08th Apr2019

‘Shazam!’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Zachary Levi, Jack Dylan Grazer, Mark Strong, Michelle Borth, Djimon Hounsou, Asher Angel, Marta Milans, Meagan Good, Grace Fulton, Adam Brody, Ross Butler, Cooper Andrews, D.J. Cotrona | Written by Henry Gayden | Directed by David F. Sandberg

shazam-us-poster

Shazam! is directed by David F. Sandberg and is the latest chapter in the dysfunctional D.C.E.U. from Warner Bros, who are hoping for a continuation of the recent successful second wind, after the hugely triumphant James Wan-directed Aquaman grossed over a billion dollars at the global box office. Which was somewhat a surprise after the disastrous turnout of Justice League, directed by both Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon, resulting in a slightly ambiguous fate for this current regime and with Affleck and Cavill most certainly out, the future looks muddles. However Shazam! throws the franchise firmly back on track, with an end product that is probably the perfect recipe of a first act superhero story. All in all a terrific old-school fun and entertaining ride that’s full of wonderful charm and delightful charisma.

The titular character of Shazam! himself, played by Zachary Levi, is arguably perfect casting at its finest. A long way from those horrid days on Chuck, where he was left to rot with little potential or future, the charisma and charm brought forth by Levi is (no pun intended) electrifying on screen. Granted you have to sort of grapple with the character in a juvenile sense but its perfectly executed considering the context of the plot. You grow and evolve much like the characters engaged do with Shazam! himself. It’s a fluent, honest portrayal that evokes a wonderful sense of beautiful naivety with his actions, that are executed with warmth and heart, and of which never lower into a childlike disposition. The supporting player of Jack Dylan Grazer, as Freddy Freeman, is a terrific partnership that perfectly feeds Levi in a back and forth other in comedic timing and weighted dramatic resonation. It’s actually hard to distinguish which performance excels the other in fact; complimenting each other in a brilliant harmony of sorts.

Shazam! also offers terrific writing, that results in a wonderful tongue firmly in cheek screenplay by Henry Gayden. The comedy is incredibly well balanced, between the constant barrage of humour and poignant adult tone throughout, with a slight edge and emphasis on the latter. However, they’re synchronised with wonderful emotive responses, especially the emphasis of character arcs and trajectories of threads. The more weighted writing results in an excellent backstory for its villain Dr Thaddeus Sivana, performed rather spectacularly by acting chameleon Mark Strong. It’s a role that, respectfully to all comic book movies, should be incredibly one note and slightly downtrodden for a larger emphasis on the lead hero, however, while I wouldn’t say that Shazam! goes against its own genre convention, I would infer that it doesn’t completely bow down to it either. The writing of Dr Thaddeus Sivana has a tremendous amount of backstory, and even in fact opens the film with a fantastic albeit evil precedent that sets the tone perfectly. Reinforced and rebutted throughout the film, only adding to the seismic impact of proceedings and what the protagonists and antagonist are fighting for even more so than your average outing.

There are some issues and as stated before, while Sandberg’s film doesn’t bow down to genre conventions it does have them in a plentiful appetite. The certain in-world building that the film stores is playful and small but undoubtedly works with how subtle and un-meaningful the connections and threads are. Then there’s the stronger, more on the nose connections, and of course i won’t spoil anything, however, if you’ve been aware of certain contract discussions of late you’re bound to know the fallout of the resulting impact of said connections, something that sadly makes more noise trying to remind the audience of the house that built it rather than standing on its own two legs.

Shazam! is in cinemas now.

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