Rating 5/5 – After seeing DCEU Shazam someone has to tell me when did I suddenly wake up in a world where Aquaman and Shazam movies would literally kick ass. While Aquaman decided to mix genres a bit but stick to a sort of “Conan but underwater” theme, Shazam leaned into its comic origins. By “leaned into” I mean if you’ve never read a Shazam comic before then after watching this movie you’ll be caught up in how his comic goes. This movie had genuine laughs, didn’t shy away from getting serious and great characters. DCEU Shazam wasn’t just good, it was fantastic on almost every level. So let’s discuss.
DCEU Shazam – Hero’s Journey
If you had to put a label on DCEU Shazam’s theme it would be “What makes you special.” Is everyone cut out to be heroes or is it just for the special few? At least, to me, that was where the movie begins with and ends on. David F. Sandberg found a great voice in how he told Shazam’s story and it established some important things in the DCEU.
DCEU Shazam didn’t shy away from getting gritty without resorting to trying to make everything like The Dark Knight Returns like Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Justice League. How Billy Batson handles the Shazaam power and how he eventually becomes the hero work perfectly. It had two great winks to the DCEU as well as they took a page from Marvel and gave us an after credits sequence that could have come off as silly but ended up rocking pretty hard.
DCEU Shazam – Villians
Let’s give it up to Mark Strong for taking Dr. Sivana out of “dumb villain” status to making him one of the more memorable super villains the DCEU has to offer. He wasn’t the scene stealer but he made his mark on the movie. Sure, he goes full blown over the top evil but you got his motivation and he wasn’t just a clone of the hero. Dr. Sivana is a villain I want to see again, especially if they put him exactly where he was in the comics.
DCEU Shazam – Big Promise Kept
There isn’t too much in DCEU Shazam that I feel was wasted. There was some tragedy, really flawed characters and some fresh surprises I should have seen coming but didn’t. One of the things the movie recognized was the comparisons to the classic Big. Now Shazam (or Captain Marvel, but I’ll get to that) recognized and had a moment of that recognition that rocked hard. The side character was a lot of fun too. Marta Milan and Cooper Andrews were great as the foster parents, even given a little to do and a lot more heart then they showed in the trailer.
Scene stealer Faithe C. Herman as Dara Dudley was perfect and not annoying in the least. I believe she got the best lines. Where Herman was the scene stealer, Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman was totally a standout. As a teenager dealing with a disability and navigating bullies he had a lot more depth the Freddy Freeman in the comics ever did. Michelle Boothe played Mary as a girl-next-door type with goals and fears and the actress pulled it off.
Let’s not forget Zachary Levi who always does a good job but hasn’t had a real winner since Chuck. However, if you need an actor who can do literal man-child, Zachary Levi is the guy you get. He was pot on as Shazam.
Comic geeks know where all of this is going but it’s still a nice surprise and shocking how they managed to pull it off because most of the character were people you could root for.
Captain Marvel vs. DCEU Shazam
I liked Captain Marvel but even I admitted there was just something missing with it. The same is not true for Shazam at all. Shazam simply is the better movie. The story was tighter, the themes clear, the action has real stakes and it hit pretty much every beat and payoff. Captain Marvel wanted to be a feminist movie, and it accomplished that. In fact, that was why it worked. Shazam wanted to be Shazam and it accomplished that as well. DCEU Shazam only accomplished what it set out to do better.
It looks like DC has corrected course and Shazam proves it. I like Aquaman for what it is but Shazam it much tighter around the rough edges. That means Shazam tells it’s story better but I believe it’s because of the nature of the hero. Aquaman had to go for the epic while Shazam had enough room to go for the fun. DCEU Shazam knew when to have fun with itself and when to get serious. Shazam came to both without one tripping over the other,. I’m giving this movie my highest recommendation. This is one you shouldn’t miss especially if it’s the shape of what’s to come with the DCEU. Good just DC/Warner. Good job.