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An Origin Story with Subpar Action: Shazam!

A CA Shazam! Statue at San Diego Comic-Con 2018 (Gage Skidmore/ Wikimedia Commons)

It’s no secret that the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) needs some freshening up. Constantly overshadowed by Marvel’s inability to make an unpopular movie, the company that spawned household names like “Batman” has found it hard to find its footing in creating a cinematic world. A slew of unremarkable films (such as the dumpster fires that were Justice League and Batman v Superman) accompany arguably the only good one they’ve made, Wonder Woman.

Directed by David Sandberg, this superhero origin story follows a rowdy foster kid, Billy Batson, (Asher Angel), who gains the ability to transform into a superhero played by Zachary Levi, who does a phenomenal job, convincingly selling the bit that he’s just a 14-year-old kid on the inside.

The supporting cast, including Jack Grazer as Billy’s best friend, do a great job in livening up the film and grounding it in reality since all of them (excluding the wizard, of course), are normal people.

The villain, played by Mark Strong, is a bit bland and one-dimensional, suffering from the stereotypical–I’m-scary-and-want-to-do-evil-stuff trope– that drags down the movie a little bit. Sometimes an evil-to-the-core bad guy works, but Marvel has proven with characters like Thanos and Killmonger that relatable villains are often the most interesting to watch.

Although it can feel slow in some places, the pacing and plot of Shazam aren’t bad, and the scenes where the hero is first discovering his powers or just messing around are charming. The humor doesn’t fall flat and the storyline is well written-even if there are some cheesy moments.

Yet while one of the film’s greatest strength’s is its childlike nature, it also makes for terribly boring fight sequences. Because the hero is so young and wide-eyed, he can’t pull off the crazy stuff that other superheroes can. Shazam’s fight scenes really only consist of a few punches and people flying at each other, drastically underutilizing the hero’s powers. (He’s got lightning hands!)

That the climactic fight at the end of the movie is a CGI trash heap just like with other DCEU films didn’t help either (The end of Wonder Woman was all sorts of disappointing.), but this one didn’t even have good fight choreography.

Shazam is a charming and enjoyable ride, but lackluster action leaves the audience wanting more. Hopefully, DC can improve upon that in the sequel and its other upcoming movies.


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October 20, 2019