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Shazam! Presents a Comedic Spin on the DCCU

Shazam%21+features+Billy%2C+a+14+year+old+oprhan+who+turns+into+a+superhero.+%28Courtesy+of+Facebook%29
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Shazam! Presents a Comedic Spin on the DCCU

Shazam! features Billy, a 14 year old oprhan who turns into a superhero. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Shazam! features Billy, a 14 year old oprhan who turns into a superhero. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Shazam! features Billy, a 14 year old oprhan who turns into a superhero. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Shazam! features Billy, a 14 year old oprhan who turns into a superhero. (Courtesy of Facebook)


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By Matthew Dillon

“Shazam!” is the newest addition to the DC Cinematic Universe. Like the previous six films, it draws upon characters and plotlines featured in DC Comic’s vast library of publications. Unlike its predecessors, “Shazam!” sports an overtly comedic tone and manages to have a complete story arc.

The film follows 14-year-old orphan Billy Batson (Asher Angel), who is gifted with the power to turn into a magical strongman (Zachary Levi), upon uttering the word “SHAZAM.” The comic book counterpart to “Shazam!” has a turbulent history.

Traditionally one of the more lighthearted superheroes, “Shazam!” has suffered frequent artistic mishandling. Due to legal troubles, he has even lost his original name, Captain Marvel (he had the title long before any Marvel character did).

The film touches on this in a mirthful way by having Billy struggle to come up with a superhero name that won’t turn him back into a 14 year old. Regardless of its source material, “Shazam!” is a unique, surprisingly enjoyable movie. The movie has its weak points, but it stands out in an oversaturated genre and the poorly crafted DCCU.

“Shazam!” starts slowly but quickly picks up. It introduces the antagonist before the hero, as Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) learns about the Power of SHAZAM at a young age and spends the rest of his life searching for it.

Strong lends the character an intensity that makes his singlemindedness compelling. While not a particularly nuanced villain, Sivana is set up as a great foil for Billy, as the two characters’ respective struggles with family and power are reflected in each other.

Sivana’s plotline establishes the stakes, circumstances and central conflict of the film. While Billy’s own contributions are less impressive. Most of his scenes are centered on his struggle to fit in with his new foster family, which he initially sees as a distraction from finding his long-lost mother.

All of these characters are developed more later on in the film, but they still lean a little too heavily on family sitcom tropes.
Billy’s first transformation is as miraculous for the film as it is for the wayward teen. Levi oozes charisma and lands the comedic scenes just as well as he does the more traditional superhero elements of the movie.

His interactions with Billy’s adopted brother and superhero fanboy Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) are the highlight of the film and the two actors manage to present some surprisingly nuanced interactions.

The “Big”-esque idea of a kid in an adult’s body is difficult to present in a genuine way, but Levi captures it, and handles the complexity that superpowers add to the setup well. The film takes an immediate jump in quality with Levi’s introduction and thankfully it never dips after that point.

Aside from the great sense of humor and Levi’s performance, “Shazam!” sticks close to the superhero formula. The fight scenes are competently done, if simplistic. The same goes for the special effects, which can look rubbery, but work with the film’s goofy tone.

The writing doesn’t present anything too far off the beaten track, aside from a particularly mean spirited reveal about Billy’s parents. “Shazam!” does have some great costuming that works well with the movie’s tone.

All things considered, “Shazam!” is easily the most complete DCCU film and one of the more memorable superhero flicks to come out in recent years.

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Shazam! Presents a Comedic Spin on the DCCU