There are a lot of people (and I include myself among the group) whose response to any super-hero movie has always been ‘are they kidding?’ How could anybody relate the wham-bam super-hero drivel to their own life? I marvelled at Marvel’s publishing triumph when they were just doing comics, and was resentful rather than surprised when the company started rolling in the mega-bucks when it moved on to the big screen (and, in the process, proving conclusively that cinema’s most lucrative demographic was the 18–25-year-old bloke). I still think that the super-hero flick is a crushing bore, but the tendency for them to be self-aware in a tongue-in-cheek manner as in Kick Ass or Deadpool has made them a little more watchable and made me wonder – were they always this camp, and did I just not get it? I mean, for starters, look at the gay Mardi Gras outfits! Somebody somewhere will be researching a paper about the close relationship between the super-hero movie and repressed homosexuality, but in the meantime this latest instalment of men-in-tights is an interesting indicator of the direction in which the genre is heading. DC Extended Universe (a franchise under the auspices of Warner Bros) has carried the light-hearted approach even further with this often funny if childish adventure. It begins dodgily with a flashback before arriving in the present day – I struggled for a while to join the dots. It turns out that these introductory scenes are intended to reveal the deprived childhood that both the hero, Shazam (the highly likeable Zachary Levi) and his dastardly rival, Dr Thaddaeus Sivana (Mark Strong) experienced. Shazam is different, because he is a teenager transformed by a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) into the body of a man, but without the intellectual maturity. It is a good idea, and it works pretty well. The mandatory action sequences are no more than par for the course, but the film’s levity is a refreshing counter to the likes of the wise-cracking Ironman.
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