The first reviews for Shazam! have started to roll in as the preview screenings are happening. What do the professional critics think of the latest DC film? Lets take a look and see.
Shazam! will best be appreciated by younger (and younger at heart) audiences who should respond very enthusiastically not only to the broad comedy but also emotional components involving Billy’s desperate desire to be reunited with his mother and his growing attachment to his newfound family. His relationship with Freddy, which starts out frostily but eventually becomes deep friendship, also proves moving, not to mention providing the opportunity for a delicious cameo appearance by a certain familiar character in the DC universe near the film’s end.
Shazam! is basically two movies in one. One with Levi and his wiseass foster brother (a fresh Jack Dylan Grazer), the other with Strong and all his snarling, computer-generated gobbledygook. And they both have the other in a headlock, wrestling for the soul of the story. I loved one, yawned through the other. It’s hard to be original when you want to be all things to every fanboy and girl, so the movie can’t help but feel like a bit of a compromise, a draw. What it should have done, had it not been so afraid of stepping outside of the parameters of the genre, is to have Strong’s Sivana take two steps back and push Levi two steps forward. It is called Shazam!, after all. Why not let the guy and his glowing lightning bolt shine? B
It’s no accident that the character of Shazam looks absurdly old-fashioned. He first appeared in the comics in 1939, and in the ’40s he reigned as America’s most popular comic-book superhero, outpacing even the Man of Steel. He was originally known as Captain Marvel (which is one reason he dwindled over time — the branding became understandably confusing), and when he was brought back in 1972, it was with an added wink of japery. “Shazam!” takes that wink and runs with it. Yet the fact that everything Shazam does, from taking bullets in the face to popping in and out of his superhero identity by barking the word “Shazam,” seems both valiant and slightly daffy is part of the film’s change-up charm. “Shazam!” suggests that if you’re taking a superhero’s powers deadly seriously, you may not be totally connecting with the spirit of the comics. The movie says: You’ve got to giggle at this stuff. That’s part of the adventure.
One of the best DC superhero origin films ever made, Shazam! is also one of the best and most fun superhero films from any company. Whatever your superhero sensibilities, you’re going to love Shazam!
It might even be read as a commentary on DC’s attempt at rushing into an Avengers-style crossover film with the lamentable Justice League. But while the story of an extremely overpowered champion rising to challenge a one-dimensionally sinister baddie might seem like the epitome of simplicity, Shazam! is still a modern-day tentpole blockbuster, overburdened with backstories for both hero and villain and subtexts that it can’t (or won’t) fully articulate—occasional gunk in the gears of what might otherwise be a fast-moving machine.
Because while Shazam! might avoid many of the pitfalls that usually define DCEU offerings, there remains an insistence that more is more and since this is essentially a kids movie, dragging the plot out to a flabby 132 minutes is a staggering misjudgment. The finale, while admirably self-contained and small-scale, grinds on for far too long, a boring escalation of anti-climaxes that cumulatively dull the intended emotional impact. It’s a film in need of a tighter edit with a script in need of a sharper polish, an imperfect franchise-launcher that nonetheless represents significant progress for DC.