Shazam! Review: The DCEU’s Bright Side

To say the DCEU has had a rough couple of years would be an understatement. Warner Bros was so desperate to have an answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that they quickly churned out three of the most hated superhero movies of all time. Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad’s weird and ultra-dark vision alienated the vast majority of audiences, satisfying only the most devoted of fanboys. The franchise turned a new leaf with Wonder Woman, which was about as dark as the other films, but felt more authentic and delivered on a fresh and exciting adventure. However, that goodwill was almost destroyed by Justice League a few months later, which satisfied neither the general public nor the fans of the previous films. The future of the franchise seemed uncertain, as Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck quickly dropped out from playing Superman and Batman in further films. However, last year’s Aquaman promised a change in direction, emphasizing more on camp and larger than life heroics than anything else. Audiences ate it up, becoming the highest grossing DC film of all time. If that was anything to go by, Shazam is sure to do gangbusters at the box office. Shazam is the most lighthearted entry in the DCEU thus far, but it’s also the most consistent and entertaining.
The most obvious description is “Big with a superhero,” which isn’t far off. In terms of other comic book films, it’s a welcome mix between the earnestness of Superman: The Movie, the satiric wit of Deadpool, and the boyish spunk of Spider-Man: Homecoming. The two lead performances do a great job creating a funny and likable protagonist, with Asher Angel playing fourteen-year-old Billy Batson, and Zachary Levi playing his metahuman counterpart. There’s a lot of comedy that comes from their childlike personality, and it always feels authentic. A few great scenes involve buying beers and zapping random objects. If I had superpowers when I was a kid, I absolutely would have done everything Billy does. It also makes for a compelling origin story, as eventually, Billy has to learn to quit goofing off and use his powers for good. It’s much better than Man of Steel, a similar story where Superman learns to control his unlimited powers. The film also has a lot of heart, by way of the foster family at the story’s core. There is no doubt in my mind this film will strike a chord with foster kids across the nation. Despite the fun and innocent tone, the film also manages to have a level of stakes as well. Mark Strong plays a great villain, and a number of the scenes with him are genuinely intimidating. This leads to some extremely satisfying action scenes and a very impressive third act. If there’s anything that doesn’t work, I would say it’s a bit too repetitive. The film clocks in at over two hours, when it probably could have been a tighter 100 minutes like the first Deadpool. But even so, Shazam is highly entertaining, and I’d recommend it for fans of all ages. Shazam opens on April 6th.

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