Friday, January 24, 2020
Based on the DC Comics series by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck, Shazam! is the story of a teenage boy who meets a wizard who grants him powers to become a superhero to deal with a man who is also given the powers featuring the 7 Deadly Sins. Directed by David F. Sandberg and screenplay by Henry Gayden from a story by Gayden and Darren Lemke, the film is a superhero/coming-of-age film of sorts where a boy says a word that would turn him into a superhero as he deals with not just who he is but also the idea of family as he gets adopted into a kind-loving home with five different adopted siblings. Starring Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Djimon Hounsou as the Wizard/Shazam. Shazam! is a witty and heartwarming film from David F. Sandberg.
The film revolves around a teenage kid looking for his birth mother as an encounter with bullies lead him to meet a mysterious wizard who gives him the power to become a superhero by saying a magic word in the hopes he can defeat another man who has gained entry into the Rock of Eternity as he is accompanied by the forces known as the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man. It’s a film that has a simple premise yet it is really about a man and a boy who both encountered magic as they’re also lost due to the fact that they never had a family. Henry Gayden’s screenplay opens with a sequence set in 1974 where a young boy named Thaddeus Sivana (Ethan Pugiotto) would encounter the mysterious wizard known as Shazam who offers the boy the chance to become a hero yet the young Thaddeus is tempted by the Eye of Sin making him unworthy of the powers. The event would later cause a car accident that would paralyze his father as the older Thaddeus (Mark Strong) becomes obsessed with finding entry to the Rock of Eternity as he would eventually gain the Eye of Sin and defeat the Wizard unleashing monsters of the Seven Deadly Sins.
Around the time the older Thaddeus gains the Eye of Sin and its monsters, a teenage boy named Billy Baston (Asher Angel) is a foster-child in Philadelphia searching for his biological mother as he’s taken to another foster home run by Victor and Rosa Vasquez (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans, respectively) where he shares the home with five other foster children in the college-bound Mary Bromfield (Grace Fulton), the obsessive gaming/tech enthusiast Eugene Choi (Ian Chen), the shy and sensitive Pedro Pena (Jovan Armand), the youngest in Darla Dudley (Faithe Herman), and the superhero enthusiast Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) who walks with a crutch as he’s often the target for bullies. It is Billy defending Freddy from the bullies and an ensuing chase that would get him to meet the Wizard who gives him the powers to become the hero mainly for the goodness in Billy’s heart as well as hoping to defend the honor of the siblings that the Wizard lost many years ago due to Eye of Sin.
One of the strengths of the script isn’t just this duality between Sivana and Baston in their encounters with the wizard but what they are able to do with the powers they’re given. Though Baston admits to the Wizard that he’s not pure of heart, his willingness to at least stand up for his adopted family as well as at least wanting to reunite with his mother at least show someone who is a good person. Sivana’s motivations is someone who never felt love from his father and older brother as his obsession for magic makes him wanting to lash out at his family but also crave power with the help of the monsters of the Seven Deadly Sins. The script also shows that when Baston becomes Shazam, he is given these powers but he uses it for money and mischief until he gets Sivana’s attention as he deals with the fact that he has to face off with someone who is powerful and wanting to kill him and anyone else trying to protect him.
David F. Sandberg’s direction is definitely full of exuberance in its tone while also bringing in some dark material as it relates to Sivana and his powers. Though the film is set largely in Philadelphia during the Christmas holidays, it is shot largely on location in Toronto as Philadelphia where it play into the misadventures of Baston but also a boy just trying to find a home. Sandberg does use some wide and medium shots to establish the locations but he also create some unique compositions that do have an air of simplicity into how Baston copes with his situation or how he interact with his adopted siblings. Even as there’s these bits of drama that showcases each of his siblings and who they are as well as Shazam would interact with a few of them such as Darla who immediately discovers Shazam’s true identity once he turns back to Baston. Sandberg also maintains a light-hearted tone such as a montage of Shazam learning what kind of powers he has as there is also an air of innocence for the fact that Shazam is really a young teenager who wants to know what it’s like to drink beers and go to strip clubs.
Sandberg doesn’t just play into this innocence but also the selfishness that teenagers go through as Shazam isn’t aware of the fact that just because he has superpowers doesn’t mean he can just show them off. He also has to take responsibility once he meets Sivana as it would lead to the third act where Baston has some revelations about what happened to him as a child as it relates to his mother and what happened the day he got lost from his mother. It would be a moment where Baston has to learn the true idea of family but also show exactly what kind of man Sivana is as someone who may have powers and the monsters of the Seven Deadly Sins. The film’s climax that has Shazam vs. Sivana and his army as it has this mixture of action, adventure, and humor. Most notably in who Shazam gets to help him fight as there are these small bits of innocence that occur but also moments that make fun of typical clichés expected in superhero films. Overall, Sandberg crafts an exhilarating yet enchanting film about a kid who becomes a superhero by saying a magic word. Cinematographer Maxime Alexandre does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography the low-key and dark colors of the Rock of Eternity lair that the Wizard lives in as well as the world that Sivana is surrounded by to the more colorful look and wintery lighting of Baston and his family. Editor Michel Aller does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward in some parts while knowing when not to deviate into chaotic editing style for the action as it does let shots linger on as well as bring in some style in a montage sequence where Shazam tests his powers. Production designer Jennifer Spence, with set decorator Shane Vieau plus art directors Brandt Gordon and Colin Woods, does amazing work with the look of the Rock of Eternity as well as the home Baston and his adopted siblings live in. Costume designer Leah Butler does fantastic work with the clothes that Sivana wears as well as the clothes of Baston and his siblings and the suit he wears when he’s Shazam.
Prosthetics makeup designer Steve Newburn does terrific work with the look of Sivana with his eye as well as the look of the Wizard. Special effects supervisors Mark Lawton and Cameron Waldbauer, with visual effects supervisors Mike Wassel, Carey Villegas, and Kelvin McIlwain, do incredible work with the visual effects from the design of the monsters as well as in the special effects to play into Shazam’s powers. Sound designers Bill R. Dean and Erick Ocampo do superb work with the sound as it play into the powers both Shazam and Sivana have as well as some of the places the characters go to. The film’s music by Benjamin Wallfisch is marvelous for its bombastic orchestral score with themes that soar into the sense of adventure and humor while music supervisor Season Kent provides a fun soundtrack of music that feature pieces from Queen, Natalie Cole, Warrant, the Ramones, Bing Crosby, Calvin Harris with Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, & Big Sean, Bruno Mars, Cheap Shot, Dean Martin, Survivor, Twenty One Pilots, Niall Horan, and Naughty by Nature.
The casting by Rich Delia is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from the voices of Steve Blum, Darin De Paul, and Fred Tatasciore as the monsters of the Seven Deadly Sins, Andi Ohso as a social worker in Emma Glover, Lotta Lotsen as Sivana’s researcher Dr. Lynn Crosby, Wayne Ward and Landon Doak in their respective roles as the adult and teenage version of Sivana’s older brother Sid, Carson MacCormac and Evan Marsh in their respective roles as the school bullies in Brett and Burke Breyer, Caroline Palmer as Billy’s mother Marilyn in a flashback scene and in a key scene in the third act, David Kohlsmith as the four-year old Billy Baston, Ethan Pugiotto as the young Thaddeus Sivana, and John Glover as Sivana’s cruel father who treats him like shit in the film’s opening sequence as well as being cold to him in a sequence where Sivana confronts him. Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans are terrific in their respective roles as Victor and Rosa Vasquez as foster parents who are good people trying to give Billy and his adopted siblings a good home as well as being really kind people.
Ian Chen and Jovan Armand are superb in their respective roles as Billy’s foster brothers in Eugene Choi and Pedro Pena with the former as gamer and tech enthusiast who is also a skilled hacker while the latter is a shy and sensitive kid having a hard time opening up as he doesn’t say much but is always helpful. Faithe Herman is fantastic as the youngest foster sibling in Darla Dudley as a sweet young girl who likes to cook while is also someone that is full of innocence and sees the good in people. Grace Fulton is excellent as Mary Bromfield as the oldest foster sibling who is bound for college yet is devoted to her family as she is willing to protect them. Jack Dylan Grazer is brilliant as Freddy Freeman as Billy’s foster sibling who is a superhero enthusiast as he helps Shazam understand his powers while trying to deal with his own disabilities and desire to have what Billy has as Shazam.
Djimon Hounsou is amazing as the Wizard who is called Shazam as a man of great power and magic who gives Billy his powers in the hopes that Billy can defeat Sivana and bring hope to the world. Mark Strong is remarkable as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana as a man obsessed with his encounter with the Wizard as a kid where he finally gains access where he aligns himself with the monsters of the Seven Deadly Sins in the hope he can get Shazam’s powers to rule everything and everyone. Asher Angel is incredible as Billy Baston as a teenage kid trying to find his mother but is also reluctant to be part of a family only to realize what the Vasquez and his adopted siblings could give him. Finally, there’s Zachary Levi in a phenomenal performance as Shazam as Billy’s adult alter-ego who is a ball of energy and enthusiasm as someone trying to understand his powers but also what it means to be powerful and use them for good as Levi provides that air of innocence and exuberance that the character is about.
Shazam! is a tremendous film from David F. Sandberg. Featuring a great ensemble cast, a witty and lighthearted tone, a dazzling music score, and colorful visuals. It is a superhero film that doesn’t take itself seriously while showcasing some strong themes on family, power, and the idea of being a hero. In the end, Shazam! is a spectacular film from David F. Sandberg.
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