I’m a fan of Shazam of old. The Superman archetype always appealed to me and he was one of the few characters that had more improvements than missteps in DC’s New 52 reboot. That’s what this film is based off of, but there’s so many easter eggs scattered through this thing that you can very much see it respects the history it comes from (The Rock of Eternity has to be seen to be believed. It’s EXACTLY as I always pictured it).
The film opens with our villian’s backstory, and I’m delighted to see John Glover once again playing a supervillian’s father. It’s just enough to give us a glimpse of what Billy has in store for him while setting up Doctor Sivana’s grudge against the wizard Shazam. Still, the film gets us to Billy Batson quickly enough. He’s not quite as squeaky clean as old fans may be used to, but his edge comes off as roguish and charming rather than gritty. Billy’s superhero obsessed foster brother Freddy Freeman is actually the best version of the character I’ve ever seen and steals every scene he’s in. The chemistry between Billy, Freddy, Mary and the other foster kids is well done and the laughs come often. It’s not the comedy formula we’ve come to expect from Marvel, this is definitely it’s own thing and still dishes up some dark and terrifying monsters just to remind you this is a DC film, but they’ve remembered to bring the fun as well. There’s heart, action, and great pacing. Clocking in at two hours and twelve minuets, I never looked down at my watch once and was genuinely shocked to see how fast the film goes.
If I have any quibbles, it’s that the character of Doctor Sivana is misused. Instead of being an evil genius Lex Luthor type, they power him up into a demonic fisticuffs adversary. It’s enough to make me wonder if this role had actually been written for Black Adam and had to be reworked when Dwayne Johnson couldn’t accommodate the shooting schedule. It’s okay. This villian is visually interesting, with good motive and storytelling as well as being a genuine threat. It’s not the Sivana I know and love, but I dig him for what it is.
The movie is just great. It’s my favorite superhero film in a long time and it feels good to finally see DC hit one out of the park. Go see this. Seriously.
Shazam opens on April 5th, and I’ll be heading back that day…and this time I’m bringing my family with me.