Thanks to a special Fandango offer, KC and I got to see Shazam! last night.

It’s a fun movie, thanks largely to the outstanding performance of Zachary Levi as the 15-year-old pretending to be an adult superhero. He does an amazing job capturing the combination of adolescent swagger and uncertainty. (Asher Angel plays Billy Batson as the teen version.) But it’s also a very boy-focused film, with the characters of the various mothers and sisters inconsistent or not well-developed.

I wish I didn’t know as much about the comic version as I do. Because I’d read some of the recent series, I found myself waiting until big revelation I knew was coming finally arrived. The less you know about the character, the comics, or the trailers, the better, I think.

It was a welcome burst of humor for DC superheroes on film, even if too often, the movie shades toward (as a Twitter friend termed it) “Big with superheroes”. I suppose, since it’s been in development for over a decade, I should be glad it turned out as watchable as it did. And it was great seeing so much of Philadelphia (where I lived for three years), even if it was primarily filmed in Toronto.

Fun fact! Captain Marvel was the first live-action superhero on film, with a 1941 serial.

There may be spoilers for the movie, which opens April 5, after the poster.


The movie is slow to get started, with a lengthy preview that sets up the wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) looking for a pure soul to carry on his powers and fight the Seven Deadly Sins. A young Thaddeus Sivana (played as an adult by Mark Strong, who is predictable but good in the type of role he’s done before) is found lacking, which gives him a motivation that cleverly ties him closely to the origin of the unnamed hero. (IMDb calls the caped guy “Shazam” which would make him the hero that cannot say his own name.) It’s the shame the character is otherwise so stereotypical for this genre, with little depth.

There are some surprisingly violent moments for a kid-focused superhero flick. (One shows a woman burned to crumbling dust so Sivana can figure out something important. It sadly did not surprise me that her only purpose was to further the bad guy’s quest.) Much of the story path is predictable — kid has to learn to think of others and value those who care for him, finally becoming the hero we all knew he could be. If you’re caught up in the movie enough, you’ll see these moments as classic, instead of unoriginal.

The theme, that the families we choose are more important than the ones we’re born into, is played out in a way that may disturb younger viewers. (Although the movie is rated PG-13, I suspect parents may bring kids any way.) That is balanced out by how dedicated to heroism and looking on the bright side foster brother Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer, who previously starred in the sitcom Me, Myself and I) is. The scenes where Freddy is trying to help new hero Billy figure out what he can (and can’t) do are high points. They nicely balance the generic CGI demon-monsters that make up most of the big fights.

I would really like to see Levi’s hero interact with more of the DCU. There are a number of gags and references firmly establishing him in that universe, and let me reiterate: this movie is worth watching just to see the amazing job Levi does.

My final thought is, how bad a dad does John Glover have to be to have raised both Sivana and Lex Luthor?

One comment

  • James Schee

    Interesting to read your review. When I saw the previews/commercials I just cringed, as it seemed so over the top cheesy. I’ve had non comic fans say the same. Which is a shame as I love the character and I’ve loved Levine since Chuck. Your review gives me hope that I might have just had a bad reaction to commercials. Guess I’ll know when the movie comes out and I can see it.

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