Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Shazam! (2019)

I was lucky enough to go to an early screening of SHAZAM!, the latest entry into the DCEU. Shazam isn't the most well-known superhero in general, but that will change when the film is released to the masses. If you are looking for pure popcorn entertainment and to go on an exciting journey with our hero, this film will be a treat for you. Basically, the film is about a troubled "orphan" named Billy Baston, who after getting in trouble with the law, is placed with the Vasquez group home. Before properly setting down with his new family and new school, the wizard known as Shazam grants Billy amazing powers if he says his name. Together, with his new foster brother and superhero fanatic Freddy, they test the extent of his powers and have fun along the way.

As of recent years, superhero films tend to lend more on the responsibility of wearing a suit, the sacrifices you make, or try to be super realistic to the real world. Those films have a variety of degrees of success, but Shazam is a reminder of why you loved superheroes as a kid. You dream of having the ability to fly, take on your bully, and just doing silly things with them, and that is exactly what Billy and Freddy do. They record Billy's exploits and post it on youtube. What kid wouldn't?

Of course, we follow our villain, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, as he thirsts for the magical abilities he has been dreaming of since he was a child, performed by the always amazing Mark Strong. I was surprised how much of a look why got at this character. He may seem like the typical bad guy, who feels like he has been wronged by everyone, but the parallels between him and Billy are a sight to see. Speaking of which, The way Billy was presented was perfect. In the early comics, he is presented as a sweet innocent kid who has been dealt a bad hand. In the recent new 52 comic line, he is presented as a massive dick to everyone. The film has a sweet balance of both, but we root for him to succeed anyway. Zachery Levi is the standout here. He is clearly having the time of his life playing a superhero, and I felt the joy. The theme of family was presented well, in looking at the family you are born into, and the one you choose. Billy's journey for his mother have dramatic weight and is given the time it deserves for a fulfilling character arc.

Director David F Sandberg was the perfect choice for them. He may be seen as an unconventional choice, as his previous films are in the horror genre, but the tone set is light and breezy for the most part. His horror roots show in a few scenes that may scare kids, yet delight adults. As he is signed on for a sequel, I'm excited for more. The film has a low budget(For a superhero film, 80-100 million), but the scope of it was brilliant, though some of the visuals are cheesy, with the tone of the film, I didn't feel out of place. I got some serious Sam Raimi's Spider-man/Richard Donner's Superman vibes, which was a treat. You'll understand when you see it. (Top marks to the marketing team for not sharing the best footage in their trailers) DC haters will be delighted to learn that the film has humor. Good God, this is definitely one of the funniest superhero films I've ever seen.

Some grips I had though WAS the Shazam family. All the child actors were aces. In the moments we had with them, they felt like true characters with unique personalities, but I felt that was the work of the actors. The writing didn't serve them well. The focus should have been on Billy of course, though I wished for more scenes with them. Especially, Mary was given an arc that wasn't given a conclusion. Maybe the sequel will do so. As well, the action scenes were okay, but during the climax, while it went meta with the final battle, some moments felt repetitive.

All in all, Dc's superhero movies have a bright future in store, and Shazam is set to join the A list superhero ranks. Fingers crossed he is in Justice League 2.(If they ever do it)

In Short: Shazam! is one of the best Christmas films ever made, right up there with Die Hard and Iron Man 3. You will feel joy from beginning to end.


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