This review is spoiler-free.
I should start this review by stating that weeks before the film’s release, I had the key moments spoiled for me on Twitter. It’s safe to say that person was quickly blocked. But there was still a small part of me that hoped that the things mentioned were simply fabrications as part of a joke. Alas, that was not to be the case, as throughout the movie I was ticking off all the moments in my head. This was disappointing, and I know that my reaction and overall feelings of this movie would have been enhanced if I had not known their inclusion.
With that said, the film’s most meaningful moment was not on that list, and while this moment may have meant little to some, it meant EVERYTHING to me. I’m not ashamed to admit that, during this particular scene, the waterworks began. I am so grateful that this moment was not robbed from me. It was on par with the Yondu/Mary Poppins scene from GOT Vol2. It was perfect. And that’s the thing, for all the focus on the humour in the trailers, it is a very emotional movie. Even the film’s antagonist Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong) is given a backstory that really confuses you as an audience, as you can kind of see why he is the way he is.
For a superhero origin story, I thought Shazam! was actually quite refreshing. While it didn’t really do anything particularly groundbreaking, the story and characters were strong enough that it never felt stale or frustrating. Maybe because the focus was on kids rather than adults? I’m not sure, it just felt different somehow. The pacing was also well worked and kept the movie ticking along nicely. While it is clearly IN the DCEU, I think they got the balance of the references just about right. It used them without overdoing it or relying on them too much. It all felt very organic to the story.
Another organic element were the characters. Zachary Levi was born to play this role. It was the same type of perfect casting that we’ve seen with Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool. It was meant to be. The same goes for Jack Dylan Grazer, who was one of the film’s standout performers. You felt his passion, and his love for superheroes and was so relatable. There were no issues with any of the casting, everyone fitted the roles perfectly.
So what were the film’s failings? It had some moments were the CGI quality was very noticeable, but that seems to be a given in all superhero movies recently. While some of the smaller sequences may have been a little rough around the edges, some of the main action sequences, especially those involving flight, were really well done. The secondary villains were a little disposable, but also had their moment in the sun with one truly horrific scene. This was pulled straight out of a horror movie, it was incredibly shocking and tonally stood out against the rest of the movie. Warner Bros. hiring directors with horror backgrounds is really paying off when it comes to having that dark edge we’d expect from a DC property. While I’ve praised the pacing, I would say the film could have benefited from being an extra 20-30 minutes longer. While I loved what we got, I think some of the characters needed more time to be fleshed out. I guess my sin here is greed, I just wanted more…
Shazam! is a heartwarming, nostalgic tale of family and self –discovery. Levi and Grazer are a perfect combination, supported by a truly talented cast. While it may lack some of the polish of the big budget superhero movies, it manages to deliver some outstanding moments and hold it’s own with the best of them. The self-contained story is as emotional as it is funny, and the film rarely struggles with any pacing issues that are common place in origin movies. Hopefully cinema-goers give this film a chance, if they do, not many of them will walk away disappointed.