Writer Henry Gayden (Earth to Echo) and Director David Sandburg (Lights Out) bring us a film of pure comic book joy that dovetails coming of age themes, with humour and action to create a superhero movie full of heart and soul.
Billy Batson (Angel) is a 14 year old boy desperately searching for his long lost mother; running away from countless foster homes while getting into trouble with the police as he searches for his belonging and identity. His life changes forever after 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 Parkers hero (originally titled Captain Marvel) had the power of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus and Mercury. Playing with ancient mythology alongside themes of childhood desire to obtain superpowers. Shazam has sat under the DC Comic brand since 1972 with limited fanfare in the wider media. However, Shazam has always carried a strong story in the DC canon, placing superhero abilities into the hands of young people marginalised through care; 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 status that makes Shazam work so well on screen in the hands of a writer, director and cast who understand the mix of teenager and hero. Accompanied by excellent performances from Billy (Angel) Shazam (Levi) and Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) we feel a part of Billy’s journey from the outset; and believe that Billy and Shazam are the same age in different bodies. Themes of teenage friendships and belonging are delivered with humour, sensitivity and wonder, reminding the audience of the turbulence, fun and discovery of youth.
Shazam plays clear homage to 1988s Big and Vice Versa within it’s handling of body swap themes and structure. While also taking inspiration from more contemporary adult comic films such as Mathew Vaughans 2010 Kick Ass. There is an inherent love of DCs characters with beautiful references to Superman and Batman throughout, even playing homage to Superman 2 in the structure of the final battle scenes amongst the Philadelphia skyline.
Our villain Dr Sivana (Strong) has a back story that ties to feels of rejection in youth and family, perfectly dovetailing Billy’s own story while also providing the classic comic villain. Sandburg using his experience in horror to create moments of real tension and jumps, while cutting through these with humour; never letting the film enter territory to dark to engage all ages.
Shazam is a film that understands its audience, and provides just the right mix to engage young people and adults alike in its humour, nostalgia and warmth.
Shazam is full of heart, exploring friendship, family and belonging with a warmth rarely seen in comic book adaptations. Feeling fresh and creative from the first scene to the last Shazam is a pure joy to watch; a fun, humorous and nostalgic film that leaves you with a big superhero sized smile.
Country: USA 🇺🇸
Director: David Sandburg