Out of all the releases in the DC Cinematic Universe thus far, Shazam! is easily the most enjoyable. While Wonder Woman remains the best modern DC film to date, the latest outing isn’t far behind. As the superhero genre’s equivalent to the classic movie Big, Shazam! is one of the rare films within the genre that remains a comedy first and foremost. Although it’s not original by any means, it’s still a refreshing take on a genre that is becoming increasingly rote. More importantly, the film has a unique sense of propulsive momentum that that gives it tons of energy and life. Despite this, the film’s biggest asset it the earnest spirit of heart that it brings to the storytelling. As it turns out, the key to making a different kind of superhero movie is to hire a horror-oriented director.
Just as WB did with James Wan and Aquaman, Swedish indie horror director David F. Sandberg helms the studio’s latest outing. Sandberg has proven to have a knack for crafting compelling stories and Shazam! continues this trend by proving that he is the perfect filmmaker to realize the project. He manages to strike a perfect tonal balance that makes the film feel mostly light and fluffy while never sacrificing the inherent drama within a given situation. Sandberg brings enough stylization to the action and framing that makes it distinctive, while never getting in the way to the story. Overall, the film brings an excellent sense of pacing and chemistry to the table. Even though the premise and the direction take Shazam! a long way, it’s the casting that ultimately makes the film so enjoyable.
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It should go without saying that Zachary Levi is the perfect person to play the titular character. Asher Angel makes an impression by holding the dramatic weight of the story together. It’s Jack Dylan Grazer’s star-making performance that steals the show. It’s true that Freddy often gets some of the best comedic moments in the script, but be also brings a decent amount of depth to what could have been a nothing character. If there’s one disappointment, it’s that Mark Strong’s Dr. Sivana kind of falls apart on multiple viewings. Even though Sivana’s arc doesn’t hold up well on repeat viewings, the movie does an excellent job of humanizing these characters in general. While the third act of Shazam! is still enjoyable, it becomes increasingly overstuffed. There’s so much happening that the film has trouble focusing focus on the many elements that the plot is juggling.
Despite this, it’s ultimately a sweet movie, which helps it to overcome some of these pitfalls. One of the most appealing aspects of a film like Shazam! is how old school it feels in execution. Although there’s naturally some VFX work involved, it’s evident that the filmmakers tried to use practical filmmaking whenever possible. It features not only smart storytelling but also writing that plays against expectations in the most clever of ways. More than this, Shazam! Represents wish fulfillment in the best kind of way, which is all we can ask for out of a movie like this one. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, which makes watching the film a super breezy experience – even if it’s by no means a perfect movie. If you’re looking for an expanded take on Shazam!, you can find my original review here.
Although the film isn’t the most visually stunning superhero movie ever made, Shazam! plays with some exciting visual ideas. Shot in 3.4K ARRIRAW format, this 4K presentation suggests a slight upscale from its native format, but not enough to make a significant difference. The film’s original aspect ratio of 2.39:1 is preserved, along with its Dolby Vision theatrical mastering. In terms of contrast, Dolby Vision is a big winner on this disc. The blacks remain rich, while whites remain pure – especially with Shazam’s cape. While contrast boosted massively in the 4K version, the film’s color spectrum is drastically enhanced by the disc’s Dolby Vision capabilities, especially in the third act. The red and yellow hues of the lead character’s suit also pop here, along with the heavy blue tones sprinkled throughout the film.
Brightness is excellent, and texture detail is acceptable for the HDR 10 pass. Sharpness is a highlight, especially in the few slow-motion moments throughout the film’s runtime. If there’s one complaint, it’s that some of the visual effects – specifically those concerning the Seven Deadly Sins – don’t hold up on a smaller screen. This is more of a nitpick than anything else, but it’s probably because these effects were rushed via reshoots. Otherwise, there’s no artifacting or banding to be found, which ultimately makes this 4K transfer a reliable representation of the film’s theatrical presentation.
The audio mix for the 4K UHD release of Shazam! includes it’s theatrically mastered Dolby Atmos track. While the requisite 7.1 track is also present for those without the setup, the Atmos Track is clearly the optimal track. Dialogue levels are spot-on, channel separation is excellent, and environmental ambience, in particular, is a highlight. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the mix is how effective the low ends are. This is particularly prevalent with the low, rumbling vocal performances of the Seven Deadly Sins. Similarly, surround elements are well spaced throughout, which makes the mix all the more immersive. The high ends play nicely as well, although there aren’t many opportunities for the track to showcase these.
While this writer wishes that the Atmos mix on this disc had a bit more girth overall, it’s a solid track nonetheless. With that said, it’s a pretty immersive mix – even if you have to crank the volume up a few decibels to get the desired effect. While not a particularly depthy mix, the finesse of the presentation makes up for that. The score by Benjamin Wallfisch integrates nicely into the mix, along with the various soundtrack choices. Despite a few small grumbles with the mix, this disc features a trustworthy track overall.
The Special Features
The special features for the home video release of Shazam! are delightful. Although the intro commentary on the deleted scenes is a nice touch, the fact that there’s no commentary on the film itself is the only thing holding this disc back form a better score in this department. Either way, the Shazam! Blu-ray holds a bounty of special features for fans to dig through. As per usual, the supplemental material for this disc can be found on the enclosed Blu-Ray copy.
Superhero Hooky (4:50; 1080p): An exclusive motion comic that takes place after the events of the film. It’s an amusing little story where Shazam tries to explain why he and his family were absent from school.
The Magical World of Shazam! (27:09; 1080p): is the easily the best piece of supplemental material on this disc. The extended featurette guides viewers through every facet of production. From hiring Sandberg and Levi to the brutal production conditions in Toronto, building a practical suit, as well as the post-production process, is covered. Using a mix of interview footage and b-roll, this could have easily been expanded to feature length. Beggars can’t be choosers, however, and this is the closest thing to a making-of documentary that we’ll get on the making of Shazam!
Super Fun Zac (3:19; 1080p): A short featurette that looks at Zachary Levi’s presence in the film and energy on set. Although this is light and fluffy, it features a bunch of moments featuring Levi being an absolute goofball while playing the titular character.
Deleted Scenes (37:27; 1080p): Features a boatload of unfinished or re-shot footage with optional audio intros from Sandberg. Whereas most collections of excised content are inconsequential, the deleted scenes on the Shazam! Blu-Ray is surprisingly significant. The fascinating thing with the deleted scenes here is that – besides the expanded material in the third act – Sivana’s storyline was completely reshot. Most of the removed material revolves around the changes made to the character, along with the roles of his father and brother eventually being recast in the final film.
There’s also a significant Steadicam shot introducing us to the family for the first film that landed on the cutting room floor. It’s a shame that this never saw the light of day, but as Sandberg explains, the scene ultimately plays out better using traditional coverage. Aside from this, the rest of the deleted scenes are mostly character-centric scenes in the first act that don’t affect the plot much. Interestingly, however, there is an exciting scene with the Shazamily called “Family on Thrones” that hints at a potential sequel with Black Adam. The fact that this isn’t included in the final cut is a bit of a head-scratcher.
- Wizard Prologue
- Alternate Beginning
- Billy on the Subway
- Alternate Intro To Group House
- Alternate Dr. Crosby and D. Sivana Interviews
- Billy Sneaks Out
- New School With Darla
- Sivana Christmas Party
- Shazam And Darla Tea Party
- Alternate Lightning With my Hands
- Additional Montage Beats
- Freddy Hung From Locker
- Alternate Carnival Fight
- Freddy Flies By Airplane
- Family On Thrones
- Alternate Ending Family Beats
Gag Reel (3:16; 1080p): A typical gag reel that features goofs and outtakes form the various cast members.
Who is Shazam? (5:42; 1080p): Takes a quick look at the history of the character, along with how that history inspired the film itself. It also takes a look at the origins of Dr. Sivana, as well as what makes Shazam so special.
Carnival Scene Study (10:23; 1080p): A great, in-depth exploration of how the filmmakers created the film’s third act set piece. Naturally, this featurette is b-roll heavy, which offers some great insight into all the work it takes to bring a sequence like this to life. It covers the stunt-heavy action sequence in full, which required over sixty different wire gags so shoot. From the blue screen/soundstage work and scenes shot on-location, to both the practical and visual effects, this is a fascinating look into the filmmaking process.
Shazamily Values (6:06; 1080p): A featurette that focuses on the members of the Shazamily, as well as casting their superhero counterparts. Even though it mostly consists of interview footage, there are a few tasty little tidbits of information spread throughout.
As a whole, this Blu-ray release of Shazam! is splendid. The picture is a technical highlight, while the sound mix is close behind. The special features are a pleasant surprise, especially considering that WB tends to skimp on the supplemental material. Although a few technical grumbles and the lack of a director’s commentary hold this back from being a genuinely great disc, it’s a stable release nevertheless. Overall, this disc from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment comes Recommended, especially if you’re a fan of the character of DC in general.