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Film Review: ‘Us’ — Jordan Peele’s gripping, gory second act

Film Review: ‘Us’ — Jordan Peele’s gripping, gory second act

DUBAI: Actor Zachary Levi had given up hope of ever wearing a cape.

“At 38 years old, I thought I’d missed my chance to play a bona fide superhero,” the US film star told Arab News.

Levi had already tasted Marvel action as the character Fandral in both “Thor” sequels but “didn’t feel like that was the full experience I’d hoped for.”

Now his dream has come true, with Levi playing the title role in the latest DC Extended Universe film “Shazam!” which is fast-becoming one of the most highly rated superhero movies of the decade, dazzling preview audiences worldwide ahead of its April 4 release.

“I find it to be a bit shocking, because I look at my big goofy self and I can’t stand myself, but I’m an actor. We’re all super-insecure,” Levi said.

“Shazam!” tells the story of 14-year-old orphan Billy Batson, who gains the power to turn into a fully-grown superhero by shouting “Shazam!” while still remaining his young self on the inside. He seeks the guidance of a kid who knows Superman and Batman better than anyone, and together they help Billy become a true hero.  

The character first appeared in the early days of comics, and the film adaptation taps into the innocent spirit of the age that helped spawn the superhero genre.

“In the 1930s and 1940s, it was a simpler time. We were a much more innocent people and we were more galvanized against what we knew or saw to be evil. These characters started getting created, and they had much more purity about them,” said Levi.

Comics, of course, changed and most of DC’s output this decade, including “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad,” were inspired by the grittier, darker days of comic books from years later.

“Life and the world got a little muddier. People weren’t buying comics in the same way, and they needed to find more gritty, interesting, and different takes to keep people interested,” Levi added. “But to have a classic, good-hearted boy scout trying to do good in the world, classic good versus evil, is what I’ve always looked for in comics.”

“Shazam!” is not just inspired by the early days of superheroes — it draws on the comedies and adventure films of the 1980s and references some directly, such as the Tom Hanks classic, “Big.”

“When we’re in the Rock of Eternity and we’re running around with the kids, I was like, oh, this feels very ‘Goonies.’ People of the 1980s are going to feel those types of moments — kids working together to achieve a greater good and figure out the problem,” he said.

Levi did not have to refer back to those classic 1980s films to find inspiration for his performance. “I’m a child of the 1980s. People ask, did you watch ‘Big’ to research this? No, I watched ‘Big’ a million times — it was already in me.”

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