Distributed by Warner Bros., it is the first feature film dedicated to the DC Comics superhero and brings with it a series of firsts and "first times", starting from the story of the character.
Editorial history of Shazam!
After making his debut in 1940 for Fawcett Comics under the name of Captain Marvel, he quickly became the most popular superhero of the decade, selling multiple copies of Batman and Superman and even earning a charge of plagiarism from the latter's publishing house. Not surprisingly, given the success, he was also the first to have his own live-action in 1941, going from the pages to the screen with the episode series Adventures of Captain Marvel. Following the acquisition by DC Comics in 1972, he had to change his name due to the homonymy with the character of the competition (now registered trademark).
Direction, dubbing and casting of Shazam!
The director is David F. Sandberg, struggling with his first film of a genre other than horror and among the executive producers there is also Dwayne Johnson.
As for the Italian dubbing, however, the superhero is the first protagonist in the cinema to have the voice of our Maurizio Merluzzo.
There are many old acquaintances that appear in the film: in addition to having recalled from Asgard Zachary Levi to play Shazam, we find the impeccable Mark Strong (formerly Sinestro in the more than forgettable Green Lantern) in the role of Dr. Sivana, a well disguised Djimon Hounsou (veteran of Guardiani della galassia, Aquaman and, ironically, just Captain Marvel) and John Glover (Lionel Luthor in Smallville). There are also numerous references to other superheroes of the DC universe, between objects and arrows, up to a small cameo on the ending.
Plot of Shazam!
William "Billy" Batson is a XNUMX-year-old from Philadelphia who bounces from one foster family to the next, often getting into trouble while desperately trying to find his natural mother.
Arrived in the Vasquez family, he met the other five boys entrusted to the couple: Mary, Eugene, Pedro, Darla and Frederick ("Freddy"). Although some of them repeatedly try to build a relationship with Billy, he is unable to settle down or feel at home. Freddy, forced to walk on a crutch because of a motor disability, is targeted by two schoolmates and Billy witnesses the beating. After intervening in defense of the "brother" and having escaped from the bullies taking refuge in the subway, he finds himself catapulted to the Rock of Eternity, a place at the center of space and time. Here dwells Shazam, the last of the Council of the Seven Magicians, for some time in search of a pure champion of heart to whom to hand down his powers and the responsibility to defend the world from the Seven Deadly Sins.
The new Billy
Thanks to the encounter with the magician, Billy gets skills that activate (transforming him into the adult version of himself) as soon as he speaks the word Shazam, an acronym for the names of the Greek myths from which these characteristics derive: the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules (Hercules), the courage of Achilles, the power of Zeus, the resistance of Atlas and the speed of Mercury.
And this is where Billy relies on Freddy and his passion for superheroes, getting help to discover the extent of his powers, mostly used to get views on YouTube, raise some money and buy beers. Over time and with the help of his friend, he realizes that he has responsibilities and finds himself having to face his nemesis: Dr. Sivana.
To restore order, Billy will need to learn to rely on his family.
The underlying message of the film is the importance of the family in personal development and, as it may seem an almost trivial theme, here it has been made clear, powerful but never heavy.
We are shown 3 very different family models: the diminishing and prevaricating one of Dr. Sivana, the absent one from Billy and the non-biological one from Freddy. In the film you can see how a different family context influences the behavior of the various characters and it is noted that the only positive example is brought about by non-blood ties, to underline that they are not necessary to feel at home.
Personally, I found inclusiveness in the Vasquez family well balanced: despite the presence of different ethnic groups and also the disability, this variety never becomes the centerpiece of the film and is not necessarily ostentatious.
Pros of Shazam!
In my opinion, among the DC cinecomics who followed i Batman of Nolan, we are faced with a rare and quite unexpected pearl. Despite the linear plot that takes up and remodels the classic paradigm of the fantasy adventure story for children, the film has succeeded in its goal of entertaining the viewer by making them reflect between a laugh and another. In this regard, Freddy's reasoning on the choice between invisibility and the ability to fly is interesting, above all because it is done by a boy who is often invisible and who tries in every way to attract attention to himself. The comic tempos are also really good, in my opinion even better than those of Guardiani della galassia.
The work of Zachary Levi and Mark Strong
Excellent choice of Zachary Levi in the role of the protagonist: thanks to his clean face and his comic vein, he manages to credibly make the behavior of a boy in the body of an adult. The physical transformation of the actor is also appreciable, subjected to training 5/6 days a week and to an iron diet to achieve the muscle mass required for the film.
Always impeccable Mark Strong, who manages to characterize a villain not particularly thick but well written and still demanding for Billy, who is not yet able to fully use his powers.
A note of merit also goes to the animated short film that accompanies the end credits: what deceives the wait for the second scene post-credits better than seeing Batman in his underwear and the other DC superheroes ridiculed?
Defects of Shazam!
Wanting to find defects, I find they are all to be found in the discontinuity of some aspects.
There is a big jump between the teenage Billy (enterprising, shy, serious and a little cynical) and that of his adult alter-ego, much more sparkling but also fearful and insecure, perhaps precisely because trapped in a body that is not still able to dominate. From this perspective, it can also be a sensible choice, although I do not explain the different colored eyes.
The pace starts very slowly and then accelerates sharply and reaches a final fight which is perhaps a little too long, in the film's economy, while still remaining enjoyable. A greater balance would have been preferable.
Even the CGI of Deadly Sins is a bit of a dancer: there are moments in which they are almost sketchy and, in general, it is difficult to distinguish them from each other due to poor characterization.
Shazam! it's a nice surprise: a well-written film, carefully directed and interpreted by actors more than equal, including Asher Angel (known face of Disney Channel) in the role of the young Billy. The plot is simple but effective and the message comes loud and clear, without being cloying. The cliffhanger in the scene after the titles it suggests a sequel, even if it is not said that DC wants to resurrect the project of the expanded universe instead of continuing with the monographic films.
In conclusion, as far as I'm concerned, Shazam! it was really ... love at first sight.
[Have you read Captain Marvel's review yet? You can find it Thu!]