Shazam! is Totally Awesome

Shazam! whips. This movie is great. I wanted to see more of this character and his adventures before the movie was even over. I’m already hyped for Shazam! 2. It’s the best movie this year about a character involving the name Captain Marvel.

It’s nice to have a made for kids live action super hero movie. Movies like Into The Spiderverse and The Incredibles also slap, but they’re animated films. This is way more along the lines of typical kids movie. It’s really corny and silly and tries its best to nail the kid side of it. It tickled parts of the Power Rangers fan inside me. Teenager with attitude gets super powers and has to learn to be a hero.

It’s almost a Disney flick like The Lion King. It’s a kids movie but its great for adults too. Big goofy kid stuff, but it also has its dark and spookies. And the dark and spookies are great as well. If the movie didn’t nail how fun and colourful the kid stuff was, then this dark and spooky evil bad guy stuff might have fallen flat. The contrast here is executed really well.

There’s something weird about horror directors taking over big action movies and knowing exactly what they’re doing. Who would have guessed that the guy behind Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation was going to do a great job with a child friendly character? David F. Sandberg did a great job, and he got to show his horror chops at points.

I guess it would be just that a good filmmaker is a good filmmaker, so they know how to make good film. Scott Derrickson did Sinister and an Exorcism movie before taking over Doctor Strange. Peter Jackson did a bunch of gory, bloody horror movies before Lord of the Rings. Sam Raimi and James Gunn have done this as well.

It might be the closest super hero movie in spirit and execution to Spider-Man 2002 that we’ve gotten in 17 years. Shazam is so corny. So corny. But its sincere. Much in the same way Aquaman was big and corny, but this is just done better. It takes itself seriously, but it isn’t a serious movie overall.

I love movies that know what they are and nail that tone the whole movie. The Fast and Furious franchise knows it’s a big dumb car movie series, and they act accordingly with it which makes it super awesome. The Deadpool movies get what they are and they take it and run with it. WWE is at its best when it understands how dumb wrestling actually is and goes with it, instead of trying to mimic UFC or boxing.

This movie knows exactly what it is: a lighthearted adventure comedy. A teenager, who is a bit of a jerk like any teenager, goes to a cave where an ancient wizard gives him super powers and doesn’t know what to do with them besides kid stuff: make YouTube videos, buy beer, skip school, busk for money, take selfies, see boobs, etc.

Oh, but also he has to fight demons. Sprinkle in a few cute shenanigans.

Mark Strong is awesome as the villain. In a movie where the main character is so corny, you need contrast in the villain to counter that. He’s such a straight shooting evil jerkoff who wants to be evil because being evil is power. It’s similar to Ronan in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, but Strong has more to do and thus can give a better performance.

This is a movie that I don’t think could exist in a pre-Guardians of the Galaxy world. I think that movie opened up a lot of opportunities for Super Hero movies to become more weird and silly and show that people still can take them seriously as long as they’re made well. I think it also helped to open the door for directors to have more influence in their vision of the project and I think it’s benefitted blockbuster cinema as a whole.

Zachary Levi and Asher Angel both do great jobs. I’m curious how much time together they spent on set because Levi is very believable as Asher as an adult-boy. There isn’t much dissonance at all between the two of them. It’s so refreshing that movies are finding kids that can act instead of using the producer’s nieces and nephews.

There is some excellent writing that really fits the characters. Jack Dylan Grazer is excellent as the fanboy+BFF+nerd. The siblings all get their moment and have at least a couple one liners or moments to shine. I don’t want to spoil it, but I really hope you laugh as hard as I did. It was also neat to see some completely unexpected cameos.

There are some neat little references that are just brief enough that they aren’t distracting, but are fun in the meta whether they’re about DC or just winks towards classic movies.

Part of the movie is stopping the bad guy, but the main arc of it all is How To Be A Hero. That sounds like the same thing, but the focus isn’t on doing hero stuff as much as what it means to actually be a hero. Kind of like how another teenage super hero needed to learn that with great power came great responsibility.

The bad guy vs hero plot isn’t the whole movie though. There’s great moments where this movie is quiet and would be great as a “learning about family” type movie. It’s a better movie about family than a lot of movies that try to shoehorn that in to pretend their corporate product has a deeper meaning.

Also, how often is a movie set in Philadelphia? Especially one that isn’t terrible?

It sets up for a sequel in a really non cynical way. There’s some great payoffs all the way through the movie. Even through the credits you want to keep watching. The credits sequence is fantastic and worth every minute you spend in the theater.

Overall, its just rad. This movie whips ass. Its fun and if DC keeps their efforts along these lines with Aquaman, Wonder Woman and emphasis on the good parts of the pre-soft-reboot-post-Justice-League then they’ll have a really successful universe that’ll have people ripping their pants off like they do for the Avengers. I’m honestly excited for Shazam! 2 and I want to see what happens when Shazam crosses over with Aquaman and The Flash and so on.

Get that, this DC movie is so good it made me want to see this character again before I’d even left the theatre.

@Adam_Pyde on Twitter, Adam Reviews Things on Facebook. CanadianAdam on Twitch.

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