Lightning Strikes Beautifully, Yet Not Twice, in “Shazam!”

Bradley Hare

The story revolves around 14-year-old Billy Batson, being kicked around from orphanages and foster homes after his mom lost him at a carnival. He’s an outcast due to him trying to find his mother, even if it means breaking the law. Eventually, he is taken in by the married couple of Victor and Rosa Vazquez, alongside five of their adopted kids. Elsewhere in the world, Thaddeus Sivana, after getting rejected by an elderly wizard in his youth, tracks him down to steal and claim the Eye of Sin, a dangerous magical source that kept the seven sins at bay. With it in his hands now, the wizard chooses Billy to be the hero in a last ditch effort to save the world.

The acting in this film is up to snuff with the best in the DC cinematic universe. The role of Billy Batson is played by Asher Angel, and he nails the attitude of a despondent teenager who is just looking for his mother as well as the teenager who realized that he is able to turn into a superhero. Zachary Levi, the actor for the titular hero himself, portrays the fear of being granted powers and turning into someone you don’t know, going to joy of messing around with these powers with a sense of childlike wonder, and finally to the acceptance of his new role and responsibilities was done wonderfully.

The villain is equally enjoyable, with the main villain being acted out by Mark Strong, who, true to his name, delivers a powerful performance as the main villain, especially when he returned to claim the eye of sin and to kill off his brother and father. The parents that Billy ends up with, Marta Milans as Rosa Vasquez and Cooper Vasquez as Victor Vasquez, are ultimately a loving couple with believable romance, but I feel they may have idolized them a bit too much. Granted I understand the reasoning for this to show Billy another positive alternative than returning to his mother, but the story does suffered in another way with all the children they have.

It’s great to have diversity, but the problem is that when you have five other characters alongside the main character, a struggle for developing any real character traits will form. Sadly, the other kids rarely develop as the story progressed, stepping on each other’s toes for some form of growth or character development.

They are just stereotypes; the gamer who has his head down on his phone or glued to the TV called Ian, the shy kid who I honestly can’t recall saying a single sentence called Jovan, the energetic happy go lucky sister called Darla, are the only two who have any kind of resemblance of a character arc, the college bound Mary with her arc getting aborted midway, and Billy’s crippled best friend who helps him adapt to his superhero life, Freddy.

That said, Jack Dylan Grazer, the actor who plays Freddy, can sometimes go a bit too far with his speaking his lines and come off as a bit annoying, most prevalent during his introduction. I kept thinking to myself that he should really just take a breath and let us breathe with how fast he speaks.

Thankfully, he does slow down when it is time to be emotional, even if I don’t think he honestly deserved it, with him boasting that he knows Shazam after making him a viral sensation by testing out his powers, even saying he is braver than him for filming the stunts than the stuntman himself, and saying he’ll bring him to lunch at school to boost his social status with his peers. However, this does lead to an amazing gag right before the credits I don’t wish to spoil, so it did serve some purpose, alongside being the catalyst into Billy realizing he needs to start treating his superhero role seriously.

Despite those negatives, when the action shows, it really does. With Shazam being a hodgepodge of different superpowers, seeing them all play out as he discovers them one by one and how Levi brings out the childlike energy is amazing to watch unfold.

The humor is also pretty strong, with special mention during when Billy brings out Shazam to take Freddy out of school to goof off and try to figure out how many super powers Shazam has, with special mention to how he finds out he’s fireproof.

That’s what the movie’s major strength is in the end; wish fulfillment, and the innocent joy of being that superhero you always wanted to be growing up. We get to see how the gleeful yet childish Billy turns into being a true superhero with morals, yet also still have his own sense of identity and energy. Sure, there are still moments meant to tug at your heartstrings or even scare you, (that boardroom meeting was downright chilling) yet the fantasy of becoming a superhero is still where this film’s strong suit truly lies.

While I didn’t get my wish for developed side characters, I did end up getting my wish for a great main character, energetic fights with great visuals, and humor, and that is more than enough for me.

Overall Score: 8/10