So I managed to get to the theater to see Shazam! recently. I went into this film with modest expectations. Let’s face it, DC isn’t exactly hitting home runs every time they come to the plate. We all know .300 is a good hitting average in baseball, but in film making, not so much.
I was delighted that they cast Zachary Levi in the lead role, that guy killed it in the sitcom, “Chuck” and Shazam! is not much of a character stretch from there. Knowing the basic premise of Shazam! from the comics and the campy 1970s TV show. I figured that the best bits would be early on as the teen boy explores his new full-grown persona. I expected the predictable villain showdown would be cheesy and anti-climatic. Although I was partially right, I was also very surprised to find that the ending and aforementioned inevitable villain showdown, was much better than expected. Avoiding a spoiler, the story dips into an oft used well to pull out a “win” for the hero, from an unlikely source of help.
This movie found clever ways to insert other famous DC superheroes humorously into the plot and managed to make fun of the genre with literal character call outs to villain monologue, capes, and other assorted superhero staples. This film isn’t going to knock out any of the top superhero movies on the list but it will wind up on the left side of the chart! It was in fact thoroughly entertaining, very funny, and surprisingly dark at times. Although this movie isn’t really suspenseful nor overly gory it is no G rated Disney event. One scene in particular strays deep into Batman / Punisher dark. Not that this is bad, just surprising considering the funny nature of the movie.
The cast in this one was well-chosen. Zachary Levi crushes the role of Billy Batson’s alter ego, leaving us laughing throughout the story and Asher Angel delivers as Billy. Mark Strong is no stranger to the villain role and he does a good job here, nothing spectacular, but good enough.
Minor spoiler ahead: The film did leave us with some unfinished plot business. Billy spends a fair bit of time questing to find his mother, yet in a scene where he finally does, it is not only anti-climatic (intentional) but empty and left us with too many unanswered questions (unlikely intentional) The scene was just forced and felt awkward and frankly should have been left on the cutting room floor.
This movie doesn’t rise to the level of Guardians of the Galaxy but it does do many things that emulate the number one film on my list. First, it doesn’t really take itself too seriously, second the title character is fun and the setup scenes are funny enough that you are laughing about them hours after the picture is over. That is always a good sign. The movie has a simple, even predictable plot, but it is so well executed that we, the audience doesn’t care that it is simple and predictable. The director doesn’t try to do too much, and that is what makes this a two run double in the ninth inning for the DC extended universe.
Some little known factoids about Shazam!. The character was originally called Captain Marvel way back in 1939 by the Golden Age company, Fawcett Comics. Billy Batson was a homeless newsboy offered the powers of the wizard. He utters the word “SHAZAM” as it is an acronym for Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. The character receives Wisdom, Strength, Stamina, Lightning, Courage, and Speed respectively from these. In 1953 DC Comics ended a 12 year legal battle over copyright infringement with Superman, resulting in Fawcett discontinuing the character and all their other superhero comics. Years later in 1972, DC acquired the rights to the character and story. But since Marvel Comics had created their own Captain Marvel in the absence of Fawcett, DC changed the name of the Character to Shazam! And it has manged to stick.
So there it is, in a nutshell good movie and some useless facts, so go see it.