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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews Shazam!

April 2nd, 2019 by Marc Comments

Shazam! (12a)
Directed by: David F. Sandberg
Starring: Zachary Levi, Michelle Borth, Mark Strong & Djimon Hounsou 
Running time: 2hrs 12mins

We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s case, by shouting out one word – Shazam! – this streetwise fourteen-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult superhero Shazam.

Oh, man… it’s so easy to forget, in a world where big screen comicbook movies are pretty much a monthly – often weekly – affair (Captain Marvel, Shazam! Endgame and Hellboy all released within, what, six weeks?) how these stories can be full of hope and wonder.

And magic.

Well, Shazam! is here to remind you about that and take you on a journey that just oozes wonderfulness.

DC continues its run of successful movies post-Justice League with the story of young Billy Batson (Asher Angel), an orphan trying to find his family who is bestowed the powers of Shazam (which stands for the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, stamina of Atlas, power of Zeus, courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury – SHAZAM) at a time when the world is about to see a new dark threat unleashed.

But, of course, being a 14-year-old who suddenly finds himself in the body of a superhero and with all the perks that come with it, Billy/Shazam has other things on his mind… like how to use his powers in not-so-heroic ways.

But thanks to his friend – and new brother – Freddie (a truly fantastic Jack Dylan Grazer), there’s a chance that Billy and still be the hero the world needs.

Which is just as well because Dr Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), a villain with deep ties to Shazam!, has appeared and aims to cause all sorts of chaos.

What’s amazing about Shazam! is just how much is packed into it – Billy has a fleshed out story where he tries to find a place in the world. Sivana has an admittedly slightly underdeveloped backstory wherein you understand completely why he’s the villain. Billy’s development and transformation into a hero is so well handled – it’s packed full but never once feels crowded, with director Sandberg doing a wonderful job of balancing it all and never slowing for breath; the pacing is just wonderful.

One world we’re hearing a lot is ‘fun’ – DC finally do ‘fun’ and the like – and while Shazam! is without question a lot of fun, it is handled well, with the humour never feeling forced or falling on mishandled jokes or gags, it just feels like a fun time but it also has, when necessary, the drama and even scares that make it a fully fleshed out adventure.

And it very much takes place in a DC Universe that continues to grow by the minute – doors open into new worlds and one of the post-credit scenes (there’s two so take it easy on the Coke) sets up something I never dreamed of.

And all the awesomeness doesn’t just lie in the writing and the deft handling by Sandberg, as the majority of it lies with a cast who are just wonderful.

Zachary Levi who won our hearts in Chuck all those years ago (before being criminally underused by Marvel/Disney in the Thor movies) was born for this role… a man with the mind of a child, graced with superpowers… and he runs with it, making it charming, fun and effortlessly heroic.

Strong is great as the villain, but sadly hasn’t very much to do beyond standard moustache-twirling (Henry Cavill may have offered some advice. Too soon?) but he never falters and we have hopes for him down the line in what’s sure to become a franchise.

But the rest of the cast, the young players who make up Billy’s foster-family are just a delight and honestly, I could have spent the whole movie with them without any super heroics… that said, the super heroics were so very good that I’m glad we had them.

Overall, I honestly can find very little fault with the movie.

Is it a new direction for DC? No, it’s just a different story in a much bigger universe. But it feels like Donner’s Superman mixed with Big and, as I stated at the beginning, does such a wonderful job of reminding us what it would be like to live in a world like this, to have these powers, to find that responsibility, never once stepping back from the magic and wonder of it all. It also gives us a wonderfully diverse cast of great characters and it does it without any big fanfare – these are just great characters.

An all-round crowd-pleaser, Shazam! proudly follows Wonder Woman and Aquaman to prove that, while DC/Warners may stumble from time to time, they have the characters, the heart and the magic to do great things.

I can’t wait to see this again… and what comes next.

5 out of 5 Nerds

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Marc is a self-confessed nerd. Ever since seeing Star Wars for the first time around 1979 he’s been an unapologetic fan of the Wars and still believes, with Clone Wars and now Underworld, we are yet to see the best Star Wars. He’s a dad of two who now doesn’t have the time (or money) to collect the amount of toys, comics, movies and books he once did, much to the relief of his long-suffering wife. In the real world he’s a graphic designer. He started Following the Nerd because he was tired of searching a million sites every day for all the best news that he loves and decided to create one place where you can go to get the whole lot. Secretly he longs to be sitting in the cockpit of his YT-1300 Corellian Transport ship with his co-pilot Chewie, roaming the universe, waiting for his next big adventure, but feels just at home watching cartoons with his kids….