Shazam! (2019)

Shazam! (2019)

2019 PG-13 132 Minutes

Action | Comedy | Fantasy

A boy is given the ability to become an adult superhero in times of need with a single magic word.

Overall Rating

7 / 10
Verdict: Good

User Review

  • Shazam! shockingly refreshes the superhero sub-genre through childish behaviour. After the pleasant surprise that was 'Aquaman', it seemed that DC found its feet and could pretty much tackle anything. So when I heard that a film was being produced about this titular character, doubt shrouded my mind. Could they turn a relatively unknown intellectual property with mainstream audiences into a memorable film? Well, despite the weak promotional material and genre saturation, DC may have just crafted their best yet. Witty and hilarious dialogue mixed with hearty themes of family and that fundamental splash of blockbuster action. It was a shocking electric spark that energised my eyes, diminishing my superhero exhaustion with its thunderous shenanigans. Billy, a foster child searching for his biological mother, encounters a wizard who grants him magical abilities so that he can stop the seven deadly sins from taking over the world.

    Imitating a narrative premise reminiscent of 'Big' (even to the point of referencing that infamous piano sequence) whilst integrating typical superhero plot points. However before I tackle the many positive aspects, I'm going to change it up and outline the negatives first. The story starts off somewhat bumpy, relying on heavy exposition to convey the magical lore of its source material and materialise the antagonist's motivations. Whom of which was severely underdeveloped, as if he was an afterthought to make way for the central bonding between Billy and his foster family. Strong deserved better, considering he is a talented typecast for villainous roles. The third act, consisting of that inevitable final showdown, provided a massive tonal shift from its preceding act and unimaginatively settled for mind-numbing spectacle (with the occasional shoddy visual effects) rather than maintaining its innovative hilarity. With that being said...oh, hang on wait just one moment...


    This film one hundred percent worked for me. Once it found its tempo, it became a relentless journey filled with adolescent joy and nostalgic charm. Sandberg, primarily a horror director, utilises his typical visual storytelling techniques and modifies them to focus on visual gags. Considering I harness a soul that has not seen the light of day ever, the amount of well-executed humour came as a shock and made me laugh on multiple occasions. Whether it be Billy testing his newly acquired powers (which reminded me of 'Chronicle') with his new foster brother or the villainous Sivana demolishing an entire board meeting, the range of visual and narrative jokes were varied and mostly smashed the mark.

    However what Gayden's screenplay excels at is balancing the childish antics with hearty themes. Family is a prevalent message beneath its frenetic action, and frequently conveys this through successful conversations between Billy and Freddy. Their many heart-to-hearts and jealous conflicts allows Billy to grow and fit the shoes of the adult that he can switch to just by saying the "chosen one's" name. Sandberg executes this balance perfectly, and enables the characters to become emotionally investable. The natural progression of Billy and Freddy's bond is some of the best character development I've seen in a superhero film period, and that's mostly down to Levi and Grazer's fantastic performances.

    When Levi is on screen, he just lights up any and every scene. His hyperactive performance had the right level of innocent naivety and boisterous humour to not become exhausting. Grazer on the other hand did the exact same but without the handy usage of superpowers. His character sparked an immediate connection with me without detailing a tragic or melodramatic sob story. The film prevails on detailing tragedy whilst remaining grounded, and Grazer's performance is a culmination of that. In fact, all of the child actors were top-notch. A foster family that I myself want to be an integral part of. Perfect comedic execution from everyone. The action, visual effects and soundtrack aren't especially electrifying, but they remain functional. The technical elements do not necessarily stand out, but that's only because the intent focus on the characters and comedy make up for this.

    Overall the change of tone for the DC Extended Universe is a welcomed addition, differentiating itself from the bloated darkness that previous chapters relish in. But it also manages to make the entire sub-genre feel fresh again, acting as a standalone feel-good adventure that everyone can enjoy. A shocking switch-up, I must say.