It is not a shock that some may think that, on the whole, Marvel Comics tends to surpass DC Comics in terms of quality, especially when it comes to their cinematic endeavors in recent years. The DC Cinematic Universe (DCCU) has only had one notably good film with Wonder Woman. I cannot speak to the quality of Aquaman as I have not seen it, but the mass majority agree that, while not horrendous, it was definitely a slight step down in quality. With all of that said, I am happy to report that DC’s newest release, Shazam, is not only good as it surpassed Marvel’s latest release, Captain Marvel, but it also wins in terms of pacing, visuals, and pure unmitigated charm.
Asher Angel plays a 14 year-old Billy Batson, a streetwise orphan who simply has a hard time connecting with the world around him and any of the 23 foster homes he has been at throughout his young life. Things change when he is summoned to the lair of the all mighty wizard Shazam, who, in a time of great crisis, bestows his magical abilities upon Billy. Now Billy, aided by his new foster brother Frederick Freeman, must learn how to be a true hero in order to defeat the dastardly Dr. Sivana, played by the impeccable Mark Strong.
The film plays much like the film BIG, starring Tom Hanks, but as a high concept sci-fi fantasy superhero movie. Every scene of the film exudes a strong amount of charm, wit and in many places intense, emotionally resonant moments that allow you to sympathize with not just Billy but the villain Dr. Sivana, creating a bizarre but welcome thematic parallel between the two foes. By the end of both of the characters introductory scenes I was fully hooked into each of their respective conflicts, and when they eventually collide it makes for some truly compelling scenes.
In terms of action scenes the film isn’t extremely revolutionary. It really does consist largely of flying and punching, but is still immensely entertaining; in the film’s climax, viewers experience a few unexpected twists & turns that make for some amazing moments. Speaking of twists & turns, the film has the standard mid and post-credits scenes comic book films have become famous for. The mid-credits scene paves the way for a potential sequel, showcasing a truly stunning addition from the original silver age comic books. The post-credits scene is more of a final gag to close out the film.
Shazam is a visually pleasing, family friendly romp. It won’t test your intelligence but will most definitely reinstall you with a bit of that childlike camp that has been sorely missing from the current state of comic book adaptations. It is nice to have a colorful, kind and very human film there to remind you that no matter how dark the world can get sometimes, as long as you have the right support from the right people, you can accomplish many great things.