April 22, 2019 – Jurmane Lallana
In Shazam!, an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou) transfers his power to foster kid Billy Batson (Asher Angel). By shouting ‘Shazam,’ he transforms into one of DC Extended Universe’s most powerful heroes to date. With its laugh-out-loud comedy and likable characters, Shazam! is a great addition to the DCEU, much like Aquaman (2018) and Wonder Woman (2017) were in the past couple of years. As it should, it totally deviates from the gloomy Snyder era and jolts us with entertainment that we desperately need. It makes us head out of the theater with a positive vibe, basically in the mood to happily shout “Shazam!” to a random passer-by.
Shazam! has such a fun origin story. The wizard was supposed to give his power to someone who’s “pure of heart,” and when presented with the proposition, Billy himself said that he doesn’t think there is someone like that. Despite his admission, the wizard still gives power to him anyway because he doesn’t have any other choice. It’s like when you spend hours and hours looking for the perfect shirt at the store but when it’s time to go, you just pick something that’s good enough.
With the help of his (pseudo) brother and self-proclaimed superhero expert Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), he discovers a plethora of powers: lightning blasts, invulnerability, fire immunity, super strength, super speed, and flight. Because of the lack of instructions, Billy proceeds to use his newfound abilities the way a teenager would: money, fame, convenience store treats, consoles, and gadgets. His superhero start was the total opposite of “With great power comes great responsibility” (Sorry, Spider-Man, I know you hate us using that overused line). Zachary Levi, who broke out more than a decade ago through NBC spy comedy Chuck (2007), was perfectly cast as adult Billy. With his bubbly personality and goofy expressions, he shows us how transforming into Shazam! boosts Billy’s confidence and helps him have a more positive outlook in life.
One of the things that Shazam! effectively does is not take everything too seriously–and that includes making fun of past DCEU movies. Taking a page from Deadpool’s consistent ridicule of Fox’s X-Men franchise, Shazam! takes shots at Batman and Superman several times during the film: the kid reenacting the fight scene between Batman and Superman through his toys (and dropping them to the floor once he sees Shazam through the window), the fact that collateral damage was kept to a minimum despite his power level (Superman and Zod in Man of Steel basically wrecked half of Metropolis), and how Superman visited the school cafeteria at the end of the movie (but his face was not shown, touching on the fact that there is this existing dilemma of finding a new actor to play Supes given Henry Cavill’s sudden departure from the franchise). Credits also featured a creative cartoon showing Shazam and his silly interactions with the other Justice League members (dragging Batman around was gold). Additionally, the second post-credit showed Shazam laughing at the idea of talking to fish as a superpower, an obvious jab at Aquaman.
Shazam! is not all games though. Throughout the film, Billy tries to find his mom while trying to adjust to his new home. Shazam! highlights the difficulties a foster kid goes through–that missing feeling and all the unanswered questions that comes with it. The scene where he finally gets reunited with his mom is arguably one of the most heart-wrenching scenes I’ve ever seen in an otherwise hilarious movie. In his journey, we rediscover with Billy what family means, and it isn’t, in fact, measured by blood. Just look at what happened to Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong).
Is Shazam! a kids’ movie? Yes, but before you react negatively to this, let me say that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Like Netflix’s Stranger Things, it is able to make the children the front and center of the story without it being too corny or cheezy. Shazam! reminds us that when we were kids, everything was simple, and if we had a problem, we dealt with it without too much emotional baggage. Oh, and that part where Billy realizes that in order for him to succeed, he could share his power with his brothers and sisters? That was beyond cool, and the fact that the likes of Adam Brody (The O.C.) played his siblings’ adult superhero versions made it waaay cooler.
The only gripe I had while watching Shazam! was about Eugene portrayed as a stereotypical Asian nerd–he wore thick glasses, played video games all day, and knew how to hack, etc. However, when he transformed to Ross Butler (13 Reasons Why) and said ‘hadouken’ while using his newly-granted lightning powers, the scene more than made up for the initial portrayal.
To end, let’s discuss the slug-like creature that appeared during Shazam’s first post-credit scene (fun fact: he’s voiced by Shazam! director David Sanberg). His name is Mr. Mind, and he’s an alien said to have “high intelligence and telepathic powers.” In case you were not able to notice, we actually get to see Mr. Mind early on in the film when young Thaddeus enters the wizard’s lair (he is inside a case). However, when it’s Billy’s turn years after, we see that the case is now broken and Mr. Mind is nowhere to be found (it is possible that he escaped during the breakout of the Seven Sins).
In the comic books, Mr. Mind is part of the Monster Society of Evil, a supervillain group which includes Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson was cast to play this character back in 2014). This is a smart tease of things to come in the Shazam! franchise, and we certainly hope we have not seen the last of Billy and his supportive family. SHAZAM!
Shazam! starring Zachary Levi now out in cinemas near you. Photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.
A BANKER TURNED SOCIAL MEDIA ANALYST, JURMANE LALLANA THRIVES ON MAKING SENSE OF WHAT'S IN FRONT OF HIM. HE BELIEVES THAT MOVIES AND TV SHOWS ARE ESSENTIALS IN LIFE, JUST LIKE FOOD. CATCH HIS THOUGHTS AND MUSINGS ON HIS BLOG AND FACEBOOK PAGE.
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