Starring: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou
Directed by: David F. Sandberg
Written by: Henry Gayden (screenplay by),
Studio: Warner Bros., DC Entertainment
Run Time: 2 hours, 12 minutes
Pushing aside everything that Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment have done in the past, their Aquaman film was a step in the right direction. A new film with no prior conception or comparison. Batting second is Shazam!, a character that has not received big-screen treatment either. The casting of Shazam looked ideal, with Zachary Levi, and the villain is portrayed by Mark Strong, who always plays the villain. Since I live Philadelphia and read Geoff Johns reboot of the character in 2013, I was ready this DCEU film.
Here's a quick synopsis of Shazam! Billy Baston (Asher Angel) is seemingly abandoned by his mother at a young age. Spending his formative years in and out of foster homes, Billy has never stopped looking for her. Caught on the wrong side of the law, the now trouble-making teen finds himself placed with a Philadelphia foster family that is quick on bringing him into their lives. This is a house of love, trust, and understanding- virtues Billy has yet to experience. After defending his new foster brother from some bullies, Billy, on the run, is magically taken away and offered superpowers. Reluctant at first, Billy then dons the moniker of Shazam. Billy, now a full-grown man, has the power of the gods at his fingertips. However, still only 14 years old inside, Billy isn't sure what to do or how to act now that the world sees him as a Superhero. Enter Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong), who as a boy was also once offered the power of Shazam but decided to take an offer from the Seven Deadly Sins instead. Knowing that Billy has the powers of Shazam, he exploits the boy's new family to get what he wants, Billy's powers. All this takes place in a world where Superman, Batman, and Aquaman are very real-life people.
Let's start out with the positives. Billy Baston and the kids in the foster home are superb. In fact, they outshine the adults and supply the heart to the film. Kudos on their casting. Zachary Levi is solid as the man-boy superhero who is in the midsts of figuring how who he is and where his place is in the world. Jack Dylan Grazer plays Billy/ Shazam's best friend and superhero tutor who tells Billy how to be a hero in more ways than one. Grazer steals most of if not every scene he is in. So the casting, of these characters, was perfect.
The film itself starts off with the villain's origin. Always an interesting start to a movie. Yet before I can get too deep into it, his father is shown to us and played by John Glover. Superhero genre fans will remember him as Lex Luthor's father, Lionel, on TV's Smallville (to say nothing of being in Batman & Robin or voicing the Riddler on Batman: The Animated Series). In short, I was taken out of the moment by the actor who played Lex Luther's father now playing the father of the bad guy in this film. Then there is the actor portraying "The Wizard" he and Billy both meet, the very same actor, Djimon Hounsou, who just co-starred in Marvel's own Captain Marvel this year. Wait, I almost left out this other Superhero actor, Mark Strong, who played Sinestro in Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern film, is now Dr. Sivana grown up. Seriously, aren't there any other actors out there? I understand actors have to work and good ones are hard to come by, but can't they have some sort of contract where they must be in either a Marvel or DC film? Or perhaps the director can just cast someone else?
Billy's defense of his foster brother, Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), also brings up a few distracting questions in the film, questions, like the aforementioned casting of the superhero alumni above, that should not distract you from the film at hand. Freddy is hit by a truck by bullies at school. This is done in broad daylight in front of the school and seen by a lot of people. After hitting Freddy, the bullies then proceed to beat him up. No one does a thing about it. No School Security Guard, parent, or teacher gets involved. This would be fine if it was just Billy who witnessed the attack. If the attack would have happened in the locker room (where they usually take place), or perhaps if the school had no security checkpoints or guards as were revealed to the audience prior to and after the incident had happened. I was completely taken out of the moment. It also doesn't help that later when these bullies are in peril (after spitting on a baby) you just want them to meet a gruesome fate.
My third issue with the film (and by far not my final) was with the references made to Superman, Aquaman, and Batman. I am fine with them existing in this world. However, Freddy is referencing Batman as "The Caped Crusader". Was Ben Affleck's Batman ever called that? How are there Justice League action figures in a toy store? One step further, how is there even a toy store? There is even a cameo of one of the aforementioned heroes but since they couldn't get the actor to be there, it feels cheap and half-assed. Why did they even bother then?
If you don't see Shazam! you aren't missing much. It looks as if DC Entertainment may have felt the same way with their marketing of the film. It is not as terrible, storywise, as Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. You'll liken it more to the forgotten superhero films of the Nineties like The Phantom, The Shadow, and Judge Dredd. You saw it once and that was enough. Personally, I cannot wait to see what villain Mark Strong is going to play next when Hollywood launches another franchise in need of a villain.
4K, BLU-RAY AND DVD ELEMENTS
“Shazam!” 4K UHD Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD Special Edition contain the following special features:
· Shazam Exclusive Motion Comic
· The Magical World of Shazam
· Super Fun Zac
· Carnival Scene Study, Shazamily Values
· Shazamily Values
· Who is Shazam?
· Deleted Scenes
· Gag Reel
Own Shazam! on 4K UHD Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD Special Edition on July 16, or Own It Early on Digital on July 2.