Universe: Worlds of DC.
Director: David F. Sandberg.
Screenplay: Henry Gayden.
Story: Henry Gayden & Darren Lemke.
Release Date: 2019.
Runtime: 132 min.
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Comedy.
Cast: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, and many more!
Opening Weekend: $53,505,326.
Gross USA: $140,371,656.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10).
Originally known as Captain Marvel before being rebranded as Shazam following legal issues with Fawcett Publications, this adult alter-ego to the fourteen-year-old Billy Batson appears whenever the magic word “SHAZAM” is spoken out loud. With superhuman abilities, this hero is every kid’s dream come true and offers us a glimpse into the mind of a man-child who discovers his responsibilities the hard way. Although the 2019 movie was a pleasant surprise for many, it encountered plenty of issues during production, leading to countless delays and rewrites. Although Dwayne Johnson will take on the role of Black Adam in a future DC movie, his character was almost featured in Shazam! and could’ve led to an unnecessarily rushed story arc. Fortunately for fans, Shazam! turned out to be a gem among the plethora of superhero movies being released nowadays.
What is Shazam! (2019) about? Loosely based on writer Geoff Johns’ Shazam! that offered a modernized origin story for this superhero, the movie kicks off by introducing the ancient and weakened wizard Shazam, searching for a worthy new champion who is pure of heart to take on the mantle and assure that the previously-defeated Seven Deadly Sins do not wreak havoc upon the world ever again. While the young Thaddeus Sivana fails this test as a young child, he later grows up blind with a corrupt desire to reenter the portal dimension and claim the powers of Shazam that he sincerely believes is due to him. Meanwhile, foster child Billy Baston is off on his wild shenanigans, searching for his birth mother as he continuously moves from one family to another with no place to call home. It’s when he’s snatched from his reality to take on Shazam’s trial that he is given the ability to become an adult superhero with a single magic word.
Still set within the “Worlds of DC” cinematic universe, Shazam! offers the world a family-oriented superhero movie that stands out in its comedic tone and revitalizing joyfulness. Characterized as Tom Hanks’ Big with superpowers, the movie offers a heartwarming and enchanting coming-of-age story by looking at the theme of family and outdoing itself in its humourous execution. Without repeating more of the same, Shazam! looked to hit the refresh button on the superhero genre as it remains light and innocent without venturing in the gloomy and gory. Not only does it serve as a wonderful origin story for the hero, while adding himself to the roster of heroes that have so far shown all their colours, with Batman, Superman, Aquaman and Wonder Woman, it also looked to remain self-contained with a single theme of family serving as its foundation.
The direction the movie take is somewhat predictable but the execution allowed it to deliver an entertaining and sincere movie. Billy Baston only had one goal in his life and it was always to find his mother, despite all the obstacles put in his way. While those around him, including his new foster family, fruitlessly try and help him acclimate to his new environment, trust issues instantly arise. All he could see was more people he’d have to disappoint, more people he’d have to waste his time with until he could finally go back to his mother. Once he gets his hands on Shazam’s powers, there’s a whole sequence of self-discovery, not only to figure out what he can now effortlessly accomplish but also what he wants to do with his new life and powers. It’s this learning curve set in the modern technology-heavy world that promises such a good time in his adventure as a superhero.
The movie doesn’t rely too much on action scenes but the final act does give fans the perfect teaser to what this character’s world is all about. Throughout the movie, there’s also a very contained and diligent use of CGI that keeps it cinematographically-tamed. In fact, only the Seven Deadly Sins required full-out CGI and they weren’t ever distracting, albeit a bit horrific in their design and actions. It is, however, worth mentioning that director David F. Sandberg brilliantly juggles both the childish nature of this hero as well as the risks and dangers he could run into. The chemistry and the banter between the kids are, honestly, pure and hilarious, and couldn’t have been done better, considering how many they were. I mean, for someone who directed horror movies like Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation, this turned out to be a fantastic exposition of his directorial talents. In fact, most of the emotional sequences in the movie are solicited through human behaviours and can be highlighted in the motives of every character. Does it mean that Mark Strong’s portrayal of Sivana gave us an incredibly original and impressive villain? Absolutely not. However, this antagonist served as an excellent threat to Shazam’s first adventure without ever overshadowing him.
Now, all that’s left is to establish if Shazam! can now be considered a Christmas movie.
Shazam! (2019) is a colourful and heartfelt coming-of-age story of a man-boy and his search for a place to call home.