they take him in along with a bunch of other orphans. Not long after, Billy is summoned by a mysterious wizard, who grants him the power of the Champion: Shazam! Thus, Billy is transformed into a grown man, as well as an extremely powerful superhero! But it’s not all fun and games! One of the wizard’s rejected champions has claimed the power of the Seven Deadly Sins, and he’s out to claim what he was declined! Can Billy mature enough to defeat this evil?
It’s an incredibly simple and straight forward story. Don’t go expecting any twists or turns that transform the plot. What you see is what you get: a funny, touching coming-of-age story. Is that a problem? Not at all! It’s executed near perfectly, given what they’re trying to do.
All the characters are just as simple and predictable. Each one has their own little quirk that serves as their personality. The Asian kid, Eugene, is good at games and computers, the fat kid, Pedro, wants to get jacked, Freddy the cripple is a massive super-hero fan, so on and so forth. They’re fairly one-dimensional, but they serve their role in the story well enough that it isn’t a problem.
The villain is… okay, I guess. He has enough depth to be interesting, as he has several things in common with our hero. But they’re never explored enough to really create that kind of deep and interesting emotional connection. Plus, I can’t see him as anyone other than Sans from Undertale. Not with that fucking eye!
Luckily, our protagonist more than makes up for that. Billy is a great character, and he drives the plot along perfectly. His arc is natural and well paced, as well as heartwarming. Watching this immature kid transform into a true hero is very satisfying, and most importantly: it makes you feel good! When he goes from performing cheap tricks to actually saving people (like a fucking hero should in a god damn super hero movie!), it feels as triumphant as it should!
Let me put it this way: there were several kids in the audience when I say this. When Shazam actually started doing heroic things, one of them would have cheered, had his mother not shushed him. Frankly, I’m kind of disappointed she did. Let the kid cheer his hero on!
Someone has to, since apparently it’s weird and inappropriate if I do it.
Visuals: About What You’d Expect From WB
DC movies are notorious for their terrible visual effects and lackluster cinematography. And unfortunately, Shazam is no different. It’s not as bad as Justice League or Suicide Squad. But it’s still far from great.
Let’s start with the positive: the cinematography isn’t that bad. The camera work is perfectly serviceable, with just enough dynamic shots sprinkled in there to make it more entertaining visually than many other superhero films (cough cough Captain Marvel). It’s not winning any awards (except maybe an Oscar, given their standards) but it’s just fine.
The CGI, on the other hand? It’s bad. It looks like a movie from the early 2000s. These lacking visuals make each action scene much worse than the slice-of-life stuff, which is where the movie shines. The design of the Seven Sins are pretty bad, as they’re painfully generic and forgettable.
But to say something more positive: the CGI is still better than the new Hellboy.
I also quite enjoy Shazam’s costume. It’s incredibly goofy, even in the context of the film. But in terms of actual production, it looks really good! It looks lifted straight out of the comics, and it’s transition was incredibly smooth along the way. The costume designers get an easy A+.
All in all? I’ve seen worse looking movies. But I’ve definitely seen better.
Performances: A Literal Man Child
So far, I’ve discussed an above-average movie. Not quite good, but not bad. If it were just those aspects, it would sit at ‘just above mediocre’. Luckily, the performances lift it beyond that into something truly great.
Every actor knocks it out of the park in this movie. I legitimately cannot think of a single bad performance. But there is one that towers far above every single one of them: Shazam himself, Zachary Levi.
This dude fucking kills it in this movie! He is perfectly cast, both in terms of the look and the performance! He so perfectly fit the role of a fourteen year old kid pretending to be an adult that I genuinely forgot he was an actual adult man. He is a man child in the best possible way!
Their performances are made all the better by how great the script is. The dialogue is great, featuring some genuinely hilarious jokes and great character moments! You could just read the script and you’d still have a great time!
You can’t say that about ninety percent of other movies these days!
Shazam does exactly what a superhero movie should do. It’s fun, it’s uplifting, and it’s unabashedly corny. It knows that, at their core, superhero characters are designed to entertain and inspire children. And Shazam embraces that and sets out firmly to complete this task.
If you want to watch something cheesy and fun, I’d highly recommend watching this movie. If you want to bring your kids to something they’ll enjoy, I can’t think of one better in the theaters right now. But if you were more a fan of the more serious DC movies (which, good for you, to each his own), I think it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy it. If you can’t handle corn and cheese, maybe give this one a pass.
But if you want something with lots of cheese and corn in the meal, I can’t think of one better. Plus, it’s definitely a better watch than Hellboy.
Which I am not reviewing. Don’t even ask. You cannot make me.