Review – Shazam! (2019)
Directed by: David F. Sandberg
Written by: Henry Gayden & Darren Lemke
Release Date: April 5th 2019 (UK)
Being the big ol’ geek that I am, I usually know the source material of the superhero movie I am going to see pretty well. Shazam was an exception to this, – other than the infamous Captain Marvel/Shazam copyright battle between Marvel and DC’s lawyers over the years and the fact that he is a teenage boy who transforms into a grown man who looks like Superman with a similar power set, – I didn’t know much about the character going in. Watching Shazam for review, I enjoyed certain aspects of it, but it does fall short in other areas. Something that I always wonder is how Mark Millar managed to get away with creating his own, ‘original,’ comic book character called Superior. Superior bears multiple similarities to Shazam, – to the point that I am surprised that DC have never attempted to sue Millar for blatant plagiarism.
In a word, Shazam is fun. I enjoyed my time with it and although this was only my second viewing of the film, I would still watch it again. I enjoyed seeing Mark Strong hamming it up as the movie’s villain and Zachary Levi does a great job in the titular role. Also, his chemistry with Jack Dylan Grazer’s character is a huge highlight of the film for me. The SFX are on point for the most part other than the fairly cartoony representations of the 7 deadly sins monsters. There is also a charming, dumb, pure, innocence to the movie that really shines through the entire thing.
My biggest issue with the movie is Asher Angel as Billy Batson when he’s not Shazam. Not necessarily because he is a bad actor or anything, but more because of how he chose to play the role. He comes across as broody and introspective, almost the total opposite of how Zachary Levi comes across as Shazam with his over the top playfulness and silly puns. This discrepancy is prevalent to the point where the illusion that these two actors were playing the same character is entirely broken and it is as if they are just playing two totally different characters with entirely opposite personalities that are just never seen in the same room. I feel like a bit of smoothing out could have been done between the actors to come to a compromise where they could both deliver their respective lines whilst still believably playing the same character.
Also, something that you should probably know going in is that this is a comedy with lessons about family and responsibility before it is a Superhero/Action movie. It does make sense within the context of the film that there are no epic action scenes as Billy is just an untrained everyday kid that has been given a bunch of amazing powers that he is still getting to grips with, but don’t expect any mind-blowing action scenes on par with MCU movies etc. Even though I guess it makes sense that there wasn’t anything too impressive in terms of action scenes, I remember being left a little bit unfulfilled as I left the cinema after seeing the movie the first time, that the film is more insistent on showing us tender family moments rather than huge scale superhero battles.
Overall, Shazam is dumb fun. Don’t think too hard about it and you will almost certainly have a great time watching it. This movie was the first to suggest that the fun factor of DC films seems to be on the up and they had dropped the dour tone of their Batman/Superman stories set up by Zack Snyder. It seems now that they seem to have almost totally abandoned the idea of following in Marvel’s footsteps of tying movies together in order to lead up to a team up blockbuster altogether and this movie was an early sign of that. That move was for the best and was what they should have been doing from the start rather than trying to win a losing battle and play catch up with a franchise that has been building for an entire decade at that point.
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