It is not much of a secret that the DC universe has not made the best of films, with the exception of Wonder Woman (and possible Man of Steel). It is true that superhero films can be better when darker and have more depth, but it is a fresh reminder that they can also be fun. Enter Shazam!, which I would wager is the best film in the DC line up to this point.
Directed by David F. Sandberg (whose recent films, Annabelle: Creation, and Lights Out, were in the horror genre), Shazam! starts off with two flashbacks: one involving a young Thad Sivana (Ethan Pugiotto) who is transported via a magic 8 ball (oh how I miss those) to the cave of a magic wizard (Djimon Hounsou, who Marvel fans may recognize as Korath). He is looking for someone to pass his magic to, provided they are pure in heart. While young Thad may look like he is pure in heart, he fails, and is transported back to his father and older brother (who are not the most loving).
Fast forward to the present day, where we meet Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a runaway orphan who has spent most of his life looking for his mother after losing her at a carnival when he was younger. He is given new foster parents, Victor and Rosa Vasquez (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans), who already have a couple of foster kids on hand. The youngest is Darla (Faithe Herman), a super loving and always talking tike. Eugene (Ian Chen) is an adorable computer geek. Pedro (Jovan Armand) is kind but very reserved. The oldest is Mary (Grace Fulton), who takes the others under her wing as she is in the process of finding out which college to attend. Finally there is Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer, most recently seen as one of the “Loser’s in 2017’s IT, and proves again here is one heck of a young talent), who, despite having a crutch, cracks one liners like a pro.
One day, Billy is summoned by the wizard, who tries again to pass his powers on. While the Wizard is still looking for one with a pure heart, Billy assures him that he is not the right choice (even going so far as to say no one really has a pure heart). It is discovered that the wizard has been holding off the seven deadly sins (gluttony, envy, lust, pride, greed, wrath, and sloth) from re entering the world and wreaking havoc. Eventually, the Wizard convinces him, and has Billy say the his name, Shazam!, turning him older and with powers (as well as into Zachary Levi, who is clearly having the time of his life in the title role).
We are then treated to half an hour or so of Billy learning of his super powers (with Freddy’s help, since he is the only one who knows about “this caped crusader stuff”). In this time, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself laughing quite a lot at the shennanigans that these two get themselves in (such as finding out what beer really tastes like). Meanwhile, the adult Thad (Mark Strong) has found his way back to the mystery cave, and has started to cause his own chaos. He becomes something that every DC film has basically lacked (unless you count Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad): a good villian.
Parents, the movie is PG-13, with some casual swearing (since the kids are mainly middle school age), and some suggestive material (the kids end up at one point in a “Gentleman’s Club”, though we never see the inside of it). There were even times I was thinking the film may even have been PG, so I would think ten and up would be okay.
The source of the power Billy possesses, of course, is in the name Shazam! (so much so that I have to always end it with an exclamation point). The same, of course, is true with God (only much more so). In Exodus 3, Moses asks God what name he should use when he reports back to the Israelites. God’s answer is one of my favorite moments of the whole bible: “I AM WHO I AM” (verse 14). The same also can be said of Jesus. If you bring the name of Jesus Christ up in a conversation, it does have quite an affect. Some people still cannot get over what to do with Jesus. If you want a quick primer on the argument for the resurrection of Jesus, click here. Speaking of authority and one’s name, the movie is also a nice reminder of how power (like the word of God) is not as effective if not shared. Romans 10:14 says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
The film does have some flaws (it does run long at times, but not terribly so), but it is a nice big leap in the right direction for DC films. Shazam! brings joy and life back to this universe with a beating pulse from its own (mostly) pure heart.