PG-13 for being a '90s PG movie. It is a family friendly movie that REALLY pushes the limits of what is considered family friendly. There's a lot of language being used by kids. The bad guys are actually pretty scary looking. Also, there's a really brief joke about a gentleman's club that gets revisited at one point. Kids also try beer, but they spit it out. I guess I should also include violence because it is a superhero movie.
DIRECTOR: David F. Sandberg
I saw this the day after I saw Endgame. How unfair is that to Shazam!? First of all, it's a DCeU movie, and you know how I tend not to like those. But seeing this movie after Marvel delivered its crowning glory? That's just unfair. Did I like it? Sure. But the stakes are so low! Everything isn't the end of the world! I want to weep ugly tears and I don't really have the opportunity to do that. The worst part is that this is the step I wanted the DCeU to take! This is the movie I've been fighting for. The DC Universe should have absolutely fantastic and fun movies, but the DCeU is a place for bleak, CG insanity to reign. Is Shazam! a good movie? Probably. I can even say that I enjoyed it. But it is also a reminder of how much catching up we need to do to get this franchise off of the ground.
By the way, I was going to see Marvel's Captain Marvel about a month ago and I saw Shazam! on the board right next to Captain Marvel. Do you know how confusing that is for me? If I had just stepped out of myself for a second, I could see what was going on. But I hadn't thought about it. When I was growing up, the character was named "Captain Marvel." I knew there was a Captain Marvel at Marvel and I knew that there was a Captain Marvel at Disney. There's something really depressing about hearing jokes covering up for the fact that they can't call him Captain Marvel. In DC Comics, his name is "Shazam." It's a weird name. A) Doesn't that give everyone way too much information about you? B) He can't say his own name. It's such an odd choice to name the character that. Anyway, the movie plays around a lot with what his name should be versus what his name probably is. Where Shazam! succeeds is the tone and mood of the movie. Shazam! is a competent superhero movie to begin with. It has a solid formula for the most part. It is filmed like a DCeU movie is filmed. The one thing that I actually like about the DCeU is that those movies mostly look pretty. Except when they are CG nightmares, the cinematography is actually pretty good. In terms of the look of the movie, nothing is distractedly obnoxious. But it is also a fun film. The DCeU has needed to get a stick out of its butt for a while now. Aquaman really took the first necessary steps to getting out of that slump, but I didn't really like Aquaman. Wonder Woman is great, but it can take itself too seriously at times. You know that the execs at Warner Brothers are waking up because they cast Zachary Levi.
Zachary Levi makes too much sense as Shazam. I mean, I never really thought of him as a muscle man. He's always going to be Chuck to me. But he's got traditionally good looks and a manchild persona for a lot of his characters. The great thing about Levi is that he sells the conceit without a problem. While physically an adult, he has the attitude of a child. One thing that never got me into Shazam! as a comic is that I had a hard time distancing the idea that Captain Marvel was actually a kid. I kind of treated Billy Batson as the kid and the superhero form as something like the Hulk, a different personality. Levi completely fixes that. I don't know if there's really a more perfect reintroduction to a character since Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man. When you look at the first Iron Man movie, comic fans kind of realize that RDJ wasn't playing the comic book Tony Stark. All the traits of Stark were there, but his charisma and smugness made the character come to life. Like Iron Man, Zachary Levi got something that the rest of us didn't get. Fifteen year olds aren't always perfect. In fact, fifteen year olds are often quite obnoxious. Most of the movie is based around the idea that Shazam never really fits in with the other hero. As part of that, Levi gets the mannerisms of a fifteen year old. There are parts of the movie where the two actors switch back and forth: Billy Batons becomes Shazam. Shazam becomes Billy Batson. But because Levi gets the attitudes of the fifteen year old, the characters never really get swapped in my head. there's no delineation. There's never that moment where you have to lie to yourself that it's working. He actually works it pretty hard. On top of that, he does look like a superhero. It's great.
I never understood why Billy Batson was chosen to be the champion. Perhaps the movie sells it a bit better than the comics in the sense that there's a desperation by the Wizard Shazam. Billy is a bit of a brat. Yes, he's had it harder. But then you look at characters like Freddie who completely deserve the title more. I don't know if there's something flawed in Freddie's character that determine why he wouldn't have been the champion from moment one. Having Freddie as Billy's mentor is fantastic, but it also reminds us that Billy isn't really suited to be the champion. If we use Thor as a tale of working to be worthy, Billy isn't really ready to be Shazam until late in the film. But it is interesting that being Shazam makes Billy both a better person and a worse person at the same time. The moment that actually gets him to open up to Freddie is when he needs Freddie's help. He is this sad kid for the majority of the intro and only finds happiness when he's in the suit. As a character, I actually might find Billy Batson more interesting than the DCeU's Batman. Batson is flawed. I can't help but make really strong connections to Spider-Man: Homecoming. There's actually some straight up copying, but I'm not going to narc too hard. (Sorry, the ending credits is just straight up the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming.) I think that studios might only have one idea what kids are. That might be hand-drawn scribbles to '70s punk. But the humor is very similar. Freddie is just Ned. Ned is just Ganke. And the circle of life continues.
Can I tell you that my favorite moment in the movie is the same as everyone else's favorite moment in the film? Again, there are SPOILERS, but the Marvel Family is so integral to the whole idea of Captain Marvel that I'm glad that the movie didn't stretch this to other films. Adam Brody as Captain Marvel, Jr. is inspired. I also had no idea that this was coming. Understanding that Shazam is about family is really smart. As much as I love the duet between Billy and Shazam, Shazam! really thrives on its supporting cast. Watching how the rest of these kids interacted with Billy really sets up nicely for the entire family getting these superheroic avatars throughout. The only problem with the Marvel Family is that it takes away Billy's importance. I suppose that this is part of his quest to become worthy, but why is the story about Billy at that point? They all have powers. What I didn't quite understand is if any single member of the family had all of the abilities. Freddie seemed to fly the entire time. Darla seemed to super speed everywhere. Pedro seemed to be about super strength. I guess that makes Billy the de facto leader, which is great. But also, how does that work? Ah, it doesn't matter. All of this is nitpicky. I just think it is smart.
The thing that doesn't really work for me is the villain story. It's got origin movie problems all over it. It's so bizarre that Mark Strong has been two supervillains in the DC movies. He's fine, I guess. He just keeps playing variations on the same plot. On top of that, Dr. Sivana...confuses me. Part of this comes from the comic books. If Captain Marvel started off as a Superman rip-off, Dr. Sivana always seemed like Lex Luthor to me. Giving him abilities doesn't really lead to anything of a sequel with Black Adam. I know the movie doesn't really tease Black Adam too hard, but I heard that Dwayne Johnson was supposed to play him. Billy's already taken on the origin mirror version of himself. Sivana has all of Billy's powers with a back up of the seven deadly sins to help him out. I don't love the visuals of the seven deadly sins. There's so much opportunity there, but they just kind of seem like generic monsters. Sivana is the big bad guy. That's fine. But the bad guys are supposed to be epic. If Sivana just wants power, the seven deadly sins are suppose to take down the world. They are supposed to subject everyone to their whims. They are meant to soak in evil and see where that goes. But they don't really read that way. They are just so-so monsters that I've seen in dozens of movies and I don't necessarily want that. I want something bigger. Yeah, the seven deadly sins were probably the scariest part of the movie and kind of scared my daughter. But they are almost treated like the scary parts of a Disney animated feature. We can do better. Honestly, there's a lot of this movie that read like MCU's Phase One. The origin is kind of a throwaway story for the villain and the villain is just a copy of the hero. I could do without that. Also, I never really got the connection between Sivana's origin story and his quest for evil.
Shazam! is a fun movie. I'm glad to see that the DCeU is doing good things with their characters. While Wonder Woman is still my favorite, Shazam! is super fun. Heck, it might have actually been my favorite if I hadn't just come down from the epic experience that was Avengers: Endgame. Regardless, it's a really good time and I can see owning this one.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.