As children, we all dream of being superheroes, but how often do we see stories of that happening? Whenever we see an Avenger, Batman or Superman grace the screen for another adventure, they are always adults that have evolved into the role of the cape and the one to save everyone. They'll make fans out of anyone, but let's face it; children are going to be their biggest fans. They're the ones that are innocent enough to not understand that there isn't really a Batman or Superman, but the image alone is still an inspiration that they'll want to try and make a similar impact.
We've made it clear that almost all the heroes tend to be adults and the youngest I see it go is Spider-Man, but it's fair to say he's not like other kids or teenagers. Today's movie may be the first that I've seen a more ordinary child become a superhero…sort of. It's kind of a cross of that and the Tom Hanks comedy Big. That was another fantasy that kids got into; the ability to grow up into a grownup without the responsibilities or true concerns of adulthood. Let's see how it ties together in the next D.C. hero, Shazam!.
Fourteen year-old Billy Batson (played by Asher Angel) is a homeless foster kid who has spent him life trying to locate his mother who he was separated from at three, but no one has been able to locate her. He eventually gets picked up by the police and is sent to another foster home where he shares a room with a superhero-obsessed kid Freddy Freeman. Billy fights off bullies going after Freddy, but then they chase him in retaliation. Billy escapes onto a subway where it magically takes him to a cavern where a wizard (played by Djimon Hounsou) reveals he's been chosen for special powers.
When Billy utters the wizard's name "Shazam", he now can turn into an adult superhero (now played by Zachary Levi). Though he appears as a man, he's still a child on the inside. He goes to Freddy who he's able to convince of who he is. The two spend the next couple of days figuring out what his powers are and even have some fun (buying beer, getting money, etc…). The pressure starts to hit Billy when some of his antics almost get people hurt, but a scientist Sivana (played by Mark Strong) also arrives not only has similar powers, but has control of monsters called, "the seven deadly sins"
I'll say now that I really had fun with Shazam!. Compared to the earlier D.C. movies and even Aquaman, Shazam! is the lightest of the movies, feeling more like an 80's family film in the vein of Big and Goonies. Because of this, this feels a tad edgier then modern family movies as these boys aren’t afraid to do inappropriate things. What makes this work is that none of them are doing this to be bad, but they feel like kids who learn their lesson and try to be better.
Speaking of which, both Asher Angel and Zachary Levi balance out perfectly in their roles as boy and man. Young Billy is a rebellious kid, but it's all in favor of finding his real family. Any kid can relate to this, whether their a foster kid or not. Once we do find out about his mother, I don't want to give it away, but it's not afraid to go to dark places. You know the screenplay is good when it's able to go from goofy & fun tone to dark and serious without it seeming jarring.
This is a good direction for Warner Brothers and D.C. who've needed a change from the gloomy Zack Snyder voice in favor of something that's not afraid to embrace its comic book nature. I know nothing about Shazam! and it's comic, but this movies makes me want to explore this character more. This is also proof that not all comic book movies need to follow the Disney and Marvel formula where everything is painstakingly connected. I’ll be curious about how this follows the rest of the D.C. story is something is planned. If not, then there's a lot to build from here.
I'll give this five Shazam! comics out of five. This is a great family movie. This is a great comic book movie. This is a great comedy. This is a great kids movie. This is just great. I highly recommend this at all costs and present this as proof that Marvel may have some competition now.