The New 52 Shazam! wasn't the most suitable source material
DC seems to be missing the point of heroism
And, dude, the wizard's costume... where was the budget?
Somewhere in John Glover’s contract, it must dictate that he is to be the dad to any DC villain subject to the unloving ways of his father and destined to be the bald antagonist to a do-gooder superhero. Be it the layered Lionel Luthor in Smallville or the (what’s the opposite of “layered”? “Flattened?” Okay.) flattened Sivana Senior in SHAZAM!
And with that remark on John Glover’s career, my follow-up note that, thankfully, SHAZAM! is still not the cheesiest DC flick he’s been in.
And, yes, I am fully aware that I need not keep typing the word SHAZAM! in full caps with an exclamation point, but it is, at this point, the only joy I derive from the existence of this movie.
The good new is that if you liked Aquaman, SHAZAM!‘s probably gonna be a good fit for you. Fun(ish), adventure-driven, joke-y to the point Peter Quill on a dose of James Gunn would blush, completely lacking any spare thought for script quality or character progress, SHAZAM! is pretty much what we’d have gotten if Brett Ratner had made that Superman movie. But with kids.
So there’s naturally a child-molestation joke, ’cause why not. It is a movie that feels like Brett Ratner would have directed it in 1999. (Only problem is that it’s 2019, and it isn’t actually Brett Ratner.)
Joining John Glover in the “Hey, haven’t I done this already?” category is Mark Strong, doing his damned best as Black Adam, the nemesis everyone knows ’cause of the Rock Doctor Thaddeus Sivana, the original nemesis to Captain Marvel SHAZAM!
Unfortunately, between him mouthing off about power and how to use it, as well as floating from scene to scene, it can’t be helped thinking that someone may have slipped in a couple of unfilmed pages from Green Lantern into the SHAZAM! script.
Despite SHAZAM!‘s strongest suit being that he is essentially Peter Parker, but with the option to turn into Superman, the movie chooses to neglect any opportunity of exploring the conflicting dualities of a character that transitions from being a 14 year old boy to a being with the heart of a 14 year old boy accompanied by the Wisdom of Solomon. What they do get right, however, the great potential of a super-powered 14 year old has to be a dick.
Of course, expecting nuance from a DCEU movie might be a tad much. But then again, Aquaman sits pretty at a billion dollar take for a movie that’s best described as an action comedy as similar to Raiders of the Lost Ark as was The Mummy… I’m talking about the third one, mind you.
In vein with the Aquaman comparison, however, Levi does his Momoan-best to hold together a meandering narrative. Unfortunately, the SHAZAM! that Levi may have been best suited for is far and forgotten in the pages of the pre-New 52 from more than eight years ago.
The film insists (for obvious reasons) to base its take on the character on its most updated version in the comics. Unfortunately, this results in a surly and cynical take on Billy Batson that throws the entire premise of his being chosen under the bus.
To put it simply: Billy’s kind of a dick. And not in the Nightwing kind of way. While usually I’d say that this presents an opportunity for character growth, it creates an inherent problem with exactly how Billy is chosen to be SHAZAM!
The true tragedy however is Djimon Hounsou’s continued string of underused comic book roles… alone with what might be his worst costume yet. Coming off as a low cost cosplay of a fan made red Istari, his every moment on screen is almost laughable.
And yet, this isn’t worst movie that DC has put out. For all of its script flaws and DC’s continued impressive streak of missing the point of the character, there are some genuinely funny moments, and the supporting characters come through for the most part.
So if you’re looking for sheer brainless fun, SHAZAM! should work.
SHAZAM!‘s out on the 4th of April and could be worth a watch. Or watch Dumbo. I dunno, Avengers: Endgame‘s gonna steamroll both into oblivion anyways.