After the lackluster performances of Justice League and Suicide Squad, DC realised that they can do much better without Zack Snyder’s initial vision for the DC Cinematic Universe. Naturally, after the success of the technicolour underwater spectacle that is Aquaman, they decided to go back to basics with Shazam!
Shazam is a superhero from the Golden Age of comic books; at one point his comic books were even more popular than Superman. He was also the first superhero to be adapted into film, though back then he was still going by his old name, Captain Marvel. Since then, he had to go by Shazam, as Marvel had taken the names for themselves, as well as recently releasing a Captain Marvel movie of their own just a month before Shazam.
Shazam! takes place in Philadelphia, where troubled foster child Billy Batson has been escaping from a number of foster homes in search of his estranged mother. The law finally catches up to him and places him into a mixed foster family, where he meets Freddy Freeman, his new foster brother, and 4 other foster siblings. At school, Billy saves Freddy from being bullied and is chosen by the wizard Shazam to hold the powers of Solomon, Hercules, Achilles, Zeus, Atlas, and Mercury.
Whenever Billy says “Shazam!”, he turns into his superhero self, played by Zachary Levi. Levi does a great job as always, playing to his strengths as a bumbly, fun newbie superhero. Though most of the time, Zachary Levi acts more like a kid than the kid that plays Billy Batson does. Billy Batson is a more brooding and mischievous character, while Shazam accepts his new superhero looks and powers with glee.
The supporting cast includes the wizard Shazam, played by Djimon Hounsou, and Dr Sivana, played by Mark Strong. A lot of the earlier part of the movie is focused on these two and their history, showing how Dr. Sivana grows to become the villain of the movie. While Djimon Hounsou is there, it’s nearly not enough as he doesn’t get as much screen time. Mark Strong’s Dr Sivana does have an interesting background, but he and his minions just end up becoming generic throughout the way. Still, their presence enhances the movie.
There’s also the drama of moving into a new family and making new connections which is pretty relevant and is portrayed very well in the film. This aspect of Shazam is actually from the more recent New 52 reboot of the character, and was never an aspect from the original 40s comic books. Having Billy learn how to not only learn the responsibilities that come with his powers, as well as coming to trust and accept his new family, it's a nice clear storyline that is relatable to all ages.
Overall, Shazam! is a great movie that does a lot of new for the DC Cinematic Universe, while also giving homage to a lot of classic movies like Big, Home Alone, and Rocky. In fact, this Captain Marvel movie feels a lot more 90s than the Marvel adaptation, which is weird since the Marvel one actually takes place in that decade. Whatever it is, Shazam! is a fun time for all.