SHAZAM! Directed by David F Sandberg, with Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer and Djimoun Hounsou.
THERESA SMITH reviews
Crazy goofy fun Shazam! is a barrel of laughs compared to the angsty material DC Films has been churning out since Batman Begins.
It is a complete 180 degree swing from dark and twisted, giving us a family-centric movie about a teenager who gets to assume the appearance and abilities of Earth’s mightiest mortal, Captain Marvel.
There are plenty of sight jokes, but these never descend into farce and the dialogue is quick and witty.
The title Shazam! comes from the word Billy Batson (Angel) has to utter in order to morph into Captain Marvel (the hero is played by Zachary Levi with a delightful touch of naivety).
The character was originally created in 1940 by Fawcett Comics, but a copyright infringement lawsuit from DC Comics in 1953 shelved the series. By early 1990s DC Comics had acquired the rights to all of the Fawcett Comics’ Marvel characters and iterations of the characters have been around to varying degrees of success ever since.
For this filmic reboot (Captain Marvel was the first comic book superhero to be adapted for film in a 1941 Republic Pictures serial titled Adventures of Captain Marvel), we get a take on the New 52 version relaunched with Flashpoint.
The previous two paragraphs really only make sense to comic book geeks, but to those who do not speak comic book, do not fear – because Shazam! is a solid, funny origins film that does not need any previous knowledge.
It is centred on foster kid Billy Batson who has to grapple with yet another group home as he is drawn into a world of magic and given powers beyond belief by an ancient wizard.
Just say the word Shazam!
Billy asks his new foster brother Freddy (Grazer) for help to decipher how this superhero thing works, but there is more to learn than just whether he can fly.
Learning to fit into a foster home that actually wants him around proves to be just as difficult as navigating the ethics of whether to take money from a stranger who wants a selfie.
Mark Strong pops up as bad guy Dr Sivana (who provides a bit of story context broader than just Billy’s plot-line) and the two go head to head in the skies of Philadelphia.
While the film may be touted as family-centric it has some jarringly violent moments that give it a 10-12 PG age restriction. Though the action (and violence) is heavily stylised, these moments are still a bit too much for anyone under the age of 10. A child in the 10 to 12 age range could handle it, depending on their maturity – some counselling about what to expect beforehand would not go amiss.
Really though, this film is aimed at the child within every adult. It is wish-fulfillment of the very order that comic books were created on. It is every teenager’s dream to be more powerful that the bullies around them and to have to ability to effect their world in an impactful way.
And hey, a cool costume and the adulation of your peers don’t hurt either!
What: Shazam! Film review
Shazam Release date South Africa: 5 April 2019
Shazam classification: 10-12 PG H IAT L V
Shazam running time: 132 minutes