Shazam!: What Comics Are All About

The DC Extended Universe has produced their best film, far outdoing the movies before it


Photo Courtesy of Digital Trends

Edison Geiler, Opinions Editor

The DC Extended Universe finally has an enjoyable, well-made film in its lineup. “Shazam!”, David F. Sandberg’s third directorial outing, merges heart and humor in order to create an enjoyable experience that stands far above its DCEU counterparts. It nails some of the humor “Aquaman” tried to make work and delivers the emotional experience “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” longed for.

It is the epitome of what comic books are all about: goofy on the outside, but with a surprising amount of emotion that strings together a cohesive story. Its blend between the two elevates the film above other DCEU flicks.

The comical exterior “Shazam!” presents works wonders in a way that normal comedies can’t make happen. It taps into the roots of older comic books, embracing their campy nature, which is something many superhero films fail to do well. This makes for a script that would spectacularly fail in any other situation, but the flick knows where it comes from. Characters like Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) and Dr. Thaddeus Sirvana (Mark Strong) are so hilariously over the top that they perfectly fit into the narrative. This is especially true for the latter of the two, who gives Billy Batson (Asher Angel/Zachary Levi) a perfect counterpart to play off.

However, the movie surprisingly offers a darker side that never distracts from its core. Unlike most superhero flicks, “Shazam!” has stakes that allow the audience to feel invested with the protagonists. From early in the film, it is established Sirvana is a formidable opponent for Shazam who is willing to do what is necessary to achieve his goals. With so many comic book movies lacking these stakes, “Shazam!” is a breath of fresh air when it comes to providing a villain that felt threatening to the hero.

Levi and Grazer had incredible chemistry that at points carried the film Photo courtesy of YouTube

The highlight of the entire movie is the chemistry between both Angel and Levi with Grazer. It was apparent all three actors worked hard on building a deep relationship between their characters and it is by far and away the best part of “Shazam!”. Scenes featuring them were not only hilarious, but successfully emotional when they needed to be. It was a treat for audience members to witness Grazer interact with a broken Batson and overly-confident Shazam for most of the movie.

Despite “Shazam!”’s mixing of humor and heart, there are times it becomes too zany for its own good.

Levi seemed to struggle matching the Batson Angel was going for. His portrayal was not terrible, but it felt out of tune with the protagonist audiences learned about in the first 30 minutes. The overly energetic Shazam didn’t seem to take into account Batson’s personal struggles, even if he was living a different life where he could escape from them. None of it was painful to watch, but there was a sense of non-communication going on between Levi and Angel in regards to what Batson’s character and journey were.

“Shazam!”’s third act is representative of a huge cliché in superhero flicks. Normally, the hero and villain fight at the end of the story. There is nothing wrong with that, seeing as it is a convention of the genre. It’s meant to happen and part of the experience the audience desires. However, it becomes a cliché when the hero and villain are throwing each other through the air or when the hero needs to stop an enormous blue beam of light from ending the world. “Shazam!” does the former, but worst of all nothing interesting is done with it. It has an incredibly generic feel (even if the introduction of new characters makes comic book fans giddy in their seats) with nothing special to offer. Sivana feels completely wasted because his build-up throughout the film was strong. The last 20 minutes makes the stakes lessen considerably because an originally threatening villain is reduced to a generic role in a cliché audiences have seen before.

The largest negative “Shazam!” presented was its treatment of the message of finding family around oneself. Historically, DC Comics have had their characters deal with familial struggles and “Shazam!” comics are no exception, so it’s not out of bounds for the flick to focus on family. It just wasn’t executed well. The only aspects that were positive were the relationship between Batson and Freddy and the former’s arc with the relationship he has with his mother. Every interaction between the two friends felt intimate and real. When compared to Batson’s development with the rest of the family, it feels rushed along and forced. It all abruptly comes together in the third act and leaves the audiences feeling unsatisfied.

“Shazam!” is easily the DCEU’s best film, outdoing its predecessors, but not without it’s problems. It’s goofy with a good sense of heart, but neither is executed incredibly well. However, this shouldn’t stop casual audiences or comic book fans from seeing it. Sandberg’s new movie is an overall enjoyable, emotional experience that should ultimately leave movie-goers exiting the theater with grins on their faces.