Shazam! Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
Shazam! marks a new era of tone for the DCEU. Lighter, with wittier dialogue & yet, it is suitable because of who this superhero is in human form.
Genre: Action / Comedy / Fantasy
Director: David F. Sandberg
Cast: Asher Angel, Zachary Levi, Jack Dylan Grazer, Mark Strong, Grace Fulton, Marta Milans, Cooper Andrews, John Glover & Djimon Hounsou
Run Time: 132 min.
US Release: 05 April 2019
UK Release: 05 April 2019
German Release: 04 April 2019
After the success of Aquaman, comes DC’s newest origin story, featuring their own Captain Marvel. I will be honest, the trailers did not sell me on it completely. The tone seemed too jokey and I found it disrespectful how the character made fun of the wizard’s name. After seeing this comic book adaptation though, my low expectations have been more than surpassed. The tale takes a more juvenile spirit but includes enough emotional moments for audiences to care about the characters. So let’s get straight into my review for Shazam!
Billy Batson, a fostered teenage boy, is proving to be a nuisance for authorities with his unrelenting search for his lost mother. In his newest foster home, Billy makes the acquaintance of Freddy, and soon finds himself selected by a powerful Wizard to be his new champion. Endowed with the ability to become an adult superhero by speaking the wizard's name, Billy irresponsibly explores his newfound powers with Freddy. However, he soon learns that powers come with duty.
Right from the get-go, David F. Sandberg’s adaptation of one of DC’s favourite heroes is good but not flawless! What it did get right, is the lighter tone and atmosphere, as it reflects on the main character’s insecurities and juvenile behaviour. It pays a lot of homage to 80s adventure movies with kids, such as Big or Goonies. That said it also doesn’t pull back when it comes to emotional moments, effectively setting up a learning curve, even though it is handled a little clumsy. The focus on family is key-point, embedding an important message about sharing power instead of harnessing all for oneself.
Taking place in the grander DCEU, the film acknowledges the existence of other superbeings plus heroes throughout the world, while at the same time telling a smaller contained narrative. It also is easier digestible than other modern superhero flicks, encapsulating the era of Richard Donner’s Superman.
That said, the screenplay does a miserable job setting up the villain’s motivation. Yes, there is a backstory, with an insight into his childhood but that was simply not enough, nor credible, to cement his turn into villainhood. It also never explores the background of the wizard’s world or the seven sins, something that could have enriched the overall plot. Then there are the sifts between comedy and drama that are managed really poorly, leaving one unsure if a scene was meant sarcastic or serious. It can become quite frustrating!
The dialogues are also a mixed bag. While I appreciated the conversations inside the foster home, between the kids themselves, as well as the two foster parents, it was Freddy's monologing about superheroes that was most entertaining. The language that high schoolers use is reflected pretty well, even though some might be too smart for their own good. Where it drops the ball, is once again with the villain. The overdramatised inflexions in the sentences come off as tacky.
Zachary Levi has an infectious, juvenile likeability as Shazam! He has been perfectly cast to play a child in an adult’s body, bestowed with powers. Batson is also doing exactly what any of us would have done as a teenager, had we been in his position, making him a very relatable character. That said, Levi also sold the fear that the superhuman was feeling, once confronted with an enemy, who outmatched him. The best scenes are the ones Levi shares with child-actor Jack Dylan Grazer, as both have impeccable chemistry.
Asher Angel plays the teenager Billie Batson. He is a foster kid, in search of his lost mother, thus often getting into trouble with authorities. Batson uses silly jokes and remarks, as a way to hide his insecurities. He also doesn’t trust anyone except himself, acting selfish plus ungrateful at times. The lesson he learns, however, during the end of the second act, is what gives him the courage to stand up for himself, protecting his new family on the way.
Jack Dylan Grazer is a real scene-stealer as Freddy, Batson’s new foster-care brother. Grazer was fun, energetic and really charismatic. Freddy, just like Batson, is a very relatable character. Infatuated with meta-humans plus heroes, he teaches Billie everything he knows.
Mark Strong as Dr. Sivana, gives a somewhat over-the-top performance that comes off a little tacky. The character himself is a very one-dimensional villain. Audiences are to believe that his motivation is a grudge he has been harbouring, since his childhood, from a one-time visit to the Wizard’s layer.
The cinematography in Shazam! Is qualitatively high, reflecting the playful tone of the screenplay. The lighting is a mix of bright greys and gloomish blues, including dreary colours, when it comes to Batson’s human life in Philadelphia, then shifting to a stronger, more lively palette, once he obtains his powers. The picture is digitally-sharp, including well-captured action scenes and never shying away to show more savage fights.
The computer-generated designs of the seven sins look great in dark lighting, yet, when interfering with real actors or portrayed in a brighter setting, the creatures start showing their deficits. The effects of the powers, on the other hand, were well rendered. The superhero costume was a creative choice I did not like. It looked overblown, especially with the glowing lighting bolt in the front, while Zachary Levi was obviously put in a muscle suit.
Benjamin Wallfisch composed the music, who mentioned John Williams as inspiration, as well as Amblin Entertainment scores. The inclusion of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” during the superpower test montage, shown in the trailers, is the icing on the cake
Verdict: DC’s latest superhero blockbuster, taking part in their cinematic extended universe, is a fun addition, with some mild issues. The narrative pays respect to 80s kid’s adventures, as well as taking inspiration from early superhero movies alike, using a lighter ambience, and poking fun at the genre, though never mocking it. It is a film that is very self-aware! However, it does have problems when switching from funny moments to dramatic scenes. The story is also not fully explored, while the villain is undercooked. Zachary Levi is, hands down, the star in this flick! He basically carries the whole premise thanks to his charm, having perfect chemistry with Jack Dylan Grazer, who killed it as Freddy. Both were highly amusing together! The camera work is good, while the effects don’t always stick the landing. All in all, this is a fun addition to DC’s roster of hero blockbusters and is worth a 7.5 out of 10.
Have you seen Shazam!? What are your thoughts on DC’s Captain Marvel? Leave a comment & hit the subscribe button. Thanks for reading!