Well, DC has finally moved on from it’s dark brown, moody Dawn of Migraines slightly awkward phase and embraced it’s inner Marvel. Which is amusing when you consider that Shazam! was originally called Captain Marvel and then lost the rights to his own name over legal reasons that I have neither the time, inclination nor legal training to do so.
Wait, the actual film title actually has an exclamation point in it? You have got to be kidding me. What is it with this months films and their hatred of my scripts not looking like my English teacher has gone mad with power/the red pen?
Interestingly, this isn’t for first time that Captain Wow has been unleashed upon the silver screen. Shazam! was in fact the subject of Hollywood’s first ever superhero film adaptation: Republic Pictures’ Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) in 1941. It doesn’t seem to have made it across the pond for obvious reasons but it seems to have held up pretty well.
Back to 2019 and Commander abra ka dabra is beat for beat your bog standard super-hero origin story with the patented Marvel formula which has been focus tested and it works in all it’s tedious efficiency.
I mean, don’t get me wrong it’s nice for Mark trong to be in a big budget Super-hero film that will enable him to leave the house for once. It’s just a shame that the film has no idea what to do with him. I mean he’s clearly having a blast and i’m sure the costume designer had perfectly logical reasons for dressing him like he was on loan from The Matrix and I liked the joke that every time he did try and give his big supervillain speech, the camera cut away from him.
I liked that a lot.
I had more issues with the fact that Strong is meant to be allied with the physical incarnations of the seven deadly sins. Just overlook the fact that they cant quite seem to remember whether or not that can talk in really cool growling voices or just snarling. Forget that, it’s the least important thing when you consider the fact that the villains are the physical embodiment of the seven deadly sins… just imagine what you could do with that! Lust could be capable of changing into whoever the person fighting them desires most,Gluttony a disgusting blob that consumes anything it comes into contact with, Greed could have massive green eyes that could compel people to give into their worst impulses. You could let your imagination run wild (whilst staying within the limits of a softer 12a film) and instead here we just get 7 snarly beasts which just blend together into one mass of dull. Their not really physically distinct from each other or seem to have different style of attack instead of just being snarly monsters on loan from Ghostbusters and Mortal Kombat.
In any other film they would have been the goons but here their supposed to be a threat big enough to take over the world!
If it seems like i’m harping on about what, in practice are pretty non threatening villains it’s because I really liked the rest of the film. I liked the child actors, the plot was well constructed, most of the jokes landed and Billy Batson, as a 14 year old kid suddenly being given the powers of a God and an adult body reacts exactly as a 14 year old kid suddenly being given the powers of a God and an adult body would. I would still have liked to see ten minutes cut from the second act but show me a modern film that doesn’t get a little saggy in the middle.
It did need slightly more DC product placement though. I counted three whole scenes without product placement in. Although that scene in the toy shop more than made up for it in my book.
The action scenes were fun and I was mostly capable of following what was going on and a subplot (which would have made an amazing indie film in it’s own right) almost brought a tear to my eye.
It’s great to see a film where the hero grow and changes in a believable way, where a person who could easily have come across as overpowered and unstoppable seems almost vulnerable at time even if he does get some help that seems to have come out of one of those slightly corny 80’s kids movies.
Speaking of which, I write down in my notes on the way home Shazam! = Big + Superman, start doing my research feeling like I’ve got a real zinger in my back pocket and that’s how the advertising suits are describing it. Which is sort of annoying.
But there’s no denying that this film has a great heart, a really good cast of all ages, a mostly funny script, some pretty good action, a villain who’s having fun even if he doesn’t really have a point and actually some pretty solid special effects. It’s almost as if having a smaller budget (roughly 80-100 million instead of the usual north of 200 million) causes the director to act in a less indulgent manner.
Shazam! is really good lightweight fun, which plot-wise seems like it should have come out around Christmas instead of at this time of the year where it’s got roughly 3 weeks to reclaim it’s budget before being wiped out by Avengers Blandgame. If only they had worked on their villains I could see this as being a 5 star film.
But they didn’t.
So it isn’t.
My Score- See It