We seem to be in a season of superhero movies here in the Verde Valley. It can mean happy times for younger viewers who have lived with a limited number of these productions so far.
Shazam is a deviation from the usual ‘champion’ film because it includes a lot of humor. The super guy is not always in total command of a situation and it takes a while for him to understand the extent of his power.
Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is an orphan. He was separated form his mother at a carnival when he was very young. He could not find her in the crowd, and she did not seem to care.
When he was younger, abused by his tyrannical father and older brother, a car accident resulted in Billy being deposited in a vast cave with a mysterious man, surrounded by eerie structures. The man is The Wizard (Djimon Hounsou). He later bestows on 14-year old Billy the super power, instilled when he pronounces the name Shazam, the initials of powerful Greek gods (Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, Mercury). Billy becomes Shazam — big, muscular, super powerful — but still a 14-year old in mind and self-esteem.
Now Billy is adopted by a foster family who have five other orphans in their home. They are very caring parents and their charges range in age from about 8 to 15. The children are close and happy in the home. Billy is reluctant to get close; he wants to find his mother. He has been working on that since he lost her.
Billy becomes friendly with Freddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), one of the foster family, who is disabled by a crippled leg. Freddie learns of Billy’s alter ego and encourages him to explore its limits. Billy learns, one by one, of his amazing new abilities — flying, bullet proof, lightning shooting fingers, etc.
Then we meet Thaddeus Sivana, (Mark Strong), a man with superpowers of his own. He pursues Billy and tries to learn the magic word to transform a human into a ‘champion.’ Their encounters are full of exciting fights, on land, in the air and outer space. Sivana is supported by the mythical seven deadly sins. They are enormous creatures that were resident as statues in the Wizard’s cave.
For fun, some scenes are played for humorous connections to past adventures. When Billy, in the form of Shazam, first begins to realize his capabilities, he tries to perform tricks before crowds and raise money by donations from the passerby observers. Freddie puts a stop to that. In one scene, Sivana is chasing Shazam in a large carnival and the chase takes place partly over a giant piano keyboard — a look back at Tom Hanks in BIG. And there are references to Batman and Superman during the chasing scenes.
So, Shazam is a comic book film that goes beyond the usual CGI fantasy play and offers some laughs before the happy ending. The performances by the main characters are very good, especially Zachary Levi playing Shazam.
Shazam is at Harkins Sedona 6 Theater.