Despite the negativity often aimed them DC just keep on surprising the film-loving public. First Wonder Woman shocked people at just how good it was, then Aquaman exceeded expectations. Now the same has happened with Shazam! which has critics right around the world raving about it and even comparing it to the kind of film that Steven Spielberg would make. That is music to the ears of director David F.Sandberg who previously is mainly known for his work on horror movies such as Annabelle: Creation and Lights Out.
“Every kid dreams about being Superman and this is basically a kid who gets to become Superman,” says Sandberg explaining the basis of Shazam! “But he doesn’t just get the super-powers he also becomes an adult so in a way it is being big with super-powers so it is even better.”
The film also explores a different way for Billy Baston to get his powers – there are no radioactive spiders at play here. “That is one of the big differences,” says Sandberg. “There is the aspect that his power comes from magic – it’s like Superman who is an alien or Wonder Woman who is this Amazonian. It is actually magic that is real and he gets his power from a wizard. It makes this world a little more unique. “
One of the most interesting characters in the film is that of Freddy who is Billy’s best friend and it is obvious hearing Sandberg speak that this was also one of his favourite characters to bring to life. “Freddy is this super-hero expert that Shazam needs because he has been turned into a superhero but he didn’t get a manual,” he says laughing. “Freddy has to kind of act as his manual… as his learning tool because he knows he has to do these tests. He is all like ‘we have to test if you have super strength, let’s see if you have super speed or if you are invincible. We have to test all these things’ and you get to see that. We get to see them partly having fun but also testing what powers Shazam has.”
Sandberg also explains the back story that places Billy on his path of becoming Shazam which is one of the most heartfelt parts of the film. “Billy was separated from his mother when he was very young – about three or four,” he explains. “Billy beings to realise that family is not about blood, it is about bond. And he finds a new family in this movie and he finds his home even though it is not the home that he thought it was.”
Of course though in every superhero movie there also has to be a villain, and in Shazam! that villain is Dr. Sivana played brilliantly by Mark Strong. “Dr. Sivana is an interesting character because of how much we can sympathise with him,” says Sandberg as he tries to explain why Sivana is different to most villains. “He was a kid who almost got the chance to be a superhero but he failed and couldn’t do it so he has been obsessing about it. He is played by Mark Strong who is just a fantastic actor and you know I was talking to him about this role and he was just so delighted about getting to play this ultimate villain.”
Shazam! opens in cinemas today.