Shazam! (2019)

The Christmas Countdown (Day 7)


Shazam is available to rent or buy now.


Considering the fact that Christmas movies often centre around themes of fantasy, escape, and justice, it’s rather strange that the superhero is mainly absent from the festive season. Maybe this is due to Father Christmas taking his rightful place as the hero of the holidays, or perhaps it’s tied to a preoccupation with the summer blockbuster. Whatever the reason, there are thankfully a few cracking superhero comic book movies that embrace the holidays, and one of these is the outstanding Shazam!.

Created in 1939 by Fawcett Comics following the success of Superman, C.C Beck and Bill Parker’s hero (originally titled Captain Marvel) had the power of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus and Mercury. Captain Marvel would embrace ancient mythology while providing a direct challenge to DC’s Superman on release, his comic book adventures introducing us to the Marvel family. However, by 1953 Captain Marvel and the Marvel family were old news, and the character entered a hibernation lasting two decades.


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When DC Comics purchased the rights to Captain Marvel in 1972, they immediately ditched the Marvel name, and Shazam! was born. But, apart from some animated outings and a comic book series that redefined the character and his family, Shazam! remained absent from the Warner Brothers cinematic universe. However, in 2019 Shazam! would finally make his big-screen debut in the hands of David F. Sandberg with an energetic and entertaining movie that helped reinvigorate a troubled DC movie slate.


Shazam
Jack Dylan-Grazer and Zachary Levi star in Shazam! ©️NEW LINE CINEMA

Despite lacking attention, Shazam! has always been one of DC Comics’ most valuable assets. After all, this is a superhero journey that sits in an isolated, angry and hurt teenage boy’s hands. Here Shazam! reflects the dreams of many young people on their journey to adulthood as they wished and hoped for a superpower to steer the way. Some hoped for invincibility and flight to escape, while others hoped for super strength or invisibility to beat the bullies and break free.  

Fourteen-year-old Billy Batson (Asher Angel) spends his spare time desperately searching for his birth mother. Here his quest has led him to run away from countless foster homes while developing a healthy criminal record of petty offences. However, when Billy is given a final chance, he is unaware his life is about to change forever when a subway journey magically transports him to a mysterious cave. There Billy meets a stranger who gives him the unique ability to transform into a superhero by saying just one word Shazam!


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Shazam! offers us something unique in an ocean of comic-book movies, a tale rooted in childhood dreams. Here Shazam! lights up the cinema screen in a film that pays homage to the teenage energy, fun, humour and excitement of C.C Beck and Bill Parker’s unique hero. While at the same time, Sandberg cleverly incorporates some of the less adult elements of Kick-Ass with the comedy of Big and Vice Versa in creating a joyous, energy-filled comic book adventure that appeals to all ages.

Meanwhile, what could have been the movie’s biggest flaw ends up one of its most charming characteristics, the interface between the manchild of Shazam! and his younger teenage self. But the true genius of Shazam! sits within the deep themes of friendship, discovery and belonging that sit at the heart of the action. After all, this is a superhero movie rooted in hope, love and family, with Billy’s journey equally as crucial as his alter-ego.

Unlike several of the disappointing DC films before it, Sandberg’s Shazam! understands its target audience and the dynamics that made Marvel films like Spider-Man: Homecoming work so well. But he also understands and taps into the public’s love of the DC Comics universe, lifting the veil of darkness draped over many recent DC outings with just the right mix of humour, nostalgia and action. The result is a comic book movie that leaves you with a superhero sized festive smile.


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