Earlier this week, we got to go to a special screening of Shazam! The film was absolutely incredible, I can honestly say that I have NEVER EVER laughed that much in a cinema. I smiled constantly from start to end.
David Sandberg has brought yet another incredible film into the DCEU, and I truly hope he and Shazam! returns. This film feels like a completely different take on the current DCEU, with plenty of references to our favourite DC characters and a lot of surprises!
Shazam! tells the story of 14 year old Billy Batson, an orphan on a reckless and relentless search for his biological mother. After running away several times Billy finds himself in a group foster home run by a loving couple who themselves were raised in the care system. Billy is soon surrounded by an “instant” family including five siblings in the form of Mary, Darla, Eugene, Pedro and Freddy. While still finding it hard to acclimatize to his new surroundings , Billy finds his life changed even further when he crosses paths with the Wizard Shazam! – Earths last remaining guardian of magic. Seeing potential within the boy the Wizard grants Billy powers beyond measure. With a shout of the Wizards name, Billy becomes Shazam! – Earths Mightiest Mortal. But with a 14 year old wielding all that power anything can and will happen.
Over the years Shazam! had a very colourful history with so many different elements tied into it. From the seven deadly sins, magic and the fact that he’s a child in a man’s body endowed with extraordinary powers. These elements make for incredible storytelling and Shazam! touches upon every element. I was absolutely thrilled with the depth of knowledge the creators have for the character and his history. Everything knitted together so expertly without making the movie feel slow, disjointed or even too much. The pacing of this movie is perfect. It is a very quick two hours where every element gets time to breath and never feels wasted or forced.
With all of those elements in mind, the film also carries a lot of heart. The message behind the story is a wonderful one. It brings home a lot of feelings that those who aren’t in the care system themselves aren’t always actively aware about. The film really shows the importance of family and friendship, and not in a way that throws biological and “perfect” families in your face, but instead the family you choose to be with. These underlying themes are things that we can all relate to, as not everyone has a perfect family, in fact it’s actually quite rare. That concept is rarely told within such huge and inspirational films, so it is fantastic to see a little limelight shone on such a real concept.
One of the main criticisms the DCEU constantly receive is the dark tone of its movies. Now while I enjoyed the tone of movies such as Man of Steel and Batman V Superman I was more than happy to see a shift. This film is utter joy from start to finish. I laughed more so in this film than I can remember in any other. I had so much fun with this movie but it isn’t all light, there are really dark moments peppered throughout that add to the tension and risk presented by the villain – Dr Sivana.
This film is FULL of easter-eggs that tie into Shazam’s history along with nods to movies that inspired it. I know that WB/DC have decided to go down a route where their movies are less connected,however Shazam! found a really clever way of entrenching it within the DCEU. This is mostly thanks to Freddy and his impressive collection of superhero knowledge and memorabilia.
The casting for the film is remarkable. Usually in your head you have ideas of actors/actresses you might swap for a certain character. But I can genuinely say that the cast of this film are perfect in every way. Each and every one of them fully embody the character, you can tell that they have really embraced and care for the characters that they play.
Zachary Levi IS Billy Batson. He IS Shazam. Both on screen and off screen. His personality really shone through, and just like Jason Momoa as Aquaman – Zach’s own personality has helped grow the character into a completely relatable, likable and hilarious character. It’s nice that they have had the creative space to be able to interpret their own styles and personalities in to their characters and also the film. Jack Dylan Grazer, who plays Freddy is the definition of PERFECT CASTING. He’s geeky, lovable, and so many people will relate to him – especially DC Fans watching the film. He is absolutely hilarious in the film, and a lot of the laughs come from him. For me as a geek he perfectly represents what I think I would be like if I was lucky enough to live within the ‘DCEU’. Every scene these two are in together just feels very authentic and very natural, full of childhood joy and innocence. Levi really captures that childlike wonderment certainly in the face of receiving incredible powers, but the actor also conveyed a plethora of emotions that suited the shifting tones of each scene.
Asher Angel doesn’t get to don the Shazam! suit himself, but remains a hero even as a kid. In a film about a superhero, it’s sometimes hard for the people to shine through as heroes, but that really wasn’t the case with Asher. I really wasn’t expecting the emotional aspects of the film, but I feel Asher had one of the more emotional characters, and he portrayed that perfectly.
As for Billy Batson’s instant foster family – WOW, what a truly unique and diverse bunch. Each every one of them are completely lovable and are such real personalities and character. I genuinely think you will know someone or be exactly like these characters – they are just so relatable! You have the quiet one, the adorable one, the geeky one, and the strong one. Each of them play their characters so well, but I will say there is one that completely steals the show – Darla. She is played by Faithe C. Herman, and is truly one of the high points of this film, she’s adorable, sassy and so full of personality. This really radiated off her in every scene. Myself, and every member of the audience in my screening responded so well to her, and rightfully so. She really did unintentionally knit the relationship between Billy and his new found family.
Now for the villain – Dr Sivana. Another DC villain on the belt for Mark Strong. I was thrilled to see the actor return to the DC Universe and is fantastic portrayal in the often maligned Green Lantern film. Mark Strong is a master at playing villains, and his performance as Thaddeus Sivana is no exception, he is both brutal and chilling. It’s not often we get such a deep back story for a villain, but that is not the case for Shazam! We really get time to see the character breath and grow, in fact just as much as the titular character. Sivana is another relatable villain, and a great one at that!
Cinematography & Special Effects
It is clear that Sandberg took a lot of inspiration from fellow DC directors, especially Zack Snyder. I am a huge fan of Man of Steel – in fact it’s my favourite Superman film to date. Having watched it numerous times – more times than I’d like to admit, there are SO many scenes that have the same feel and some of the same aspects and/or shots to it, especially some of the combat scenes, and I loved that! I found myself saying quite a lot actually… “LOOK MAN OF STEEL!” and that is NOT a bad thing at all.
The cinematography overall is very well done, there are a lot of epic action shots, which will soon become iconic. In fact, some already have and that was from the trailer release alone. The camera style almost has a realness to it, almost like it’s recorded by a member of the public, which again adds a nice touch. It makes it seem that little bit more real – even for a superhero film. Like I said the tone of this film is much lighter than previous DC films, but with that said there are really dark moments as well as hard hitting action. The fight scenes along with special effects are so on point throughout this whole film. Again, even though Shazam! is a being of immense power, you still feel that there is a young boy inside within every scene. This isn’t just done through the characters and those who play them, it is also done through nostalgic and playful music and easter-eggs. When they said this film would be ‘Big’ meets ‘Superman’, they were not wrong. Make sure you look out for a few familiar scenes.
The special effects are very well done. There are some aspects which I feel could have been done better but they are very minor things and these minor things are bits we have seen before from the trailer – saving the woman from the truck. Considering how much of this film is based around CGI and special effects, I feel that they’re actually quite realistic and aren’t over the top at all, which can be very easily done. With every blow the super powered pair throw at each other, you can really feel and see the impact, and that sometimes can be rare or poorly done.
Now for the costume, I absolutely adored Shazam’s costume in this movie. In the lead up to its release, straight away I recognised it from Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s run on the character from the New 52 era of DC Comics. To me it definitely ties more into the mystical, magical side of the character than its Fawcett Comics predecessor. I adored the intricate detail found on the surface of the red material that makes up the bulk of his costume and I love the Greek inspired gold trim found on his double tear cape and hood. Again, very regal yet ties in nicely to the magical side of the character.
The score is triumphant. It has a perfect combination of new pieces and old pieces. The old pieces add a sense of nostalgia to the film, and goes hand in hand with the story telling, adding a fun twist to a hilarious film. The new pieces are truly inspirational, it certainly is a piece to get you up and out. Each and every piece of music chosen for the film highlights and adds to the story behind it. I will say this… there are a few pieces and snippets of music that will be very familiar – but you will have to listen out for it.
To summarise, I absolutely loved Shazam! I found myself thinking about this movie for days after seeing it and already found myself planning cinema trips with various groups of friends to view it once again. I’m pretty sure this is one of my favourite comic book movies of all time. It was a character I was perhaps least expecting to see on the big screen but I’m glad I did. If you want to talk about sequels well, lets just say the possibilities are endless and the quicker we get news on that the better. Shazam! is a magical adventure ride for the whole family with multi-facet characters. There really is something for everyone in this film, but don’t let the light tone fool you. There are real moments of darkness and realism in this movie with some mighty hard hitting action and peril. Shazam! is THE complete package and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Earths mightiest mortal