As a child I always dreamt of being able to say the magic words, turn into a superhero, and fly off to save the day. But that feeling of ‘anything is possible’ gets lost in a lot of us as we grow up. Director David F. Sandberg’s Shazam taps into those childlike dreams and makes for a delightfully fun return to being a kid. A lighthearted addition to the roster of DCEU films, in a world of violence and darkness Shazam is a refreshing contrast. There were several brilliant moments where superhero tropes were turned on their heads to create laugh out loud reactions from the audience.
It was clear from the start that the Director Sandberg and Producer Peter Safran had decided to go with an ’80s vibe and even though the film is set in the modern day. Tthere’s a ‘Goonies’ or ‘Big’ feel to the film that conjures up nostalgia whilst keeping you looking for the next reference. Being a fan of the Shazam comics for a long time, as with all other comic readers watching their childhood fantasies come to life on the big screen, I was understandably apprehensive as to which version they would use as their main point of reference. It goes without saying that I wasn’t disappointed.
The cape is a great way to explain the mixture – Golden Age comics provided the inspiration for the length of cape whilst the New 52 added a hood to the ensemble. They have managed to take inspiration from a wide array of sources and create a unique portrayal that stands up to the likes of Superman and Wonder Woman.
It was totally believable that Shazam (Zachary Levi) and Billy (Asher Angel) were the same person. The only thing that gave it away was that Billy seemed to be pretty street smart and Shazam was totally clueless when it came to dealing with certain situations. I guess becoming a muscle bound hero and being able to fly might have that effect… Otherwise a brilliant performance by both actors.
Even though DC have stepped away from a fully interconnected cinematic universe they couldn’t resist from throwing in nods to many other films in their lineup as well as games and other pop culture, this ranged from an Aquaman t-shirt worn by Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) to a very special cameo towards the end (no spoilers here!).
We can’t talk about Shazam without mentioning the Seven Deadly Sins, his mortal enemies and, alongside Dr Sivana, the main bad guys in the film. They were probably my least favourite part as they were difficult to tell apart and though they were a perfect fit for the ’80s horror style, it would have been nice to see the New 52 versions, where they all had very distinct looks and (mostly) humanoid forms. I loved what Peter Safran did with the Trench in Aquaman and was pleasantly surprised by how jumpy some parts of Shazam was, but overall I felt the Sins were a weak interpretation.
Though it was a bit slow to get going there’s no denying that Shazam’s extensive backstory was essential in helping us to get to know such a likeable character, Mark Strong’s Dr Sivana also introduces a new backstory to the film which is a big departure from the comics. It makes sense though as it goes a long way to explaining his ruthless in pursuing magic, plus tying his origins to Billy’s powers makes the clash between them seem even more personal.
Shazam has something for everyone, from a smattering of DC Easter Eggs and an obscure post credit scene for comic book fans, to clear backstory and belly laugh moments for audience member who had no idea who Billy Batson was before walking into the cinema. This lack of expectation makes for a film which sets out to poke fun at the superhero genre whilst still telling a meaningful story. The audience were laughing and cheering right to the end.