Shazam! Reignites the Childlike Wonder of Superheroes

Olivia Brightbill

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By Olivia Brightbill

When I first heard the next DC movie to be released would be Shazam! I was happy to see the character being brought to live action, but I also was fairly worried. In recent years the DCAU (DC Animated Universe) has been pitching Shazam as a central role and even a part of the original Justice League lineup. Despite having acclaim amongst DC fans, the character Shazam is virtually unknown to the mainstream audience. The concept of the superhero version of Big (a kid in a grownup body), is also hard to sell people on, but Shazam! manages to pull it off by keeping the movie simple, clean, and fun. Shazam! follows Aquaman nicely as DC continues on a streak of good, non-polarizing movies

 

I should have known with Geoff Johns at the helm of the DCEU that this version of Shazam would be modeled after the New 52 version of Billy Batson he wrote himself. This Billy Batson is more relatable and realistic as an imperfect teenager who is a little more sarcastic than the original Billy Batson who is completely pure of heart. This character is not completely dark and brooding, but understandably angry with the foster system that failed him. This leaves room for Billy to be a more dynamic character as he goes through the movie learning to trust and protect more than himself.

 

This depiction of the Shazam Family is much appreciated and needed in the media as representation of found family. Even without his biological mother, Billy is able to thrive with his foster family. It made me so happy when the film allowed Billy to bring his siblings into the fight by also giving them the powers of Shazam. This is so important to include since the diverse cast expands the reach of the film. When kids see this movie they will be able to see themselves as these superheroes who actually look like them.

 

Shazam! is definitely geared towards a younger audience, but that is what makes it stand out among an oversaturated genre. It is about family and shows how a superhero movie does not need the often unnecessary love interest. It is supposed to be cheesy and over the top, especially since the character comes from the Golden Age of comics. Even the design of Shazam looks like what kids would think of when they imagine themselves as superheroes. The childlike wonder of being a superhero comes to life on screen through actor Zachary Levi. It is so refreshing to see true excitement of being a superhero and having such powers rather than view it as a burden. The actor has mentioned many times before about his wish to play a superhero as he is a comic book fanatic. Levi’s own elation for playing this role shines through and sell the concept. I expect nothing less of the actor who has been in the Disney, Marvel, and now the DC Universe.

 

The key part for casting of Shazam was to make it believable that this adult man still had the mind of a child. And so, the casting of Levi is perfect. Levi is also one of the few actors  who could have such good chemistry with child actors Asher Angel as Billy Batson and Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman, who should also be commended for their performances. Their interaction seems very realistic and genuine. Also, the comedic moments in the film would have fallen short if not for these three actors’ confident delivery.

 

There were many hints teasing at future villains that may have gone unnoticed to non-Shazam fans. One of the biggest Shazam villains is alluded to in the after-credits scene and I hope they will green light a sequel to follow through with it.

 

There was nothing too original about the directing or even the action sequences that had buildup that never paid off. But, where the film lacks in technical aspects it makes up for it in charm. Shazam! is the quintessential feel-good movie and I look forward to what they will do with the character next.