Shazam! (2019): Manchildren For the Win!

Shazam! (2019)

“Captain Sparklefingers,” I mean “Captain Marvel,” err I mean “Shazam!” is directed by David F. Sandberg (Annabelle: Creation, Lights Out) and stars Zachary Levi (Tangled, Chuck), Mark Strong (Zero Dark Thirty, The Imitation Game), Asher Angel (Audi Mack, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders), Jack Dylan Grazer (It, Me, Myself, and I), and Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of the Galaxy, Gladiator). This film is about a young, adopted boy who comes in contact with a wizard. Once finding himself in that particular situation, he is chosen to wield magical powers. To engage with such powers, he transforms himself into an adult by utterance of the word “shazam.”

Wow! Finally! I’m reviewing this movie! This is long overdue! I saw this film in April, a week before “Avengers: Endgame” came out, so this review is not coming in at a time I’d personally prefer. Am I a Marvel fanboy for this? Nope. I’m just a busy college student. Life happens. However, I did manage to see this film a couple weeks after its initial release in 3D, which somewhat enhanced my viewing experience. And this is a comic book movie that admittedly, sounds somewhat different than others that are coming out today. Yes, much like some others, it’s packed with humor. Although, the thing that makes this pop is its elements of a coming of age story. The two main characters are young boys, one of them was just recently adopted into a family, and they learn to bond with each other. Another main difference that I won’t dive too much into is it doesn’t really make the story of fighting the villain the main factor. Origin-story-wise, it puts A LOT of emphasis on testing powers and seeing what could be done with them. The execution that went into the power testing scenes is beyond brilliant. Especially when you consider the undeniably delightful chemistry between the two main characters involved.

Speaking of positive reactions, this movie was definitely worth a watch! And I’ve been noticing something. If you have been following the DCEU for sometime during its inception, you may have noticed it has built up to a Justice League team-up. One of the neat things about this movie is how it tries to stay in this cinematic universe viewers have come to know, but there is practically little to no connection to outside lore. There are slight exceptions, but I can dig those exceptions. For example, the young brother who was already living in the main character’s new home possesses a bullet used in a fight against Superman and he’s even got a Batarang. There’s even a scene where we see a toy section in a store displaying figures of previously established DC characters. When it comes to this kinda sorta maybe cinematic universe approach, part of me digs it because this would perhaps allow filmmakers to have more freedom to think outside the box. Although then again, similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Kevin Feige, Warner Brothers hired Walter Hamada (The Conjuring, Lights Out) as the president of the Detective Comics Extended Universe. As much as I can appreciate Marvel for its consistent vibe and TV series-like format, I also appreciate DC for being less about making a connected story and more about making a story in general.

Let’s talk about Zachary Levi as the adult version of Shazam. HE’S FREAKING AWESOME. And despite meeting him in person at New York Comic Con, this is totally not biased! If anything, this is probably one of the best modern day superhero casting choices I’ve witnessed in my life. And I think part of it his to do with, believe it or not, my first impression of Levi upon meeting him in person. Think about it. He’s supposed to be playing the “adult” version of this main kid in the movie. He knows nothing about that life. At heart, he’s still a kid, but stuck in a man’s body. While I cannot really say I thought about this much when meeting him, he was kind of hyperactive and happy to be in his current position. This energy is also applied to the character of Shazam, or Billy Batson if you’d prefer to call him that. It’s like a slightly more paranoid version of Po from “Kung Fu Panda” or something. Hyperactive, curious, but also cautious of his surroundings. But one of the best parts of Shazam’s character that I already sort of implied is his will to check out his powers just for s*its and giggles.

Let’s face it, if I were a kid and I magically became a superhero, of course I’d want to try out my powers! Think about it! As a kid, I would roleplay and it would partially involve superheroes from time to time. If I have enough fun pretending to be a hero, how much fun do you think I’d have using something like a flashy laser beam to break my own window and be forced to pay for by my own parents? It would be f*cking worth it! Because, ya know, superpowers! That’s honestly where this movie happens to display some of its biggest strengths, but it doesn’t stop at superpowers. There’s actually a scene where Shazam is dealing with a couple robbers in a convenience store. Words cannot describe how funny it is. It’s almost… I dunno, god-like humor.

But in all seriousness though, I am not joking around when it comes to Zachary Levi. He is the perfect Shazam. He looks like what an adult version of Billy Batson would be, he’s occasionally hyper, not to mention an incessant goofball. As a superhero, he may not look that intimidating to villains, but this is one of those cases where that actually works from a screenwriter’s and artist’s point of view. C’mon, there’s a time when this guy happened to be referred to as “Captain Sparklefingers.” I mean, “Captain Marvel” might as well have been taken, so yeah, I can see why he’d be called that.

Now I mentioned this movie focuses more on its hero’s development as opposed to its villain story. Granted, that may be an understatement, because this villain has some family matters that play throughout the story. That villain by the way is Dr. Sivana played by Mark Strong. I have nothing against this character, in fact, if I had to complain about him to y’all, I’d be a liar. This guy is a great villain, but he partially suffers from a partial lack of memorability. There are one or two scenes where his true power is absolutely displayed that made me attached to the screen. But based on the excessive amount of time focused on our hero, the villain almost does not seem to matter as much. Part of me wants to call this a fault of this movie that shouldn’t be left undisclosed, but at the same time, based on the execution of our hero’s origins, I almost cannot even complain.

But speaking of our hero and mistakes, there is one thing I have to bring up. The main character in this movie is adopted. There is a sideplot to the film where he is trying to find his birthparents, and I won’t go into whether or not he finds them. I won’t go into much about it, but as that side plot manages to come to a conclusion, there is an utterance of dialogue that may not only be cheesy, but conceptually, it is FLAT-OUT IDIOTIC. I won’t go into it for the sake of not spoiling anything yet, you might not even know what I am talking about, but if I were doing a spoiler review right now, I’d probably make a mention of this somewhere because it sort of pissed me off. You know how some people may watch a really good movie but the ending just SUCKS? This was not the ending, in fact the actual climax of the film itself is freaking spectacular. This is almost what it reminded me of. I can tell the filmmakers wanted to get some sort of audience reaction out of what I am talking about. And they succeeded. I say so because I for one reacted angrily.

With that aside, there is still a lot to enjoy in “Shazam!.” There are a couple of cool action sequences, a ton of humorous scenes and gags, the writing is off the chain! The story feels very self-contained and unlike some MCU movies, you don’t really need to watch any thing that precedes this film. Granted, I have no idea where the DCEU is going to go, but I have a feeling that depending on whether or not the franchise continues to have success, that is going to change. But for now, I am willing to appreciate this film’s intimate screenplay. In fact, the closest that this movie actually gets to being connected in the same universe is probably towards the last scene, which I won’t talk about that much. It doesn’t necessarily tease an upcoming film, but it is something to take note of.

And one last thing I have to note before moving onto my final verdict, for those of you who are not that invested in comic books, you may not be aware that Shazam is not this movie’s hero’s original name, it was actually Captain Marvel, but due to a legal battle between comic creators DC and Fawcett, Marvel Comics eventually started their own series with a hero by said name. How MARVELOUS indeed. Now, as most modern moviegoers know, one of the most recent films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is “Captain Marvel” starring Brie Larson as Carol Danvers. I gotta be honest, the movie was not that great. So you know what? When it comes to “Captain Marvel” films, DC did this concept better! I know a lot of people look at the DCEU and consider it to almost be a joke, but in all seriousness, not only is it getting better compared to how it was in say 2016 with movies like “Suicide Squad,” but this is just another scenario where I thought DC did a film concept better than Marvel. Coincidentally, if you guys have ever read my “Captain Marvel” review, you’d know that I said towards the end that when it comes to doing solo movies with female leads, that’s another win for DC. I personally liked “Wonder Woman” better than “Captain Marvel.” Yes, Marvel seems to have the better collective universe, but much like anyone else, they have bad days at the office. Ever seen “Thor: The Dark World?” Please don’t.

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In the end, “Shazam!” is just a good time at the movies that can put an idiotic grin on your face. It’s hilarious, charming, and conceptually pleasing. Also, I would not mind watching it again and buying it on Blu-ray in the future. Maybe if Best Buy puts out a steelbook, I’ll shell out some money for that. I like my collector’s items. Zachary Levi is a national treasure and I would like to see more work for him in the future whether it is in the DCEU or in some other realm of media. Something like comedy, perhaps a buddy cop film maybe? I’m going to give “Shazam!” a 7/10. Again, one thing that takes away points for this film is the whole side plot and that one thing about it that kind of pissed me off, other than that, this is a fun and wacky superhero flick that is certainly worth your time and money.

MARVEL: We’re making a “Captain Marvel” movie! Dope, eh?

DC: Same bat-hold. Same bat-my beer.

Thanks for reading this review! If you are interested in more superhero related content, I reviewed two other comic book movies this year, and no, I have not seen “Hellboy.” If you want to get your fix of comic book movie reviews, click the links below and check these things out! I’ve got my review for “Captain Marvel” and “Avengers: Endgame,” please check em’ out! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Shazam!?” What did you think about it? Or, what would you do if you happened to be a kid and found out you had superpowers? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Captain Marvel REVIEW

Avengers: Endgame REVIEW

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