DC Comics has had a rough time over recent years with its film offering. Up against a powerful Marvel film universe under the stewardship of Disney. However, with Shazam DC Comics brings us a film of pure comic book joy. Dovetailing coming of age themes, with humour and action in creating a superhero movie full of heart and soul.
Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a 14-year-old boy desperately searching for his long lost mother. His search leading him to run away from countless foster homes. While also getting into trouble with the police as he searches for his own belonging and identity. However, Billy’s life is about to change forever, as a mysterious encounter gives him the ability to transform into a superhero by saying just one word Shazam!
Created in 1939 by Fawcett Comics as a response to the success of the Superman character. C.C Beck and Bill Parker’s hero (originally titled Captain Marvel) had the power of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus and Mercury. Playing with ancient mythology alongside the childhood desire to obtain superpowers. Since 1972 Shazam has sat under the DC Comics brand with limited fanfare in the wider media.
However, Shazam has also played a key story in the DC Comics universe. By placing superhero abilities into the hands of young people marginalised through care and family separation. While reflecting the dreams of every young person on their journey to adulthood to excel, escape or be unique.
It is this ability to dovetail youthful energy with superhero power that makes the time taken to reach the big screen so confusing. However, no matter how long the wait, the result is worth every minute, hour and day. As Shazam lights up the cinema screen, while also reinventing the genre. With writers, director and cast playing homage to the teenage longing, fun and excitement of the comics. Accompanied by heartfelt and engaging performances from Asher Angel, Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan-Grazer. Performances that not only ensure we feel a part of Billy’s journey. But also help us believe that both Angel and Levi inhabit the same body. While themes of teenage friendship and belonging are delivered with humour, sensitivity and wonder. Reminding the audience of the turbulence, fun and discovery of youth.
Shazam plays mixes its superhero story with a homage to Big and Vice Versa. While also taking inspiration from more contemporary adult comic book films such as Mathew Vaughans Kick-Ass. However, central to the action there is also a deep love for the DC Comic universe. With beautifully structured references to Superman and Batman throughout. Even playing homage to Superman 2 in the final battle scenes amongst the Philadelphia skyline.
Shazam understands its audience and provides just the right mix of humour, nostalgia and warmth to engage young people and adults alike. While leaving you with superhero sized smile.
Director: David Sandburg