In the wake of the multi-billion dollar success of this James Wan’s Aquaman, 2019 may have had a slow start, but what will undoubtedly be a gargantuan year in film and nerd fandom alike has already got its feet moving. Following last year’s massive box office numbers and record smashes by way of super sequels, franchise phenomenons, and live action reboots of animation classics, this year is set to see all that and then some. From the outside, those with more jaded perspectives might see this as nothing but more of the same stuff, but for many fans who have been busting the block for decades, some of what we get to see on the big screen today would be unthinkable even just ten or fifteen years ago. And the latest in unthinkable: two Captain Marvel movies less than a month apart.
Okay now, that’s a little bit misleading. Of course, the folks over at Marvel are currently celebrating the huge success of their first female-lead feature, a classic character that’s been around for half a century. But many people may not know that 30 years and several copyright lawsuits earlier, a completely different character held the moniker of ‘Captain Marvel’, one that has always been separate from what would eventually become the Marvel Comics franchise. The original version of this character seemed to draw heavily from Superman (super-strong, lightning fast, flight, bulletproof, etc). Today’s version of the character, now known simply as, ‘Shazam!’ (are you starting to put the pieces together?), has most of these powers and then some, yet also seems to draw heavily from, you guessed it, Tom Hanks’s character in the 1988 comedy, Big. Go back ten to fifteen years and try to pitch that movie.
However, while canon in the world of Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, this movie feels like a departure from the DCEU as we know it. Shazam! follows the story of Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a Philadelphia teenager who’s sharp-wittedly mischievous nature sees him running from one foster home after another. After being forced to settle in with a group foster home that is equal parts dorky and hilarious, Billy finds himself teleported to the cave of an old wizard (Djimon Honsou) who endows Billy with the powers of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. By saying the acronym of their names, Billy transforms into caped champion of Shazam (Zachary Levi). The stakes of the film are relatively low, and it’s goofy in the most charming way, yet it feels like exactly what the DCEU needed.
The plot is consistently sensible fun, continuing a long-running DC trend connecting to both Greek mythology as well as Christian parables (Yes. These things are both in Shazam!, the movie). The film’s antagonist, Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong), is not exactly a denouncement of the rogue’s gallery of cheesy “big bad” type villains we’ve been seeing in these movies lately, but his connection to the story is well realized in a way feels extremely refreshing. His story is one that revolves around childhood redemption in a way that mirrors that of our hero in a much closer way than you might expect. However, most of the movie’s charm lives in the relationships it sets up between Billy and his de facto family. The time that it takes to set up these connections is what makes small stake seem bigger than any power-crazed demon lord, or swirling ring of trash in the sky.
Every other moment of this movie is satisfyingly outrageous, but at the same time the brainchild of director David Sandberg delivers so many key elements that, frankly, are missing from the franchise’s previous installments. Taking a step back from apocalypse-level themes with innately motivated antagonists and overly dark tones was the perfect step. Shazam! allows itself to be so light that almost all the humor lands, yet it tells an emotional story that families of all different shapes can connect to and enjoy.
Release Date: April 5, 2019
Starring: Asher Angel, Zachary Levi, Djimon Hounsou, Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer, Marta Milans, Cooper Andrews
Director: David F. Sandberg
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Genre: Action / Comedy / Adventure / Fantasy
Runtime: 132 minutes
Official Website: www.shazammovie.com/
Official Social Media Pages:
IMDB Page: @ShazamMovie
Wiki Link: @Shazamfilm
Jake Hardison | Writing Contributor
A.A | Digital Broadcast Arts Palomar College
Jake is a second year student at Palomar College pursuing transfer to a university to study TV, Film, and New Media. At Palomar’s radio station, KKSM AM 1320, Jake hosts a weekly movie and entertainment news show called Morning Wood on Mondays from 6-9 am. Jake is an avid fan of pop culture and all things fandom, and has been especially passionate about film and music his entire life. Engaging in skills such as filmmaking, singing, acting, broadcast, voiceover, and writing, his interests are diverse, yet revolve around enthusiasm for the art of storytelling. Jake currently hopes to pursue a career in entertainment reporting and eventually break into other forms of media. Instagram: @JakeHardison_17 | View My Project
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