"Shazam!" flawlessly captures the playfulness and creativity of being a kid. It follows fourteen-year-old foster kid Billy Batson (Asher Angel) — who receives magic powers from a wizard named Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) — and his foster brother and superhero fanatic Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), as they fight a villain named Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong), who harnesses the power of seven deadly sins, in the form of large demonic creatures, and aims to steal Billy’s powers for himself. The film also features many of Billy’s other foster brothers and sisters who, along with Freddy, end up getting magic powers as well.
"Shazam!," the latest film in the D.C. Extended Universe, solves many of the problems that critics and fans identified in the series’ previous installments. Most notable is that in “Shazam!” the characters are actually relatable. We learn in the film that Billy’s mother had left him at an early age, after which he shuffled from foster home to foster home. As a result, Billy is motivated by a desire for a family and a sense of belonging. Billy’s motivations are grounded and sympathetic, making him an engaging and endearing protagonist. Moreover, while previous installments like “Justice League” and “Suicide Squad” juggled too many tones and couldn’t settle on an overall character and feel for their films, “Shazam!” sticks to a silly and playful tone (the continuous stream of well-paced jokes will keep viewers laughing throughout), which fits the original tone of the character Shazam from D.C. comics — unlike “Man of Steel” which took the inherently optimistic and happy character of Superman and placed him in a dark and gritty film.
Additionally, the film humanizes the villain, Dr. Sivana, and doesn’t portray him as a one-dimensional, uniquely evil stock character. The very first scene of the movie shows us a young Dr. Sivana, who just like Billy, doesn’t feel at home, and is hated by his family. In Billy’s case, these experiences of being without a home gave him the desire to help people. In Dr. Sivana’s case, very similar experiences made him angry and resentful, which inspired him to harness the power of the seven deadly sins. As a result, viewers can sympathize will Dr. Sivana, and understand what motivates him.
It was really hard for me to find anything bad about "Shazam!," but there are a few things that could be improved. The special effects could be better, but on a relatively low budget (at least for a superhero movie) of only $80 million, the shortcomings are understandable. As a regular watcher of C.W.’s “Arrowverse” shows, I can sympathize with having to pull of a lot of big scenes with superheroes on a shoestring budget. The soundtrack didn’t blow me away either, but it still fit the movie well. The positives overwhelmingly outweigh the negatives; taken as a whole, “Shazam!” is a fun, nostalgic movie that will make viewers feel like they are a 14-year-old kid having fun again.