I have to admit, when I first saw the trailer for Shazam!, I felt pretty underwhelmed. It didn’t seem like the kind of film I’d enjoy. I often get tired of cringey, over the top humour, which is basically what the trailer was packed full of. Having said all of this, I ended up being pleasantly surprised by the film after agreeing to go to a Limitless screening. I actually don’t think the trailer did it justice, if I’m perfectly honest.
The plot of Shazam! is completely bonkers, but let’s face it, what did you expect from a superhero film? Most origin stories are implausible, but that’s the beauty of the genre for me. The film follows 14-year-old Billy Batson, after he is gifted superpowers by a wizard and is able to transform into the adult ‘Shazam’ simply by shouting his name. At first, it is a little weird seeing him transform from a kid into an adult and back again, but you do get used to it. I loved the performances by Zachary Levi and Asher Angel throughout, and they did a great job of mirroring each other.
The film’s antagonist Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) gets his powers from the seven deadly sins; a group of terrifying, demonic spirits who lead him down a dark path. He’s full of anger, and wants to lash out at the world and the family who berated him his entire life. As far as antagonists go, he’s fairly standard, but fun to watch. He’s nothing revolutionary, but I enjoyed watching him fight Shazam at least. When Sivana is on screen, the film does take a much darker turn, so I would add a viewer discretion for any young children out there. I was even caught out by a pretty effective jump scare at one point.
Annoyingly the pacing is a little off in the third act, and the final fight scene between Sivana and Shazam could’ve easily been trimmed down by 15 minutes or so. I found myself getting a little restless here, which was disappointing given how much fun I had with the rest of the film. Having this sluggish scene follow so many hilarious, genuinely engaging moments was a shame. Don’t let that put you off though, the rest of the film works well. The relationship between Billy and his foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) is hilarious, and got the most laughs from me. Even when he’s in his adult form, Billy still acts like Billy, so there’s lots of teenage boy bickering throughout as you may expect.
I was also surprised at the emotional themes that run through the film. On the surface, it’s a goofy, laugh out loud superhero film, but it also deals with difficult scenarios. As a foster child, Billy has desperately been searching for his birth mother, and Dr. Sivana has loathed his own family ever since he was a child. Both are struggling with the concept of family, and there are frequent references to this throughout. Billy’s most recent foster family are delightful to watch, and I was impressed by the child actors in the film. They’re definitely the most engaging characters, who would go out of their way to help Billy and their other foster siblings.
Shazam! is not a brilliant film, but it’s also way better than I was expecting. The tone is all over the place, some of the jokes are stupid, and it’s super goofy. But it’s a perfect film to watch for a bit of escapism, if you don’t want to think too hard about what you’re watching. I was surprised at just how much fun I had.