Film Review: SHAZAM! (directed by David F. Sandberg)

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by Eve Meadows on July 26, 2019

in Film


Two Captain Marvel films were released in the space of a month during this year. For those who didn’t know, the superhero from Shazam! with its funny white cape and bad lightning suit, was once the original Captain Marvel.

For decades, some lawsuits and a lot of creative scrutiny later, the comic book audience suddenly saw double and both DC and Marvel had a hero with the same name. These days, however, we are talking about Captain Marvel and Shazam and apart from that special history, the two films do not really have anything in common.

Shazam! shouldn’t be like a larger film universe. Just like Diana Prince and Arthur Curry, the boy Billy Batson gets his own story of origin. Obviously, the Easter eggs fly by and the names of the big boys of DC are still mentioned. There is no effort whatsoever to make the lost kid, the magic lightning bolts, and the ideal image of a superhero in a tight red suit look realistic, or to adjust the tone to the bloodthirsty DC Extended Universe (DCEU).

Shazam! is primarily a comedy, you can even call it a heart-warming family film. It actually had to be, with magic wand, magical words and a super-stubborn hero, the name of which even Billy Batson can’t say seriously. It could never have succeeded as a “dark & ​​gritty” story, but as a comedy with a sparkle of satire.

They respond to the idea “what if a teenager can suddenly do the same as Superman” and go exactly for all the childish things you would expect: jump over buildings, buy alcohol, smash things in an alley and try to get rich as quickly as possible. Of course, flirting with chicks is a given. Who knows if he could have taken his powers to suddenly become the NFL MVP 2019?

It soon becomes a wonderful and recognizable children’s fantasy, with sidekick Freddy Freeman providing a bit of commentary which also acts as a nice satire on the genre. Superheroes must have a secret base, a name like “Captain Sparkle Fingers” and of course a super villain to mate with.

It is up to Mark Strong to turn Thaddeus Sivana into a nasty opposite. He does not really have a special name, an impressive appearance or an epic background story. Yet he works amazingly well, mainly because he is actually a threat to Billy Batson. Other superheroes are fully aware of their superpowers and often fight with gods and aliens. But the extremely muscular man in spandex from Shazam! still sees himself as a fifteen-year-old and doesn’t dare to fight at all against an arch-rival that easily kills him, drowns him or kills his entire family if he gets the chance.

Occasionally Shazam! is slightly more original and stronger in its execution. Even though Shazam’s wizard looks really ridiculous (especially if you recognize the actor from a certain Marvel film), and despite the somewhat predictable story, it works thanks to the friendly tone. Zachary Levi, Jack Dylan Grazer and Asher Angel together really know how to sell the dynamics of children playing superheroes. The dreamy optimism, the stupid mistakes they make and the crazy way they look at the world. They know how to portray that childish fantasy convincingly and provide a real heart-warming feeling, which you would be hard-pressed to find in other superhero movies. Shazam! is lighter than Wonder Woman, better focused than Aquaman and, unlike Man of Steel, incredibly loyal to those bad comic books from the past. It has thus become one of the best DC films, perhaps not groundbreaking, but very entertaining. It will be interesting to see if that will affect the rest of the DCEU, but Shazam! looks good on itself. Great action scenes without an overdose of violence, just enough humor, strong chemistry between the actors and a wonderful tone make Shazam! very nice. We would say funnier and more meaningful than Captain Marvel.

New Line Cinema | DC Films | The Safran Company
now on disc and streaming | 130 minutes | rated PG-13

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