The trailer of ‘Shazam!’ is very misleading for me. It does well to present the premise of the movie -- a young teenager in a foster home finds himself with the gift of being able to transform into the body of a superhuman adult, but still retain his teenager mind and soul. But the trailer led me to believe that this was all gags and that ‘Shazam!’ was all about having a good time.
I personally felt that the trailer was trying too hard. It was departing very strongly from the doom and gloom of the DC Extended Universe and taking extreme route that ‘Aquaman’ took and became all fun and games. It turned me off.
To my utter surprise, the trailer hid the fact that underneath the jokes and the comedy was a movie that was so wonderfully rooted in the character of the orphaned teenager, Billy Batson, and his search for something much deeper than thrills or superpower. Billy Batson is searching for his mother.
What any of the different trailers of ‘Shazam!’ fails to show is that the film is essentially the story of a young boy who was separated from his mother in a carnival and in pursuit of reuniting with her, has moved from foster family to foster family until he is given the power of the last of the mighty wizards, who are bound to protect the world from seven demons representing the seven deadly sins.
When Billy Batson says the wizard’s name, his body transforms into an adult with multiple superpowers but he still retains the mind and soul of a teenage boy looking for his home. With the help of Freddie, his roommate in the latest home he’s found himself in, he discovers how to use his abilities and discovers what it truly means to be a family.
What is so enjoyable about ‘Shazam!’ is that the film is unafraid to be silly. Like the main character, a teenager who is more focused on his own feelings than he is on saving the world, all the superpowers and heroics are really afterthoughts and just help in deepening Billy’s relationship to his foster brother Freddie and his own search for his mother.
This is not a conventional superhero despite the generous usage of super abilities and the presence of a villain, whose story parallels Billy’s own story in marvelous ways. ‘Shazam’ is more focused on its lead character’s journey into finding the pieces in him that he feels are missing, and the superheroics just happen to come in-between that search.
Zachary Levi does a fantastic job in playing Billy Batson as a teenager trapped in a grownup’s body. He is really just a kid with bulging muscles and superhuman abilities. He isn’t at all self-conscious and there is a lack of confidence or bravado that one would expect in an adult. His carriage and delivery is that of a teenager in a constant state of surprise.
But the true lead of this film is Asher Angel, who plays the teenage Billy Batson. From the physicality to the inner conflict of the character, Asher Angel serves as a wonderful vessel for our hero. He never plays for sympathy and he manages to display both Billy’s strength, innocence, and the purity of spirit that makes his a suitable champion for the wizard’s godly powers.
Sure, there are a lot of fight sequences and fun usage of superpowers. But what truly makes ‘Shazam!’ probably one of the best movies that the DCEU has delivered is that it isn’t out to make any sort of legendary icon out of Shazam but to tell an honest and heartfelt story within the superhero genre. Billy Batson and his search for a family is at the center of this story and it’s one that you can relate to and connect with so easily. Everything else is just a bonus -- all the comedy and the superpowered stuff is just icing on the cake.
‘Shazam!’ is a truly enjoyable superhero film because it doesn’t take the superhero part so seriously. It manages to throw off the burden of being cool and edgy and manages quite a number of genuine surprises and character we can really connect to and root for.
Shazam! opens in theatres nationwide this Wednesday, April 3, 2019. You can now buy tickets in advance through ClickTheCity.