Shazam!: Loveable but lacklustre CGI

Chosen family: The relationship between Billy Batson and Freddy is what classic bromances are made of.

Chosen family: The relationship between Billy Batson and Freddy is what classic bromances are made of.   | Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie

DC’s attempt at a laugh-out-loud superhero film would soar high and fast if not for its disappointing special effects

So far, a DC film has been about building a broody atmosphere (Suicide Squad) or incredibly ambitious visual effects (Aquaman). The DC extended universe (DECU) efforts have largely been serious movies with too little levity. For the first time, director David F. Sandberg presents a bag of tricks, one that is really heavy with humour. The latest from the DC camp, Shazam! completely turns DECU’s principals on its collective head. It’s commendable for being a first but also because Sandberg’s previous work has been solely in the horror realm with Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation.

  • Director: David F. Sandberg
  • Cast: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou
  • Storyline: When a teenager receives magical superpowers, he ends up having to fight seven deadly monsters to save the world

With Shazam!, Sandberg delivers a young superhero film generously laced with comedy and a heartwarming crux to boot. A silly origin story is cleverly balanced with real world problems, and so many ‘aww’-inducing moments. It’s an effective well-rounded formula that has worked for DC’s competition up till now. A young foster kid — battling with abandonment — receives magical abilities from a wizard but has to battle the seven deadly sins to save the world. At the centre of the film, is the universal desire for familial love but before the tear ducts are stimulated, Sandberg has already gone through plenty of zingers.

In standard DC fare, Shazam! initially starts off shaky, unable to fully draw us in. Asher Angel as a young Billy Batson plays into the delinquent foster kid brilliantly. But it’s Zachary Levi’s turn as the Batson’s transformed 30-something uber buff superhero that definitely steals everyone’s thunder (and lightening). Levi — known for his geek-cute turn in Chuck and the suave doctor from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel — does a fantastic job in retaining his character’s child-like glee, excitement and even fear. The sheer incongruency of his juvenile emotions presented by a jacked physical exterior alone supplies plenty of humour. But Sandberg continues to deliver (humorous) blow after another. The relationship between Batson and his differently-abled foster brother, Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) is what classic, if somewhat reluctant, bromances are made of. Though Shazam!’s highs far exceed its lows, the disappointment is hard hitting. In 2019, it’s downright unacceptable to present shoddy CGI effects in a film, especially one that’s backed by ginormous big studio budgets. Mark Strong couldn’t completely manifest his supervillain Thaddeus Sivana’s evilness. But the seven deadly sins that inhabit the antagonist have a physical manifestation that’s more suspect than scary. Hilariously, the creatures’ taloned claws seize their human victims with grips looser than out-of-style anti-fit jeans that sit well below its wearer’s posterior.

The film’s climax, though exceptionally sweet, cannot level up to the larger-than-life superhero finales we’re accustomed to. Yet, it paves the way for a future franchise that will be just as enjoyable, if not more, as the rest of the DC offering. Just fix the CGI first, please.

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Printable version | May 23, 2020 3:42:16 AM |

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