On March 13th I received an email from Fandango inviting me to purchase tickets to go see Shazam! two weeks early. I have no idea why this happened or if this is common but none of that matters, all that mattered was the fact I was going to see Shazam! early: which was a movie I was interested in from the beginning. Let’s start with a some quick Flash Facts on Captain Ma…..Shazam’s comic book origin.
Originally created by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck for Fawcett Comics in 1939, Shazam debuted in The Whiz #2, and spawning a few other titles due to his success. As a young Billy Batson meets the wizard Shazam he is granted the powers of the 7 “Gods”: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, Mercury. With these powers all Billy needed was to shout SHAZAM to bring out his new found powers which also transforms him into an adult. One copyright infringement suit later from DC (due to Shazam being too alike to Superman) and Fawcett stopped production on their most famous character that at one point outsold even Superman.
In 1972 DC bought the rights to Shazam and started publishing a few stories here or there but by that time Marvel had already released their own Captain Marvel. This meant that DC couldn’t use that title and they ended with using Shazam as the comic title and character name. DC even went as far as to subtitle their comic, The Original Captain Marvel as a joke. The history behind this character is great and vast, including a TV show even my father has seen, but comic history and lawsuit’s behind we are here to talk about his first movie (unless you count this) simply titled Shazam!
The great thing with a character such as Shazam is even throughout generations of publications his basic origins hasn’t changed that much, just little tweaks here and there to update his story for new readers and new eras. Shazam! (directed by David Sandberg) keeps the age old story of the old wizard Shazam looking for his new champion to defend against evil, in this case the classic Seven Deadly Sins. After many years of trying the champion is found and that champion is young orphan Billy Batson (Asher Angel) who is then granted the powers of Shazam. The villain for our new champion is Doctor Sivana (Mark Strong) who opposites Shazam by gaining powers by the Seven Deadly Sins.
The comic has always been about family and the bound you share even if you aren’t blood related. This movie showcases that elegantly, with Billy running away from multiple foster parents while trying to find his birth mother. Billy ends up with The Vasquez’s (Marta Milans and Cooper Andrews) who run a group home consisting of: Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), Mary (Grace Fulton), Eugene (Ian Chen), Pedro (Jovan Armand), and Darla (Faithe Herman). We are then treated to a fun montage of Freddy and Billy trying out different powers to see what he has and recording it for YouTube. Whenever the pair would do these “superhero skill tests” it was light-hearted and filled with a sense of wonder and awe.
Shazam! had great pace showing the villains origin, explaining Billy’s character and motivation while showing his struggles from a loner that didn’t believe in family to someone who slowly integrated himself into his adopted home. The film had a great feel good feeling to it that reminded me of the golden age comics that it originated from, with fun characters, situations, cheesy dialogue, and how it would feel for a kid that obtained said powers. But all of that doesn’t mean there was no serious moments or drama. There was a bit of tension between Billy and the others due to how he didn’t believe in family and was set in his own ways, this was all explored and developed throughout the movie. One of my favorite scenes was a moment between Billy and his Mother (Caroline Palmer) which held great weight and was a great, yet sad moment.
The casting felt great for each character with Zachary Levi bringing a child-like fun to Shazam, and Jack Dylan Grazer (Freddy) being a full on superhero fan helping him. Mark Strong per usual was a great cast as a villain. My stand out actor was Faithe Herman (Darla) whose character was the youngest in the family but was great in every scene she was in. For a movie with many child actors they all did wonderful.
As great as the movie felt it isn’t without its faults, with the big one being the villain. Sivana felt like a carbon copy of Shazam just with monsters inside of him that would come out, he had the lightning, flight, strength, all the same powers. If they wanted someone with the same power base why not use Black Adam? It just feels like a waste of character when with just a few changes he could have been a great villain. Instead of just a copy of Shazam’s powers have him use is great mind instead of his brawns and develop the Deadly Sins differently. The Sins felt like they could have been any other generic monster villains, all they did was fight and eat people’s heads. Instead have them be able to influence others with their associated sin? At least with that it wouldn’t feel like another superhero slugfest and could’ve shown Sivana’s intelligence.
When DC’s Man Of Steel came out viewers where annoyed with Superman’s lack of saving people while fighting, which I always chalked up to him being new to fighting one equal to him in strength. I can see that same argument being made with Shazam! with him and Sivana fighting in cities destroying buildings and even in a carnival.
Shazam! feels like another great step forward for DC’s movie slate. With Aquaman DC felt like they may be turning over a new page and having more fun, Shazam! showed that they are taking even more steps to better their movies with tighter scripts and fun to be had. Which is funny because the directors of both films are known for their horror films.
Now time for SPOILERS. Yes, SPOILERS, so beware of SPOILERS.
No, seriously there will be spoilers.
LAST CHANCE BUDDY!!
Okay, now that we got the spoilers warning out of the way least talk about some awesome things that may be spoilers. So I’ll give you a list of favorites!
- Mr. Mind! Holy moly guacamole! I never thought I would see him in a feature film in my life! Then we even here him at the end! Between this and Doom Patrol (a must watch) so many things I never thought would happen are.
- Only one movie in and we already get the Shazam family!? A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one.
- Tiger were mentioned a lot in the film, with Billy wanting one, and later as Shazam giving one to a frightened kid. Hopefully these were hints at Tawky Tawny in the future? Or just them having some fun!
- One of the doors that was opened at Eternity Rock had crocodiles playing card games, could this be hinting at Sobek ? Even if it isn’t it was a cool scene.
- Black Adam was mentioned!
- That Superman cameo was another huge surprise and hilarious!
- The moment Sivana and Shazam are in the air and he is doing his evil monologue but Shazam can’t hear him, so great! And sorta makes sense.
- All the moments involving the gentlemen’s club were gold.
- But seriously, Mr. Mind! I can’t wait til the sequel!