Review: ‘Shazam!’ is a surprisingly heartwarming and satisfying superhero film

In Shazam!, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) sniggers when asked to say “Shazam” so that he can transform into the eponymous superhero — and why wouldn’t he? It’s such a goofy thing to say, but the film rolls with it and even embraces the entire Shazam mythos. It’s a fun, over-the-top concept for sure. But it’s no less sillier than a human-looking god-like alien from another planet or a billionaire who dresses up as a bat and uses various bat-themed gadgets to fight crime. Instead of trying to turn everything gritty, Shazam! embraces what’s best about the character and story to deliver a heartwarming and satisfying superhero film.

Credits to: Marcus Goh
Contributor, Yahoo Movies Singapore

The movie revolves around a runaway orphan who is on a quest to look for his mother. He ends up getting chosen to bear the mantle of Shazam, which enables him to transform into a virtually invincible superhero. However, he must conquer his inner demons and get into fisticuffs with literal demons if he is to show that he really deserves to wield the power of Shazam.

As can be expected, the first act of the film centres firmly on the relationship between Billy and his foster brother, Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer). The two boys have fantastic chemistry with each other, and it’s a joy to see their interactions with each other and their burgeoning friendship. The supporting characters of Billy’s foster family help to round out his other familial relationships, creating a touching story about family which anchors the whole film.

As a result of this, the film manages to firmly ground the characterisation of Billy Batson as a relatable, sympathetic character, before giving him his powers. Asher Angel does an excellent job of portraying the human identity of Shazam, adding nuances to the character without overtly telling us what he’s thinking. He doesn’t over-emote, which is what Zachary Levi sometimes does as the adult Shazam. He does eventually pull off the whole “boy in a grown man’s body” characterisation later, but Levi’s bewildered frown wears off its welcome after three or four times. He’s not terrible as Shazam, but he’s not great either.

What Shazam! does best is to fully embrace the campiness of the entire concept. It doesn’t try to hide the gigantic, shining lightning bolt logo on Shazam’s chest, instead opting to make it as garishly obvious as possible. Even the characters are obsessed with touching the lightning bolt and trying to figure out how it works. It’s all the moments like this that show you that the producers thoroughly enjoy the character of Shazam, and have loads of fun executing this premise. The film benefits from not taking itself too seriously, and going about it with a tongue-in-cheek manner instead.

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