Tag Archives: Zachary Levi

Shazam! (2019) Review

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Asher Angel and Zachary Levi as William “Billy” Batson/Shazam
Mark Strong as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana
Jack Dylan Grazer as Frederick “Freddy” Freeman
Djimon Hounsou as Shazam
Faithe Herman as Darla Dudley
Grace Fulton as Mary Bromfield
Ian Chen as Eugene Choi
Jovan Armand as Pedro Peña
Marta Milans as Rosa Vasquez
Cooper Andrews as Victor Vasquez
Director: David F. Sandberg

We all have a superhero inside of us — it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In 14-year-old Billy Batson’s (Asher Angel) case, all he needs to do is shout out one word to transform into the adult superhero Shazam (Zachary Levi). Still a kid at heart, Shazam revels in the new version of himself by doing what any other teen would do — have fun while testing out his newfound powers. But he’ll need to master them quickly before the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) can get his hands on Shazam’s magical abilities.

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Shazam was one of my most anticipated films of 2019. While I wasn’t familiar with the comic book character, I’ve liked most of the DCEU thus far, and seeing this very different character introduced to it, as well as its different tone, had me interested to see it. Plus, I liked the cast involved and the trailers were pretty good. I expected a fun comic book movie, and Shazam surpassed my expectations, a surprisingly emotional yet entertaining and heartfelt superhero movie.

There’s a couple of standout things to note right out of the gate. The movie is very much standalone from the rest of the universe, while there are definitely references to other superheroes like Batman and Superman (mostly from Jack Dylan Grazer’s character) and it definitely exists in the DCEU, it doesn’t rely on it too much. Parts of the movie leave room to explore teased characters and aspects for sequels without outright sequel baiting. In fact, I’d say that you don’t need to have seen any of the other DCEU movies to get the full experience with Shazam. Another thing is that despite all the magic involved, it’s a pretty grounded movie. At its core, it’s a coming of age story with a kid having superpowers. Even with the climax with Shazam flying around fighting the villains of the film, none of it feels world ending, the stakes feel a lot more personal. It might also genuinely be one of the best written comic book movies. As you could probably tell from the trailer and the rest of the marketing, it’s a bit of a comedy. However, it’s not a spoof like you’d expect it to be, all the elements are very well balanced in fact. Now while some might be quick to think that this might be just a MCU movie, a non R rated comic book movie with comedy doesn’t inherently mean it’s going to be that. This is not to slam the MCU, but there’s something about the comedy here that was just really great, with all of the comedic beats just really working for me. Make no mistake, it is lighter than the other DCEU movies but at the same time still firmly in this universe. It’s a bit darker and scarier than you think it would be, in a way that served the story. It’s also a surprisingly emotional movie, as often as you probably hear this about movies, at its core the movie is about family and is a lot deeper than you’d expect. Although Shazam seems like a familiar comic book movie, there some surprises that you don’t necessarily expect (especially towards the third act), so definitely go into it not knowing too much about it. And I’m obligated to let you know that there are some credits scenes, the first being a setup for parts of the Shazam sequel (albeit a really weird and obscure one), the other being more comedic.

The cast all played their parts very well. Asher Angel plays Billy Batson, a troubled orphan who would gain the power of Shazam, and he plays his role very well. Zachary Levi is perfect as Shazam, I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. He’s definitely a little kid in the body of a full grown man, and is probably even more childish than Batson as the kid, and the difference between the two seemed to be a deliberate choice. The development and character arc of Billy Batson/Shazam was great and was one of the highlights of the movie. Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman stole every scene he was in as one of the foster children that Billy knows and first reveals his Shazam identity to. He plays off of Angel and Levi incredibly well and even has his own character arc. Grace Fulton, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand and Faithe Herman as the other foster kids, and the foster parents played by Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans were also good. Djimon Hounsou as the wizard Shazam does well in the few scenes that he’s in. Mark Strong plays the villain of Dr Sivanna and he works pretty well. They set him up and give him clear cut and believable enough motivations but he’s nothing special, there’s not much development he goes through after he’s established. I guess they didn’t want the villain to overshadow Shazam, and a character as major as his primary comic nemesis Black Adam would certainly overshadow him. With that said, he was a threatening antagonist to Shazam and was also pretty ruthless (I mean he really has no problem with killing kids). He also sort of served as a dark parallel to Billy Batson with regard to the backstory and similarities between the two. Strong, who is used to playing plenty of villains by now, make this role even better with his performance and looks like he’s having a ton of fun here.

David F. Sandberg is known for his horror movies with Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation. However like Wan with Aquaman, he made the transition to comic book movies very well. This is a stunning looking movie, and it was made with the budget typically half of most comic book movies, and they achieved a lot with what they had. As I said, it has a grounded feel to it, and the way it was shot certainly helped with it. At the same time when it came to the action sequences, they were filmed really well and were entertaining. Like with Aquaman, Shazam surprisingly has some horror aspects to it. The actual costume of Shazam works well, it could’ve been overly goofy and on the set pictures it really didn’t look good, but they really made that costume work on screen. Most of the visual effects were good, it’s about at the level of most modern blockbusters (with budgets twice the size as Shazam’s), so make of that what you will. The worst of the effects were for the CGI villains (whom I’ll keep vague if you don’t know who they are already), they are honestly look pretty bad at times and a little too goofy (and not in a good way), they look straight out of an average comic book movie from the 2000s and it’s a little distracting.

Shazam is a pleasantly surprising movie, the cast played their roles greatly, its written very well and is a well rounded, heartfelt comic book movie. Even if you’re not a fan of the DCEU thus far, I highly recommend the movie, I think you’ll have a good time with it. I’m looking forward to seeing Shazam appear again, as well as inevitably Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam, who we will hopefully be seeing very soon.

Thor: The Dark World (2013) Review

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Thor The Dark World

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Natalie Portman as Jane Foster
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Anthony Hopkins as Odin
Christopher Eccleston as Malekith
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Algrim/Kurse
Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis
Ray Stevenson as Volstagg
Zachary Levi as Fandral
Tadanobu Asano as Hogun
Rene Russo as Frigga
Director: Alan Taylor

In ancient times, the gods of Asgard fought and won a war against an evil race known as the Dark Elves. The survivors were neutralized, and their ultimate weapon — the Aether — was buried in a secret location. Hundreds of years later, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) finds the Aether and becomes its host, forcing Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to bring her to Asgard before Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) captures her and uses the weapon to destroy the Nine Realms — including Earth.

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In some ways this film is better and worse than the first film. It does show more of Asgard and this movie also is starting to set up for Avengers: Inifinity Wars with an Infinity Stone playing a part in the story. However at the same time it has worse comic relief, a generic villain and not particularly any interesting style. The Dark World is still worth watching but when all things are considered, it is lesser as a movie compared to its superior predecessor.

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One of the biggest flaws of Thor was the film succeeded most when it was taking place on Asgard, but it was mostly set on Earth, which was fine was fine but it wasn’t as strong. Now, there is more of Asgard which I liked. The problem is while that’s good, the scenes that would cut back to Earth are often pointless and a lot of the time it was for comedic purposes, which leads me to the next flaw. The comic relief was worse and it’s starting to get a little annoying. The comic relief in the previous film wasn’t great but it was fine and didn’t distract too much from the movie. The Dark World however has more comic relief, more Kat Dennings and it gets very distracting from time to time.

FILE - This publicity photo released by Walt Disney Studios and Marvel shows Natalie Portman, left, as Jane Foster and Chris Hemsworth as Thor, in Marvel's "Thor: The Dark World." Disney is previewing several of the studio's upcoming live-action films for fans at the D23 Expo, Aug. 9-11, 2013, a three-day Disney extravaganza at the Anaheim Convention Center. "Thor: The Dark World," "Captain America: Winter Soldier," "Muppets Most Wanted," "Saving Mr. Banks" and "Tomorrowland" are just some of the movies that will be teased at a Saturday morning presentation. (AP Photo/Walt Disney Studios/Copyright Marvel, Jay Maidment, File)

Chris Hemsworth is Thor again and as usual he is great. Natalie Portman is once again good but I did feel like her character here was a little flat compared to her in the previous movie, which is saying a lot because she didn’t play a big part in that movie either. Tom Hiddleston returns as Loki and was by far the best part of the movie, Loki really does get much better as a character as the movies go on. It’s just a shame that he wasn’t in the movie that much. The weakest aspect for me is by far the villain Malekith, I’ve watched this movie 3 times now and I can’t remember you exactly he is. He’s just some guy who wants to destroy the world, making him one of the most forgettable villains I’ve seen in a movie.

"Marvel's Thor: The Dark World" L to R: Kurse (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) Ph: Film Frame © 2013 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2013 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

The action scenes were quite good and it’s worth noting that they are different from the original Thor. I liked the action in both of the movies but I did feel like something was missing from The Dark World, which I’ll get to in a second. An action scene I really liked was at the end, which involved a lot of portals. One complaint I have is that Asgard doesn’t look as grand as Kenneth Branagh did with the previous Thor. That movie looked massive and fascinating. Here, Asgard looked good but it wasn’t anything really special, it felt just like another Fantasy world. This also played a part in the action scenes, it looked good but not particularly special like how the original’s was.

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Thor: The Dark World does make some improvements over the original but it also gains some flaws at the same time. Although it was initially hard to say whether this movie or the original was the best Thor movie as both aren’t flawless movies which come with their positives, The Dark World did seem more flawed in comparison. Thor: Ragnarok, the third instalment in the Thor trilogy will be coming out in 2017 and I hope it manages to surpass its previous sequels because while these movies are decent and worth watching, they aren’t at the level of Iron Man or the solo Captain America movies.