I didn’t really grow up with Shazam but was he sounded interesting enough so I decided to read into his origins a little bit. It turns out he was first created in 1939 by Fawcett Publications in lieu of success that National Comics, later renamed Detective Comics or DC, was having with Batman and Superman. At first, the caped hero with the lightning emblem was called Captain Marvelous. His name was shortened to Captain Marvel soon after. Within the next decade or so Fawcett Publications lost a legal battle with National Comics that determined Captain’s Marvel’s abilities were a rip-off of Superman’s so the comic was canceled. In 1967, Marvel Comic’s trademarked the name Captain Marvel to use for its comic involving Kree Warrior Mar-Vell (played by Jude Law in the 2019 movie Captain Marvel). It wasn’t until 2012 that Carol Danvers, formerly Ms. Marvel, was introduced as Captain Marvel in the comics. DC eventually paid for a licensing agreement to the Shazam family of characters and tried to revive them in the 1970s with animated TV shows. They eventually brought the full rights to the character in 1991 and released a few different TV shows between 1990 and 2005. Surprisingly, the name of the character didn’t officially change to Shazam until 2011.
Fun little history lesson wasn’t it? Similar to the history of the comic book character, the movie takes a while to get on its feet. In a movie with a runtime of a little over 2hrs, we don’t see Billy Batson take Shazam form until a good 45 minutes in. Until then, it is just a lot of ho-hum backstory setup that really didn’t grab anyone’s attention. The movie starts to pick a little pace once Billy puts the suit on, but it was kind of a snoozer until that point.
I was kind of expecting this movie to be like a Deadpool but for kids, however, it really didn’t deliver the laughs that I was hoping for. There were some funny parts, but overall it doesn’t stand out in my mind as one of the elite movies in the superhero/comedy genre. Another thing that bothered me a little bit was how the CGI kind of ruined a lot of the action scenes. From the disturbing looking seven deadly sin monsters to the unnatural looking flight scenes of Mark Strong and Zachary Levi, the CGI wasn’t very convincing. Want to know another thing that wasn’t very convincing? Billy’s mom just leaving him at a fair and then he basically never hears from her again. That isn’t how the world works people. You seriously want me to believe that no one in the government can figure out that who this kid’s mom is and track her down. Maybe they did track her down you might say. Maybe she told the police to leave him in foster care. Wouldn’t there be legal responsibilities that go along with that? I would think he would remember that happening in some capacity. Silly movie, why you not be realistic?
I must admit I am now a little bit confused about what we should call the character who says the word Shazam to become a superhero because one of the recurring comedic elements is the question of what Billy Batson’s superhero self should be called. Is it Red Cyclone? Captain Sparkfingers? They go through a good five or six names and never really decide on one. However, his official name in the comics is Shazam, but in the movie that is the name of the weird wizard guy played by Djimon Hounsou (who was also in Captain Marvel ironically. But then again, IMDb list Zachary Levi as Shazam and Djimon Hounsou as “wizard”, so who really knows?
I was actually really satisfied with the acting performances all around. With not exactly being an “A” list cast, I was impressed with a few of the actors I had never heard of before. Cooper Andrews and Marta Milan were the foster parents and I found them to be very convincing. Pretty much all of the child actors did a solid job as well. Asher Angel is the 16-year-old kid that played Billy Batson. I guess he is on a Disney Channel show, but I had never heard of him before and was really impressed with him. As it turns out, like every single other child actor to ever appear on a Disney Channel show in the history of forever, he is an aspiring singing/songwriter.
There was a cool message about family that really took the center stage in this movie. Billy grew up in foster care but ran away from about every home he was ever put in. Early in the movie, he is taken in by this new family that seems a little bit different just because of the way everyone loves and looks out for each other. It takes a long time for Billy to let himself feel like a part of the family but by the end, it makes for a really heartwarming element to the film.
When all is said and done, Shazam! is an enjoyable movie with some of the flaws that you might expect from a superhero movie that is operating on a little bit of a tight budget. The most important aspect of the film, however, also happens to be what they got right. That is the characters. The characters are what people grow attached to and that is what leads to a good movie franchise.