BY RICHARD SUPLEE GEEK SPACE CORRESPONDENT Shazam! is hands down DC’s best movie since The Dark Knight trilogy. Filmed in Toronto but set in Philly, Shazam! is an old fashioned feel good film that is perfect for a character first created in 1939 (under the name Captain Marvel, which is a story for another time). The film begins when Billy Batson (Asher Angel) arrives at a new foster home with five other children. He quickly hits the superpower lottery when a wizard grants him the powers of Shazam. By invoking the magic word SHAZAM! Billy Batson is transformed into a superhero (played by Chuck’s Zachery Levi). So Billy and his new foster brother Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Gazer) do what every teenage boy does would do when they gain superpowers: stop a mugging, get shot in the face, and buy beer with Billy’s new powers and adult body. But don’t worry, Shazam quickly spits out the foul tasting liquid and buys soda and junk food like any other kid. And that is what makes this movie. Even as a superhero able to go toe to toe with Superman, Shazam is still, at heart, a kid. And that translates into a goofy montage of Shazam saving people around Philadelphia and shooting lightning from his fingertips at the top of the Art Museum steps for tips.
Yet the film is not just a comedy. The emo-narrative of Billy’s search for the mother he lost as a kid drives the film. It creates tension between the kid and his new foster family. And yet his new brothers and sisters help him locate his mother. And despite the rejection he faces from her, Billy does ultimately find his family. This point is driven home in the film’s climax, wherein all hope seems lost as Billy is outnumbered against Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) and the 7 Deadly Sins. Until Billy does the same thing the wizard did for him and bestows Shazam-ish super power to his foster siblings (including Freddy Freeman and Mary Bromfield becoming the film versions of the formerly-known-as DC heroes Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel). And seeing the entire Shazam family on the big screen was just pure awesomeness. It’s a scene of the golden age cheesy goodness like a page out of 1940s’ comics as six superheroes kick ass in the middle of a carnival. There is childlike glee on the heroes’ faces as they fly, throw lightning (while shouting hadoken), and catch a falling ferris wheel. And then they defeat the villains. Together. As a family.