Shazam is a wish-fulfilment movie in which a foster kid becomes the adult superhero he’s always dreamed of being. He (and we) have great fun childishly experimenting with his super-powers and buff body in an adult world. There’s also a suitably menacing supervillain to be confronted (played by the ever cool and cold Mark Strong), not to mention a demon horde (the seven deadly sins).
There are lots of self-aware references to DC’s Batman v Superman film, but the tone of DC’s Shazam is more akin to Marvel’s Deadpool, in truth. And DC are right to follow Marvel’s lead, cos Shazam really works as a consequence. Shazam even brings something new to the party, because where Deadpool is all adult cynicism and self-indulgence, Shazam is all youthful innocence and generosity of spirit. It is huge credit to the writers and director that they managed to pull off a PG-13 film that still offers enough for an adult audience.
There are also meta references to the usual ‘Chosen One’ and ‘Hero’s Journey’ motifs of superhero stories (see Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces if you want to know more). Shazam subverts them very entertainingly. We realise that anyone can be hero if they choose to be so. Hand-in-hand with that, we understand that anyone can be a villain if they choose to be so. So this is a story about the risk, self-knowledge and bravery one requires if they are going to self-actualise. It’s a healthy message in this infantalised (and infantalising) era of nappy-wearing self-obsession.
So Shazam is more than just a rites of passage movie. It is more than just a superhero movie. It is more than just a kids’ movie. It is more than the sum of its parts. Give it a watch – you’ll eventually enjoy it despite yourself… I did, anyway. (Okay, it’s a bit slow at the start, but it gets there in the end.) It scores a hugely respectable and feel-good 8 out of 10 from me.