Cinemaster Score: 8.4/10
Shazam! is one of the best DC movies out there – not just in the DCEU. This is in no small part thanks to the standout acting from Zachary Levi with his childish charm and levity. His performance is aided by a strong script that’s jokes work to great effect with his character and his motivations. Shazam! is well written overall but contains so many characters that many of them come off as one-dimensional and somewhat cliché. Although they aren’t as interesting as their lead, director David Sandberg compensates for this with his great balance of dark tone and comedic wit. His background within the horror genre works to surprisingly great effect here, separating Shazam! from its fellow superhero movies. Sandberg is used to crafting interesting set designs and dark locales, but storytelling is not one of his specialties. Shazam!’s plot is shallow if looked at close-up, with a slow-paced first act and a fast, action-packed third that has nothing in between to connect it. But that matters little in Shazam!, as it has one goal and one goal only. To entertain. It does so in spades – from the excellent comedy and magnetic performances, to the dark moments made great by the engaging direction. Shazam! is quite possibly the most fun you’ll have at the movies this year, and should not be dismissed as a “kids movie”. Just sit back and enjoy the ride, it’s practically guaranteed you will.
Acting; The acting in Shazam! is well done across the board, but the standout is, surely, Zachary Levi in the main role himself. He embodies the youthful exuberance and childlike wonder of having superpowers perfectly. Shazam! is so funny because of its strong central performance and his great use of physical comedy. His younger counterpart Asher Angel as Billy Batson is excellent, and he does have some emotional scenes that carry weight to them throughout Shazam!. Angel and Levi are an interesting dynamic that melds to make one great character. As for the acting from our supporting cast, they are pretty good throughout, but there are certain scenes that can seem a little too corny and ham-fisted. While they ultimately serve their purpose as a whole, they don’t really add anything to the experience. So overall, there are some who go above and beyond, while others are comfortable in being somewhat mediocre.
Script; The script for Shazam! is one of the best in DC’s cinematic history. The lines are well-written and generally fit with the rest of the film’s tone. All of the script helps to make the film feel like a comic. There are some key parts to the script that make it work. You have, of course, quite a few references to other DC movies. Then you also get a lot more jokes than usual from DC. With as many jokes as there are, not all can be expected to land. In Shazam! though, a majority do hit home. Paired with all the positivity and laughter are some darker tones. These tones are present and distinguishable with more than just the antagonist as expected. Complimentary to all the fun in the script, there are tensions that round it all out in the sad realities for our main characters. When there are arguments, a very real set of emotions are present in their words. Everything in Shazam!’s script works together to be a perfectly mixed concoction.
Characters; There are two distinctively styled characters in Shazam!. On one side of the proverbial coin, there are the main characters. Primarily including Doctor Sivana, Billy Batson/Captain Marvel, and Freddy Freeman – these characters are pretty great. Each of them are very interesting in their mannerisms. Each are very dynamically worked out. Batson and Sivana do have – in a very cliché fashion – nearly polar opposite backstories. Fortunately, this doesn’t tend to take away from the rest of the movie at all. On the other side of the coin are the side characters. In support of our main cast of characters are these fellows. They aren’t necessarily bad per se, but they are little more than decent. They simply aren’t memorable and fit the plot in a one-dimensional manner. Luckily for this flick as a whole, the two character styles balance out well.
Direction; Shazam! has such a great balance of light humor and dark conflict, due gatefully in part to David Sandberg (Director). Sandberg made this film with elements of horror, especially in the creature design and violent action scenes. He directed Lights Out and quickly received attention for his unique style and tone. What separates Shazam! from his other work is that strong sense of humor that works so well even with the dark subject matter. The monster designs in particular are quite memorable and would not look out-of-place in today’s horror movies. Surprisingly, Sandberg’s use of bleak tone works well, especially considering Shazam! is basically a comedy. For Sandberg, this is another win in his career, as Shazam! is a crowd pleasing, and unique DC film.
Story; While it is relatively light in its plot – with little twists or major revelations – Shazam!’s story is still a delight to watch unfold. It is similar in many ways to the modern “Shazam” comics, especially with the characters and plot points. For a DCEU film, it’s emphasis on being entertaining over a heavy-handed story works well and is very enjoyable. But, as you watch Shazam! you may realize that there is little to no second act to connect the first and third. There is a lengthy beginning that kicks into high gear relatively late in the film, and by the time it gets there you’re at the final battle. It was a little jarring at first but it is a small complaint that shouldn’t ruin the experience for most. So, while Shazam! does rely a little much on its source material, the overall story is engaging from start to finish.
Enjoyment; When you go forth and weigh out the enjoyment factor in Shazam!, something extraordinary stands out. It full on tips the scale. Shazam! is one of the higher ranked superhero films in the enjoyment category – especially in comparison to other DC cinema. The story is light-hearted rather than heavy and dark. Its jokes land often and fit most senses of humor. The action – though clunky and repetitive at times – can be fun to watch. The most standout piece of this pie of a good time though, is the lovable coming-of-age style shown in the story. It’s something tried and true that audiences still love. Blending all the individually enjoyable features of this film, you get one really gratifying adventure.
David: “I thought Shazam! was really good. Though, I think beyond this review it’s been a little overrated. It is a fun and memorable watch that introduces a great character, but for me it didn’t connect as well. The lack of a second act made the excitement seem short-lived. Altogether it is undeniably a great film and I’ll be sure to watch it again.”
JP: “I loved Shazam!, it did start off slow but as soon as it kicked off, it really kicked off! It was consistently entertaining and hilarious at times, with most of the jokes hitting than not. For a DCEU movie, it was much more lighthearted but also dark at the same time. That’s why I think this is a great superhero movie that won’t soon be forgotten.”