Review for Shazam!
I wasn’t going to watch this. Not that there are a lot of alternatives, but over the last couple of decades, I’ve become accustomed to comic book superhero movies being my Hollywood fare of choice. But when I saw the trailer for Shazam!, looking to all intents and purposes like a child oriented parody of the genre, I decided to stick to my Marvel and DC guns, not realising until quite recently that Shazam! is a DC Comics property. And what’s more, it’s ostensibly part of the Snyderverse as well, hard as that is to comprehend. Shazam! is a daft title, but it turns out that’s what happens when both DC and Marvel have characters named Captain Marvel. The prospect of a lawsuit was quickly solved by DC opting to use the catchphrase as the title instead, never even explicitly referring to the character by name at all. It was watching Black Adam recently that convinced me to reconsider and place an order for the Shazam! Blu-ray, as well as seeing that this is one of the better regarded of the DC properties on film.
In 1974, Thaddeus Sivana was a little boy travelling for Christmas with his father and older brother, when he got pulled into a magical portal, and brought before the last of the Council of Wizards to be judged if he was worthy of being gifted their power. He was found wanting when he succumbed to temptation, and was ignominiously sent back. He subsequently spent his life trying to find his way back to the wizard’s lair, and when he finally did, now Dr Sivana violently took the dark power he was tempted by, and which he always believed he deserved.
For the last wizard, he had to abandon his methodology and place his hope in the next candidate he summoned without testing his worthiness. Billy Batson is a 15 year old orphan who has been seeking the mother he was separated from as a little boy, and who tends to run away from the various foster homes he’s placed in. His new foster home is not much different, and he doesn’t appreciate his new ‘brothers and sisters’, but being gifted the power of the gods by a dying wizard might just be the coolest thing that’s ever happened to him. He’s the newest superhero in Philadelphia, but he’s got a lot to learn. He may not have the chance, as his power is what Dr Sivana truly covets the most.
Shazam! gets a 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p transfer with the choice between Dolby Atmos and DD 5.1 English, DD 5.1 Surround Spanish, Italian, Polish, and English Audio Descriptive, with subtitles in these languages and Greek. You’ll have to be really seeking out nits to pick to complain about this transfer. It’s another modern, decently budgeted mainstream movie which is clear and sharp, with rich vibrant colours and no signs of compression. The audio is impactful and immersive, making the most of the action, having fun with some eclectic music, while keeping the dialogue clear. It’s what you would expect from a comic book action movie, a whole lot of special effects and surprisingly light on the green screen when you look at the behind the scenes footage.
I get to take advantage of the curse of returns, although it is a curse that has put paid to some distributors. Supermarkets used to buy home media in bulk, put it on their shelves for a couple of months, and whatever doesn’t sell, gets returned for a refund. Although in the last year or so, some shops like Tesco have stopped selling DVDs and Blu-rays altogether. I bought my copy of Shazam! from Amazon, but I got the Exclusive Sainsbury’s release which comes with a little, physical comic book in the case, Superhero Hooky, which is a print version of one of the bonus features on the disc.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray, wrapped in an o-card slipcover. The disc boots to a static menu. You’ll find the following extras on the disc.
Superhero Hooky (4:05)
The Magical World of Shazam! (27:09)
Super Fun Zac (3:19)
Deleted & Alternate Scenes, with or without Director’s Intro x16 (37:28)
Gag Reel (3:16)
Who is Shazam? (5:42)
Carnival Scene Study (10:23)
Shazamily Values (6:06)
I didn’t want to watch Shazam! because one, it felt like a parody, and two, it looked like a kids’ movie. And now that I’ve seen Shazam!, it’s a kid’s movie that parodies the superhero genre, and does it quite effectively too. I think most of the studios who adapt comic books to film these days, simply go to the BBFC and demand a 12 rating regardless, to maintain consistency across their output. Were you to compare Shazam! with something like The Dark Knight, they are wholly dissimilar, and given a forensic evaluation, I’d say Shazam! is more of a PG, a couple of minor swears aside.
Shazam! is also a lot more fun than I was expecting it to be. It finds a tone that’s appropriate for its story, and manages to remain true to its genre even while it sends it up. Shazam! to me is what Home Alone would be if it were a superhero film. That comes from the main character of course and his back-story. An orphan looking for his mother immediately engenders sympathy, and awkwardly finding his way into a foster home with a collection of new idiosyncratic ‘siblings’ is always going to make for interesting dynamics. All Billy Batson wants is to be left alone, but as is typically the way in these stories, his new family break down his defences.
That’s initially obvious with Freddy, whose passion for all things superhero is something that Billy initially wants to exploit, but when he gets zapped with these new powers, Freddy becomes something of a mentor/partner in crime, helping Billy work out how to use his new abilities, and the ins and outs of do-gooding. Billy’s new powers take him from his 15-year-old self and transform him into the most ideal adult that he can be, so there’s a hint of all those eighties movies where kids suddenly wake up in adult bodies (there’s an explicit Big reference as well), and that is where much of the joy of the film is.
This also makes the parody feel naturalistic, as it returns the superhero movie to its most basic origin, with innocent characters getting to experience the joy and wonder of being superheroes with pure naiveté. It’s fun to discover abilities, to save the world through 15 year old eyes, all the while being abundantly aware of the superhero tropes and clichés through being fans. They can cheekily comment on these things without tongue-in-cheek winks at the camera. There’s also a delightful running gag, with Billy as a superhero in constant search for a catchphrase, a gag which I now realise is carried over to Black Adam as well.
It’s either the superhero coming with emotional baggage in their origin story, like Batman or Spiderman, or it’s the filmmaker turning things ominous and dark when it comes to tone. Shazam! is refreshing in the way it avoids that, and goes back to the roots of the genre. If there is a nit to pick, it’s that while it may be a DC movie, it doesn’t sit too well with its stable-mates. But that doesn’t make me want to see the Shazam! sequel any less. And given that James Gunn is clean-slating the DC Universe, it maybe that we won’t get any more Shazam! movies anyway after that. This is the kind of comic book movie I grew up with, only given modern special effects. That counts for a lot in my book. The quality of the presentation is as you would expect at this point, while the extras are quite useful.
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to post a comment!