Is Shazam! the Best DCEU Movie So Far?
by Steve Sykes, Staff Writer
“…strong of spirit and pure of heart…”
So goes the incantation that grants Billy Batson superpowers in the upcoming film Shazam! But it’s also a great seven-word description of the movie itself. In fact, Shazam! could very well be the best DCEU movie yet, and yes – that includes the universally acclaimed Wonder Woman.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story of the movie (and the comic book that inspired it), it goes a little something like this: Billy (Angel Asher), a 15-year-old orphan, has bounced from foster home to foster home – all the while looking for his birth mother. After his latest failed search, Billy is transported to the lair of an old wizard (Djimon Hounsou) who needs to pass on his power to someone pure of heart to fight against evil. Billy reluctantly agrees and learns that whenever he says the wizard’s name, he turns into a hero (Zachary Levi) with the powers of super strength and speed.
At first only sharing his secret with his friend and foster brother Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Glazer), Billy starts using his powers for personal gain, until he realizes his destiny is to do battle with the villainous Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (the marvelously evil Mark Strong).
If you had given up on the DC film franchise because of the heavy-handed influence of Zach Snyder, but were given a little hope by the bonkers Aquaman, Shazam! could (and should) bring you back into the fold. Director David F. Sandberg delivers a tight, frothy funball of a movie that delivers action, laughs and – perhaps most surprisingly – heart.
None of this would likely be possible without the fantastic performance of Zachary Levi. In much the same way Ryan Reynolds seems to have been born to play Deadpool, Levi perfectly inhabits the title role. Levi makes an absolutely believable teenager trapped in a full-grown superhero’s body. Mischief, naiveté, vulnerability … Levi delivers all the goods.
Special mention must be made of Glazer, who as the wise-cracking, disabled Freddy makes a perfect sidekick for Billy/Shazam! His portrayal measures up with both Levi and Asher, but never even flirts with the sappy tropes associated with disabled characters.
While the laughs are plenty and robust, and the action is consistent, my most overwhelming feeling leaving the theater was how much heart Shazam! has. From Billy and Freddy’s friendship to a genuinely heartwarming representation of foster families, the film brings all the feels. While other superhero movies (mostly from the MCU) may be better made, none so fully produces the sweetness of Shazam! And it never reads remotely close to saccharine.
In short, if you’re looking for a comic-book movie that’s cinematically satisfying, family-friendly and “pure in heart,” put Shazam! on the top of your to-see list.
Steve is a marketing content developer for Horace Mann and has more than 20 years of professional communications experience. In addition to contributing for the FRN, Steve has also written columns for multiple Miami Dolphins fan sites. He enjoys karaoke, board games, community theater and taking various FRN team members’ poker money.