December 3, 2021

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[Review] Shazam! is it the love at first sight that the DCEU was missing?

Shazam! in a word, the superhero succeeds in convincing and changes the situation for the DCEU. The goal of this teen movie is to make people laugh and we can say that it is successful.

Created in 1940 by CC Beck and Bill Parker, Shazam was known to DC fans as Captain Marvel until 2011. One who possesses the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury, has been renamed to avoid confusion with its namesake at the House of Ideas.

The plot is simple. It only takes one word to 14-year-old Billy Batson to become an indestructible superhero capable of the greatest feats. This hero in spite of himself, will have to protect humanity from the 7 deadly sins. So far nothing very innovative, the feature film uses the codes of the superhero film. We find ourselves once again facing the figure of the chosen one who has no other choice but to embrace his destiny. Although it is based on a storytelling as old as the world, the film works well and you don’t lose the viewer in the depths of a convoluted narrative.

Like many films in the genre, Shazam is interested in family themes, but sometimes stays too on the surface. The integration of Billy in a foster family brings a dose of freshness to the story, without taking the place that should be his. The film is more of a teen movie than a family drama and it is also its strength. The writers made some interesting choices in the plot that could be exploited in a second installment (not announced by DC).

The beginnings of the DCEU were not without a hitch. With one critically wiped out Batman V Superman and two nearly invisible Supermans, the cinematic universe had taken a definitely dark turn that didn’t please viewers. And when the company decided to make a comedy, it got miserably tripped up with Suicide Squad . But the Aquaman monster has revived the machine with Shazam in its wake. The film has made humor its selling point, with trailers and exclusive extracts. Full of references to the world of comics, it fully assumes its form and looks like a Proust madeleine, like the Goonies. The humor is schoolboy, but it works. We still regret that the film does not push the joke to the point of making a reference to the homonymous music application, we would have done it …

To play a child trapped in an adult body is not an easy thing and only a few big names in the cinema have done it successfully. We think in particular of Tom Hanks in Big , who is also entitled to his little wink in the film. Levi succeeds hands down and makes us laugh with his sometimes nonchalant, sometimes arrogant attitude. It is found as good as in Chuck , the series which makes it known to the general public. Small shadow on the board, his child alter ego (Asher Angel) does not shine on the screen and sometimes turns into pathos. The figure of the tormented teenager annoys. Fortunately, Jack Dylan Grazer, who plays Billy’s best friend, saves everything and seduces us with his spontaneity.

If the characters of Billy and Freddy are interesting, the one who unfortunately cannot convince is Mark Strong. His incarnation of Doctor Sivana is bland, and when he appears on screen, Strong doesn’t frighten anyone, not even the characters. The antagonist, a little too talkative, does not find his place in the story. And the rare moments when he has to use humor are not funny enough to forget the weakness of the character.

On the production side, it was David F. Sandberg who had the heavy task of adapting the comics to the cinema. The director of Annabelle 2 has taken no risks and delivers a very conventional whole. If Zack Snyder was not unanimous, we must recognize that the director had a taste for framing, which seems to have abandoned Sandberg. Cities often central to DC storytelling, Gotham as a city of utterly black debauchery, and luminous Metropolis are a long way off. In the movie Philadelphia looks like a grayish metropolis without any interest. The blandness of the decorations contrasts with the garish colors of the costumes. The result is far from memorable and the CGI sometimes stings the eyes, especially in air combat.