Shazam

The DC Universe (DCU) has clearly taken a leaf out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), movies that skew “too dark” do not sell tickets. Clearly a lighter touch with more humour is the way to go and here we have “Shazam” to prove that theory.

Dusting off another obscure superhero character that few outside of geek comic book fandom would have heard of, we have “Billy Batson” (Asher Angel) AKA “Shazam” (Zachary Levi).

After a lengthy prologue, we get to meet Billy for the first time, he is going through a rough time, he literally lost his mother when young and has been shuffled between foster care parents his entire young life.

Meanwhile in a cave somewhere…. a weakening “Wizard” Djimon Hounsou stands at the “Rock Of Eternity”. He has been searching for someone pure of heart in the human race for some time to transfer his powers to, good luck with that. He runs a bit short on time when the various mystical statues representing the seven deadly Sins: Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath and Sloth start to wake up.

In desperation he chooses Billy as a last resort.

When Billy finds that by saying “Shazam” he has a Swiss army knife selection of super powers at his disposal, he slowly unearths what they are, helped by his new foster buddy  “Freddy Freeman” (Jack Dylan Grazer).

This sequence is arguably the best in the movie as Billy and Freddy work out what he can and can’t do. Aided of course by the seemingly obligatory 7-11 robbery where firearms are used, god bless America.

Director David F. Sandberg manages to sneak in a message about what makes a family and being true to those that truly care about you. However, every superhero needs a nemesis and “Dr. Sivana” (Mark Strong) enters stage left with a fairly large chip on his superpower enhanced shoulder and many scores to settle.

Levi manages to find the right light touch for this material, channeling an inner Tom Hanks from “Big”, a film subtlety referenced within the movie. Angel does enough but is a little bland, but Grazer stands out as having screen presence and no doubt we will see him again.

As you would expect, Strong brings his usual persona to the film albeit in nasty villain “lite” mode to obtain the required rating. The effects are top notch though nothing groundbreaking and naturally DC/Warner Bros, manage to get in as many merchandising references to other characters as the running time allows.

As usual the film descends into the obligatory superhero smash and crash CG enhanced finale. When will superheroes learn that throwing indestructible people into walls and the buildings has no effect, it just makes a mess.

Summary

Whilst not pushing the superhero boundaries or moving the genre forward too much, this a fun film which indicates DC can find the right tone on occasion.

A good clean family orientated film unlikely to offend anyone and provides a solid two hours entertainment, although unlikely to create a new franchise.