From Warner Bros. Pictures and director David F. Sandberg comes the next DC comics’ character to receive a film adaptation, Shazam! starring Zachary Levi as the title character. Shazam! tells the story of young Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a kind-hearted but troubled foster boy who has spent years in and out of foster homes. After his latest round of mischief, Billy ends up in Vasquez's care, where he meets his foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer). This disabled lad has an encyclopedic knowledge of superheroes.
One day after saving Freddy from bullies, Billy is chosen by dying wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) to become his successor and fight the world's evils. When Billy receives his "powers," he transforms into a full-grown adult known as Shazam (Zachary Levi). Freddy is over the moon that his new foster brother is a superhero, while Billy adjusts accordingly. The brothers don't know that Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) holds a vendetta against the wizard. For years, Thaddeus has tried to acquire the powers for himself.
I walked into the movie Shazam, knowing very little of the character outside of his appearance in Injustice: Gods Among Us. Generally, when I see a comic book adaptation for a character where I don't know the source material, I avoid doing research to form a fair opinion. I have to say that Shazam! is an excellent time at the movies. Henry Gayden's screenplay makes the wise choice to cater to mainstream audiences with heart and humor. One of the strengths of the film is Zachary Levi's performance as our hero.
Director David F. Sandberg knows that while Shazam appears to be an adult in appearance, he still has the heart of a 12-year-old. Levi rises to the occasion with his performance, which harks back to Tom Hanks as Josh Baskin in Big. As Shazam, Levi isn't your average day superhero, and his transition to hero is excellent to watch on screen. Another highlight of the film for me was the chemistry between Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer. The duo has natural comic chemistry, and I honestly felt they were brothers.
In his second DC Comics film adaptation, Mark Strong again shows why he makes such a great villain. Strong conveys Thaddeus's motives with ease, and I understood why he wants revenge. Hopefully, the box office returns, so we can see more of the character in the future. The dark tone has always been criticism for DC comic film adaptations. While Shazam! is more lighthearted than the studio's previous films, there are still some dark moments in the movie involving our antagonist. These moments are essential to the character.
With Easter eggs reference, laugh out loud moments, and impressive action sequences, Shazam! is worth the trip to your local theater. The movie has a running of 130 minutes, but the time flies by. You're smiling for the bulk of the film. Make sure to stay through the credits for a mid-credit scene, which sets up a sequel and a post-credit scene.
Final Grade A-