This weekend, new comic book movie, Shazam! has arrived in cinemas. The film – based on the DC comic book of the same name – stars Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel and Jack Dylan Grazer and tells the story of a young boy who is gifted super powers by a wizard.
Not familiar with it?
Here’s the trailer…
I’m going to cut to the chase here and say, Shazam! is a great comic book movie. This is the sort of movie that Warner Bros./New Line Cinema/DC Entertainment should be making more often.
This is the best live-action DC movie since any of the films in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012).
Forget the depressing, mean spirited tone of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016); the long-winded narrative of Aquaman (2018); or the bobbins script/editing/characterisation of Suicide Squad (2016), Shazam! is nothing like these movies. Instead it takes the optimistic outlook of Superman: The Movie (1978), the comedic timing of a Marvel Studios movie, and mixes these elements together with the fun and wonder of Big (1988).
Hurrah – I’ve found a DC movie that I like.
Is Shazam! better than Wonder Woman (2017)?
For me, yes.
As good as Wonder Woman was, there were moments in the film that were influenced by the universe that Warner Bros./DC Entertainment was trying to create (‘was’ being the operative word). Shazam! doesn’t share this problem – instead it is a fun, uplifting, humorous adventure movie that does it’s own thing and doesn’t have to feel like it’s part of a Zack Snyder template.
It IS connected to the recent crop of DC movies, but it creates those connections in a neat way. This isn’t a film concerned with laborious world building, it simply uses the DC Universe as a springboard to make it clear fantastical characters exist – no biggie.
And it is no biggie, because Shazam! is about as fantastical as they come. This movie is based around a character that was once more affectionately known as the Big Red Cheese (more Bananaman than Batman) – but that’s OK.
We’re now living in an age where comic book movies are ten a penny and this means some super heroes can be larger than life. Shazam! can present a tale about wizards and magic and not come across as being complete hokum.
I went into this movie knowing it was going to be a lighthearted tale and I got exactly what I expected. Oh, this isn’t a kids movie – there are a few parts that are a little scary in places – but it is a movie that kids will love.
It’s also a film that big kids will love too. I mentioned that Shazam! takes nods from Big, well it also takes influence from Ghostbusters, Gremlins and all those great movies from the 1980s that feature creepy looking monsters too.
This isn’t a movie designed to be an ’80s film, but it does feel like the sort of movie that those who grew up during the ’80s would have watched as a kid. It’s the same sense of wonder, imagination and fun – it’s all here.
This film also has a lot more in common with the Marvel way of making movies than any other studio out there right now. So basically, if you’re wondering if you should watch Shazam!, you should ask yourself, ‘do I like Marvel Studios movies?’ If the answer is yes, then you will like Shazam!.
With Avengers: Endgame on the horizon, and many people spending these next couple of weeks catching up on past Marvel movies, I’m unsure of how well Shazam! will do at the box office. However, I am confident that those who go see it will absolutely love it – kids especially.
How do I know that Shazam! will be a hit with younger audience members?
A little boy, who must have been around five years’ old, was sat in front of us during our screening. As with most five year old kids, he got a little restless at times, but mostly he sat through the film.
Once the film was over, he recited the phrase ‘Shazam’ repeatedly as he walked out of the auditorium. I could see that he was pretending to be the super hero he’d just watched on the big screen and to me that says it all.
That’s how I know kids will love this movie. In the same way that a generation of kids attached a tea towel to their shirts and pretended to be Superman because of Superman: The Movie (1978), or youngsters jumped off the sofa believing themselves to be Spidey because of Spider-Man (2002), a new generation of kids are going to take to Shazam!.
This was such an enjoyable movie.
OK… and now for some more thoughts that are below a big SPOILER WARNING. If you’ve not watched the movie yet, then DO NOT read on.
**SPOILER WARNING: DON’T READ ON IF YOU DO NOT WANT ANY SPOILERS FOR SHAZAM!**
OK, so in addition to my thoughts above, here’s what else I liked about Shazam!
- I really liked the last minute cameo. Sure, it clearly wasn’t Henry Cavill, but I was fine with that – I kind of think it’s funnier that Superman’s face wasn’t shown. If Shazam! gets a sequel – and I really hope it does – then I’d like more cameos like this, where heroes appear obscured or from a distance. The joke being that none of these heroes ever interact with Shazam because he’s a bit of a goof.
- I LOVED the introduction of the ‘Shazam’ family. It wasn’t a surprise that they would appear – the Shazam! toy line spoiled this one for me – but it was still great to see Billy sharing his powers with his foster family. The moment that all of the kids transformed into heroes brought a huge smile to my face.
- And finally, including the villainous Mister Mind in the movie was a surprise. I did not expect such a silly character to appear, but I’m sure glad he did. If a Shazam! sequel can make Mister Mind (a worm with telepathic powers) work, then there’s hope that one day Mister Mxyzptlk will appear in a Superman film.