Driving with his spiteful father and cruel elder brother, young Thad (Ethan Pugiotto) is playing with an eight-ball toy that predicts the future. Suddenly transported by the ball into the realm of a dying wizard (Djimon Hounsou), he is offered the wizard’s powers. However, seduced by the wizard’s caged beasts of temptation, he proves unworthy of the wizard’s mantle. Rejected, he malevolently swears revenge upon the wizard. 

Years later, his powers almost depleted, the wizard summons up a ‘seeker spell’ to find another soul who might prove worthy. Enter orphan Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a serial runaway looking for his mother. Transformed into an adult superhero at the mention of the wizard’s name, Billy’s life is changed beyond belief. Unsure and unaware of the responsibility that fate that has bestowed upon him, Billy reaches out to “Freddy” Freeman, his orphan room mate for “superhero advice”…

…‘Shazam!’ Is the DC superhero movie you won’t see coming.

Lighter in tone and more playful throughout, ‘Shazam!’ Is the DC superhero movie you won’t see coming. The Zak Snyder era of pomposity and damp fireworks now dispelled, this is an unlikely yet satisfying movie for Marvel’s sibling to ring the changes with. Mixing the central themes of Tom Hank’s “Big” into a superhero origin story, we get a fresher take on the comic ‘rise to greatness’ staple. 

Unburdened by any future commitments to the DC universe, ’Shazam!’ is a movie that strikes a crowd-pleasing tone in the same way that the first ‘Ant-Man’ did. With some brilliantly observed scenes about growing up and the attached fantasies of doing so, ’Shazam!’ Subverts your expectations with a more rites of passage approach than following a ‘manifest destiny’ favoured by many other superhero set-ups.

Finding the right likeable approach for Billy Batson, Asher Angel grounds the youthful hero. With enough angst to dilute Jack Dylan Grazer’s historical machine-gun insistences, they form an investable pair of boys drunk on the possibilities of adulthood. As adult Billy (aka Shazam!) Zachary Levi is also solid, even he’s a little shoutier than Asher Angel’s more measured approach.

With a delightful end revelation couched in the inevitable stand off between good and evil, ’Shazam!’ manages to not only salve the rash of DC adaptations but also deliver an entertaining feature that sustains your interest throughout. After a formulaic and watered-down showing with ‘Aquaman’, DC has finally shown with ‘Shazam!’ that they’re not welded to the script of their universe and might finally offer an alternative to Marvel’s more industrial machinery. Let’s see.

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