When teenage foster kid Billy Batson (Asher Angel) meets an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou) he is granted the ability to transform into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi) by uttering the word Shazam!
Shazam has an interesting history in comics. Originally created in 1939 by Fawcett Comics he was named Captain Marvel. Following copyright infringement claims from DC due to his similarities to Superman they stopped publishing in 1953. DC later obtained the rights to the character and relaunched the title as Shazam in 1972, thanks to Marvel having their own character with the name. Although DC never changed their character’s name to Shazam until 2011. So this truly is the year of Captain Marvel. Keep your eyes open during the film for references to Fawcett and enjoy the recurring joke of Billy and his foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) trying to come up with a superhero name for him.
The character has always been relatively fun in comics and the creative team here have done a really good job of transferring that to the screen. Its best moments are when it plays like a Superhero version of Big. There’s even a sly reference to a walk on piano in a store.
Fair warning though, for a 12A film it has some dark moments that some young kids might find a tad frightening. Especially when Mark Strong’s villain harnesses the power of the seven deadly sins.
Whilst its greatest asset is its humour and Zachary Levi’s performance its weakest element is probably its generic story. The Shazam lore related to his and his enemies powers are brushed over quickly and the showdowns between the two aren’t particularly awe inspiring. Aside from that it has a warm message about the family Billy creates with his foster brothers, sisters and parents.
As far as DC extended universe films go, Wonder Woman is still sitting top of the pile whilst this probably sits somewhere with Aquaman in terms of sheer fun. Stick around for mid and end credits scenes as well.
Fun fact, Djimon Hounsou has now appeared in 2 DC films and 2 Marvel films. Can you name them?