It's been a very long time coming but the DC Universe seems to finally be taking shape. Although it will take a while for them to regain critic and fan respect after their embarrassing run of Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad and Justice League, with Wonder Woman and Aquaman, they definitely seem to be finding their feet. In their second attempt to convert horror directors to the superhero genre - Shazam! finds Light's Out and Annabelle: Creation's David F Sandberg in the chair. Delinquent orphan Billy Batson bounces from foster family to foster family, but after he is unexpectedly chosen by a wizard as his successor, the teenager is able to transform into an adult superhero on uttering the name Shazam.
Sandberg's super homage to 1988's Big lacks that Shazam! factor. Whilst it still sets DC on the right course, their latest adventure isn't as witty as it thinks it is. It's tremendous fun when Sandberg plays with genre conventions and to some extent Shazam! has adapted well to the modern perspective of superheros. This can be seen through the terrific relationship between older Zachary Levi and younger Jack Dylan Grazer. In typical teenage fashion, Billy larks around carelessly with his powers - it's amusing to see Levi channel Tom Hanks' playfulness with a superhero spin. Flossing on camera, blowing up school books and discovering his wide set of abilities at the most random moments - such as discovering his bullet proof constitution during a convenience store robbery.
Credit must also be given to Grazer as best friend/orphan brother Freddy Freeman, who is given undoubtably all the best lines as the smart-ass superhero nerd. Mark Strong is also fantastic here as Dr Minerva, stubborn and bitter from his childhood, plagued by the seven deadly sins and seeking unlimited power after being tempted by evil. Strong is theatrical and thoroughly entertaining, and unlike every villain since the dawn of the DCEU Minerva is fairly well developed despite his end of the world intentions.
It's not that Shazam! is a bad film, it just doesn't feel very special. The emotional elements of this lightening caper are focused and endearing - Sandberg incorporates a poignant message about what it means to be a foster child. Speaking of which - the foster kids are all absolutely brilliant. Yet, Shazam! doesn't spark any real excitement, the action is used sparingly and that's something you don't expect in superhero capers. But the script doesn't zap to its full potential and subsequently the film never gains momentum. Shazam! feels like Billy's first attempt to fly... lots of flapping but never quite getting off the ground.
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.