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Shazam! (2019)


Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

4K UHD Released: 7/16/2019


All Ratings out of

Movie: ½





Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/12/2019


As we move through 2019, it’s quite obvious that the onslaught of movies based on comic books is not going to end.  With this continuing trend, it’s not surprising that Marvel and DC have moved through the more prominent and well-known characters and are now trotting out figures which aren’t exactly household names.  And some of the titles which have come out of woodwork don’t scream obvious ideas.  (Who would have thought that there would have been not one, but two Ant-Man movies…and that they’d both be really good?)  The good news is that the studios aren’t treating these JV characters as second-class citizens, and they’ve put money and talent into these movies.  Shazam! is a name which is familiar to a certain generation, but probably means nothing to most viewers.  Can the film rise above the usual DC fare?


Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a desperate adolescent who spends his time running away from foster homes, while attempting to find his birth-mother.  After being picked up by the police, Billy is sent to live with Victor (Cooper Andrews) and Rosa (Marta Milans), and meets his new roommate, Freddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), a young man who is obsessed with superheroes.  While riding on the subway, Billy is suddenly whisked away to a cave, where he meets a Wizard (Djimon Hounsou), who offers Billy super-powers.  Billy reluctantly accepts and finds himself transformed into Shazam, a super-hero, who is also a 30-something man (Zachary Levi).  Confused by this transformation, Billy turns to Freddie for help, and his new friend helps him explore his powers.  Billy sees this change as a way to find his mom and make money.  What he doesn’t know is that Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong) was once rejected by the Wizard and is desperate to get his own super-powers and find a way to stop Shazam.


You don’t have to have seen a lot of DC movies to know that they are dark.  Not just visually dark, but dark in spirit as well.  You watch something like Batman V Superman and think, jeez, lighten up, brother.  Sure, some of the Marvel films, like Avengers: Endgame don’t leave a dry eye, but they also have bright colors and light moments.  As DC has watched Marvel run circles around them at the box-office, the movie-going public has waited for them to finally face facts and change their approach.  This clearly started with Aquaman and it’s continued with Shazam!


In fact, Shazam! is such an about face from the other films in the DCU, that it’s nearly unrecognizable.  (And please note that this movie is from New Line Films and not Warner Bros.)  For starters, the tone goes beyond light at times and wanders into being a full-blown comedy.  There are laugh-out-loud moments here and the movie doesn’t shy away from wanting to be…wait for it…fun.  Levi may not be the obvious choice to play a superhero, but he’s perfect in the role of a teenager who is inhabiting the body of a man.  His goofiness feels very organic, as does his confusion over his new skills.  The movie also places an emphasis on family which borders on being schmaltzy, but is a welcome change to the bleak tone usually found in these movies.  The film has also moved away from DCs insistence that everyone wear armor, as Shazam has a fairly standard-looking superhero suit, while Dr. Sivana goes for a more low-ley look.


But, don’t assume that Shazam! is all fun-and-games.  DC hasn’t moved completely into the light, as we get some fairly gruesome moments here.  Nothing which pushes the boundaries of the PG-13 rating, but at least two scenes will most likely be too intense for the little ones.  Dr. Sivana works with the seven deadly sins, which are represented here as a group of monsters.  While their grey appearance leaves much to be desired, a few of them are pretty gross-looking.  (It would be very easy to blame these aspects of the film on Director David F. Sandberg, whose background is in horror movies.)


When compared to something like Justice League, Shazam! is certainly a breath of fresh air.  However, the movie is not without its faults, the most notable being the length.  A good 30 minutes could have been cut out of this movie and it wouldn’t have had a huge impact on the story.  The film wants to have a light, breezy feel, but the bloated nature puts a true damper on this.  The other big problem is the banal nature of the story.  Yes, all superhero origin movies have the same sort of vibe, but Shazam! feels especially rote.  Still, there’s no denying that the movie has some fun moments and the cast is very charming.  This could be a good option for those who are ready to give up on superhero movies and are looking for something which doesn’t take itself too seriously.


Shazam! offers a very funny real estate office scene on 4K UHD courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.  The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 70 Mbps.  The picture is very sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials.  Colors play a huge role here, and the hues look fantastic, and the image is never overly dark or bright.  There are some darker moments, but the blacks look true and the action is always visible.  The depth works quite well and the level of detail is superior.  The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.5 Mbps.  The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  There are some notably good surround sound effects here, which show off a knack for isolating individual sounds and showing deliberate placement in the rear channels.  The subwoofer is very effective in the action sequences, offers an ooph! to every punch.  The stereo effects nicely highlight sounds coming from off-screen.


The extra features for Shazam! are found on the Blu-ray Disc included here.  “Superhero Hooky” (4 minutes) is an animated comic book which should not be watched before viewing the film, as it includes serious spoilers.  “The Magical World of Shazam!” (27 minutes) is a detailed making-of featurette which really delves into the planning of the film and how it was shot.  We see rehearsal footage, on-set footage, storyboards, and pre-visualization.  “Super Fun Zac” (3 minutes) offers an interview with the actor, as well as comments from others on what it was like to work with him.  The Disc contains sixteen DELETED & ALTERNATE SCENES which run about 37 minutes and can be viewed with or without introductions by Director Sandberg.  There are no new characters or subplots here, but there are some scenes which were completely re-shot for the film, and these are interesting.  Plus, there are some new funny moments.  This is followed by a 3-minute GAG REEL.  “Who is Shazam?” (6 minutes) provides a history of the character, providing a look at some classic comics.  “Carnival Scene Study” (10 minutes) takes us on set to see the work which went into creating the center-piece of the third act.  “Shazamily Values” (6 minutes) offers interviews with the actors who played the kids (and their alter-egos) in the film.

Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long