It’s still rather sad knowing that if the DC Cinematic Universe had been handled properly from the start that by this point they’d have a strong foundation set with each individual superhero likely having their own movie to introduce them to audiences and that proper Justice League movie would likely be on the horizon. Instead the fast track was taken in an attempt to catch up to Marvel and the two most iconic DC characters in Batman and Superman suffered the most because of it. Right now it’s unclear if there even is a DCCU at this point or if they’ll just focus on individual characters for the time being.
It’s unfortunate because the recent DC offerings have been good solid fun, choosing to focus on the individual heroes instead of trying to force some bigger universe upon the audience without taking the time to tell the proper stories in the same way that made the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as successful as it’s been. But with the future on that front unclear, let’s push all that to the backburner and focus on the now with DC’s latest movie, Shazam!
Now, much like Guardians of the Galaxy was to the MCU, Shazam! is a lesser known character to the wider audiences who may not follow comic books. Everyone knows Wonder Woman, Batman, Aquaman and Superman…Harley Quinn could even carry Suicide Squad due to her being known so well as one of the more popular characters in the Batman series; however, if you went up to 100 people on the street before this movie came out and went, “Do you know who Shazam is?” I’d wager a massive majority of them wouldn’t have a clue.
That’s where it’s fun to see these movies about lesser known heroes get made as it relieves a bit of the pressure when it comes to comparisons (ask someone who their favourite Batman is or their favourite Batman movie and you’re sure to get into plenty of debates with a wide array of answers) but it’s also a bit of a double-edged sword, as the character being more unknown adds on the different kind of pressure to create a film that succeeds in making people want to get to know them.
Luckily, Shazam! knocks it out of the park there, delivering a different type of superhero experience that’s highly entertaining, often hilarious, and filled with as much action as it is heart. I kind of want to compare it to Deadpool in terms of how the characters within the film view the hand that is dealt to them, because it’s quite meta on that front.
The story centers around Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a somewhat troublesome teenager that’s jumped from foster home to foster home while constantly searching for his birth mother along the way. After a series of events that leads to the film’s villain, Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong) to gain supervillain powers after aligning himself with the demonic Seven Deadly Sins, Batson is summoned to a mystical place by a wizard (Djimon Hounsou,) who bestows upon Billy his powers to protect the realm simply by saying his name: Shazam!
Upon doing so, Billy transforms into Shazam (Zachary Levi), a grown man decked out in superhero attire with a variety of powers. This is where things get really fun, as Shazam is still Billy, so we’re treated to a superhero version of Big (which it doesn’t shy away from recognizing,) with this musclebound, full grown superhero having the mind of a 14-year old kid who is still trying to find his way in the world.
Levi is absolutely perfect in the part, as he has that clean cut good looks thing going for him, but also has immaculate comedic timing, which is pivotal to the success of this movie. Levi’s able to deliver a childlike wonder and innocence to the role which is the only way the character will succeed. As we bounce between both Angel and Levi nothing about the character feels like it changes, which is magical to witness. It’s definitely not the easiest task to jump between a troubled teenager and an invulnerable superhero and consistently make it feel like it’s the exact same character on screen, but these two do just that flawlessly.
The meta aspect of the movie I mentioned earlier comes in the form of Billy not having any real clue how superheroes work. So, when he first transforms into Shazam he’s got no idea what to do outside of going to his foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) for help. Freddy and Shazam begin running tests to find out what powers Billy has as Shazam, and Freddy goes through the list of your run of the mill powers, while referencing Superman, Batman and other heroes along the way. So, while this is a superhero movie of an incredibly powerful hero in the DC Universe, it has a much different feel than what we’re used to so far.
And that’s what’s so great about it! To be able to deliver a movie that feels and offers up something different at this point in the comic book movie game is a win. This is a story about an ordinary person getting extraordinary powers and having to learn to use them properly. Sure that description has a “with great power comes great responsibility” vibe to it, but Shazam has arguably the most real-world feel to it when it comes to characters out of any of the DC films so far, and out of most superhero films to date.
Unlike Aquaman, Shazam doesn’t feel overly bloated when it comes to cramming in plot, even though it has quite a lot of ground to cover. Director David F. Sandberg has paced the film wonderfully, and while there’s plenty of action to be found throughout, the main focus is on character development, which is great to see. When Billy turns into Shazam he isn’t instantly this Superman-like do-gooder, but instead has to learn and grow as the film progresses and screenwriter Henry Gayden balances everything incredibly well to deliver what I’d have to think is close to the best possible on-screen debut for a character most know nothing about before sitting down to watch.
Shazam! is a hugely entertaining film that’s packed with action, laughs and heart – not particularly in that order. The main focus of the film is family, and to watch Billy and those around him grow while also getting to enjoy a hilarious superhero adventure is a joy. However, it must be reiterated just how brilliant Levi is as Shazam, absolutely nailing the role alongside Angel, and really making this film as special as it is.
This movie looks fantastic! The 4K transfer absolutely shines, with stunning visuals in both the fantasy realm and real world found within the film. Everything pops, yet nothing looks fake, which can often be a fine line walked when it comes to blockbusters of this caliber. If you have the option, then 4K is the way to view this movie in all its stunning – yet down to earth – superhero glory! On the audio side the surround sound is also fantastic. The soundtrack, dialogue and sound effects all mix together in harmony without any one in particular trying to steal the show and spoil it for the others.
The Magical World of Shazam! – This feature is 27-minutes in length and covers a lot of ground! It sees the cast and crew talk about a variety of things including bringing the character to life properly on the screen, doing him justice, the stunts, visuals, training and location work. It’s an in-depth, must-watch for fans of the film and character.
Super Fun Zac – A fun look at Levi becoming Shazam and working on-set. It’s just over 3-minutes but is well worth the quick viewing!
Deleted/Alternate Scenes – There are over 37-minutes of deleted/alternate scenes to be viewed here, so if you’re into seeing what didn’t make the cut then you’re going to love diving into these! They’re not really my thing, but with that much I’d have to think some stuff that got cut was worthwhile, but gently set aside to keep the proper pacing going throughout.
Gag Reel – Self-explanatory here, and just over 3-minutes in length, the gag reel is worth a quick watch to see the fun had on set by all.
Who is Shazam? – This featurette is just under 6-minutes long and sees people from The Magical World of Shazam talk about the character, his past, the film’s villain, older comic book runs and the TV show as well as a few other elements.
Carnival Scene Study – This feature is just over 10-minutes in length and breaks down the film’s climactic battle sequence, various shooting techniques used as well as stuns and props. Definitely worth a watch to see how it all came to life!
Shazamily Values – This featurette is just over 6-minutes in length and focuses on the younger actors involved in the film, what they learned and how they’ve grown while taking part in making the movie.
Exclusive Motion Comic – This is 4-minutes in length and sees the cast return to voice their characters within the digital story. Worth a watch if you choose, but it’s not something you’ll likely view as canon and much like the Bumblebee digital comic on that Blu-ray, it’s sometimes best to just view it as a separate entity from the film itself.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Presents Shazam!. Directed by: David F. Sandberg. Written by: Henry Gayden. Starring: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer, Faithe Herman, Grace Fulton, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, Marta Milans, Cooper Andrews, Djimon Hounsou. Running time: 132 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on Blu-ray: July 16, 2019.
Tags: Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Mark Strong, Shazam (Captain Marvel), Zachary Levi