Review – Shazam!

2019’s Shazam! may not be perfect, but it’s an absolute ton of fun, and may well signal the future approach for the DC Universe.

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Written by Henry Gayden and Darren Lemke, the 2019 film Shazam! follows Billy Batson,  a troublesome foster child who having lost his mother in a fairground years earlier has moved from home to home whilst trying to find her.

After a new run in with the authorities, whilst trying to locate his mother, Batson (Asher Angel) is moved to a new foster home. Here he meets his new foster siblings, including superhero obsessed Freddy Freeman. Soon later, Billy finds himself mysteriously transported to a lair and met by the mystical Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) who passes his superhero powers to the boy. after testing him to see if he is ‘pure of heart’.

The powers mean that the young boy can instantly turn into an adult akin to superman (this version played by Zachary Levi), simply by saying Shazam. Doing the same again, turns him back to his normal state.

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Meanwhile a boy that was previously unsuccessfully tested by Shazam has now grown into an adult (Mark Strong), obsessed with securing the powers for himself,  and after awaking the 7 monster versions of the 7 deadly sins begins to wreck havoc. The two collide with predictable superhero scale battles.

If you take the Tom Hanks’ film Big, and combine it with Superman – you get this film. Much with Big, or other ‘child in an adult’s body’ films (such as Vice Versa, 17 again, Freaky Friday and so on) the whole movie really hangs on the ability of the adult actor to convey a childlike performance. This is what Levi pulls off in spades.

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The tone of the film is far lighter than the previous films in the DC Universe. Much as we saw a lighter tone with 2018’s Aquaman, you can sense that the approach now is to move away from trying to maintain a singular mood to the DC films (Marvel has successfully done this throughout its films so far with its humorous action adventure feel) and instead is seeking the right tone for the right film.

Whilst this creates issues in trying to then connect characters in the grand ensemble pictures (Eg, Justice League and Avengers) it is a good thing. One of the biggest issues that the Batman v Superman and Justice League films had was the need to try and maintain Superman in the gritty, dark world which they were positioning Affleck’s Batman.  The tonal issues become apparent quickly and are hard to address.

Shazam then, is a light hearted superhero film which has a real sentiment of family and teamwork throughout. The supporting cast of foster kids brings a number of funny moments and the film has a real heart to it. It is thoroughly enjoyable and worth a watch.

7/10

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