This Week: Shazam!
. . .the first half gave me such hope.
I might be losing the battle on super hero movies. For comparison, I actually liked the original Thor more than Thor: Ragnarok. I just liked the hero’s journey more in that film and I just liked the dialogue and interactions more. Thor had to learn what it meant to be a hero and rose to the challenge. In Thor: Ragnarok, he just needed to get over losing his hammer. . .and Asgard. Yes, in the end Thor demonstrated himself to be a hero and extremely capable, but comparing Thor from the original film to the Thor we get in Ragnarok, it just seems diluted. Then again he’s been hanging around Stark too much and snark is contagious.
Then again Thor pulled in $450 million and Thor: Ragnarok pulled in $854 million, so what do I know?
Shazam! will likely do very well. It is funny throughout, but in my opinion, sacrifices moments where the hero should shine for a cheap laugh. Then again, I was laughing every time they did it, so glass houses, stones, etc.
So to run down the cast list:
The kid they got to play Billy Batson just does a fantastic job. Zachery Levi does a good job imitating him as Shazam!(so when just talking about the character name, does it need the exclamation point, or is that just the title? oh well, to save me from lawsuits, I’ll keep it in). With body swap movies, it is generally important for the actor to be able to act like the other actor more than playing his own role. Zachery Levi plays a very believable man acting like a 14 year old. Though there are certain points where I don’t quite see Billy Batson acting the way Shazam! does. Honestly, it seems like Billy Batson acts more serious at times than Shazam!
(okay, I’m officially stating here and now that DC changing the name to Shazam! sucks. It totally ruins the “I am not Shazam” trope. And it’s just confusing over all to have a character called Captain Marvel for over 70 years, then boom, can’t be called Captain Marvel anymore. What’s worse is that I assumed there was a recent lawsuit stating that he couldn’t be Captain Marvel, and I come to find out, that it was DC that made that change, for no reason! Other than they can’t market Captain Marvel.)
Mark Strong plays Thaddeus Sivana. Mark Strong is always fun and rarely disappoints. And he doesn’t here. He plays the villainous part well and it is even pretty funny when he starts monologue-ing towards the end.
Jack Dylan Grazer plays Freddy Freeman. I forgot that I recognized him from IT. Originally when I was seeing him in the trailers, I found him kind of annoying. Especially with his “YOU HAVE BULLET IMMUNITY!” However, this got cleared up in the movie by showing his character is weird and that kind of person. Freddy Freeman has the same issue that Billy from Power Rangers had where he would pick the most complicated way to say simple things. Which ultimately fits into his character.
The Wizard Shazam! is played by Djimoun Hounsu, who you might recognize from all those other movies he’s been in. He does a great job playing the Wizard Shazam!, but his outfit is just silly. They could have made his hair and beard more believable and his robes could have been done better. Great actor, shitty costume.
John Glover plays Sivana’s father. John Glover previously played Villainous Father Lionel Luthor in Smallville, and Villainous Boss Dr. Woodrue in Batman and Robin. Each of which spawned Super villains of Lex Luthor and Poison Ivy. Kind of makes me want to keep an eye on John Glover’s kids to make sure we don’t have anything coming down the pipeline. (5 seconds of research) Okay good, no kids. World destruction and domination avoided.
So to get my recommendations out of the way, yes I think majority of the people will enjoy this movie. It has comedy, heart, and generally great performances all the way around. I feel the goofed around a little too much towards the end and I don’t believe that Shazam! every really becomes the hero we need or deserve, but it instead decides to go the Family is important message instead. I wanted a little bit more, but that might be my fault more than the movie’s.
So for Theater Reviews, I typically try and shy away from spoiling things too much, but there is so much material that I don’t want to leave it on the floor. So this is the Spoiler warning.
So as a basic rundown, we start with Thaddeus as a young boy who has to deal with a Father who is a piece of shit and a brother who is also a piece of shit. As a result, when the Wizard Shazam! summons him, the Seven Deadly Sins(the actual Sins, not the Holy Knights or the Homunculi) are able to see that he is a piece of shit with potential and convince him to try and steal the Eye of Agamotto. The Wizard Shazam! lightly tazes Sivana and says he is not worthy and sends him back. Sivana then throws a tantrum that cause his dad to spin out and get t-boned.
We then jump to present day and Billy Batson is being a rapscallion by running away from home, trapping police officers in pawn shops, and using their computers to try and track down his mother. Because he only knew his mother as Ma, he checks every Batson he can find. We briefly flash back to younger Billy Batson with his mother at the Fair. He briefly let go of his mother’s hand and got lost. Despite police assistance, they never found his mother.
Back in present day, Billy gets arrested, sent back to the foster care system and has to live with a new Foster Family in a group home. There he meets Mary, Freddy, Eugene, Darla, and Pedro. I recognized the first two from the comics, apparently the other three are from later comics.
Freddy introduces himself by saying Romans used urine to brush their teeth. Then says he broke his leg because the dad pushed him out the window, thus the game of thrones reference. So it ACTUALLY works as a reference instead of a kid just namedropping a popular show. I know, I was shocked too!
Freddy establishes that he is a nerd about superheroes. And I mean proper nerd, he knows all the powers, has legitimate answers to super power questions, the whole nine yards.
We cut back to grown up Sivana who went to Evil Doctor school and is funding research into everyone else that got summoned by the Wizard Shazam! and was deemed unworthy. On the 56th research case, he finally discovers how to open the door to the Wizard Shazam!’s lair.
(I gotta say, my grammar check is just LOVING all the unnecessary exclamation points)
Apparently, the Wizard Shazam!’s security measures against the Eye of Agamotto being stolen are no better than the Ancient One’s because Sivana just walks in, takes it, and now has all Seven Deadly Sins at his disposal. Sivana blasts the Wizard Shazam! across the hall and leaves to take over the world!
We cut back to Billy Batson and Freddy having an argument after school and then Freddy gets hit by a truck! Well, grazed, but the truck pulled up onto the curb outside the school and the bullies get out and proceed to beat him up for scratching their truck with his frail broken body. Billy is about to walk away until they make a crack about Freddy’s lack of mother, which sparks Billy’s rage button and he sucker punches the bullies. Who quickly recover and briefly start beating him up.
Billy manages to get away and runs all the way down to the local subway. He makes it onto the train and flips off the Bullies as the train pulls away. It is here that the Wizard Shazam! summons him.
Here is one of my problems. The Wizard Shazam! offers Billy Batson the powers of Shazam! without any test at all. Billy Batson even says that he is not worthy and he doesn’t believe anyone pure of heart exists. The Wizard Shazam! essentially brow beats Billy into accepting the powers of Shazam! The Wizard Shazam! even mentions they gave the powers to the wrong guy before, that’s why the test exists, but for the guy that actually gets it, no test.
As Billy gets the powers of Shazam!, The Wizard Shazam! lists off what the powers are, Wisdom of Solomon(which he uses maybe once in the entire movie), the Strength of Hercules, The Stamina of Atlas, the Powers of Zeus, the Courage of Achilles(he runs away A LOT), and the Speed of Mercury. Then the Wizard Shazam! crumbles to dust, and Billy zaps back to the real world.
Where he finds a low rent version of Luis from Antman in his face critiquing his costume. Shazem! runs off the train and goes home, but has the presence of mind to know he can’t just storm in claiming he is Billy. So he convinces Freddy to come out and help him out.
Freddy is easily convinced and immediately proceeds to test Shazam!’s powers. Shazam! attempts to fly, ends up just falling and hurting himself.
Explain that one to me. It is later established that he is bulletproof (BULLET IMMUNITY), but a short fall to the ground apparently hurts him?
They figure out he has lightning manipulation when Shazam! points at Freddy and somehow the bolt hits a nearby telephone pole. They figure out he has super speed and strength when he goes to thwart a purse snatching. The lady had already managed to pepper spray the guy and not have her purse snatched, but Shazam! accidently hurls him across the park anyway. The lady decides to consider herself mugged and hands over all her cash to Shazam! and Freddy.
Instead of being heroes of the common man and giving the money back or refusing it, they take it and decide to buy beer. Which a couple of guys decide to rob the convenience store while they are choosing their beer. They shoot Shazam! and we figure out he is bullet proof (BULLET IM- you get it). At least they do the scientific method and have them shoot Shazam! in the face to make sure that it isn’t just the red suit.
Thank god all those bullets they shoot Shazam! with didn’t ricochet into Freddy or the poor cashier.
So Freddy and Shazam! drink their victory beer, and immediately spit it out. So they go back for jerky, chips, and energy drinks. After a while they attempt to sneak back in to the foster home. They fail their sneak roll and end up with the foster parents trying to talk to them, and then they sneak into the wrong room and as Shazam! is quickly explaining what happened to Darla and ends up unintentionally transforming back into Billy.
We then cut to the next day and Sivana decides to barge into his father’s board meeting. He then demonstrates his new powers by hurling his older brother out of the window. Sivana then unleashes the Sins on the other board members. Sivana lords his power over his father before the Sins point out that the Wizard Shazam! has found his champion and Sivana must kill him before he discovers his true power. Sivana then goes off to find Shazam! and leaves Greed to finish off his father.
Another complaint I have is that although the Sins look really cool, you can’t tell which one is which. I can figure out who three of them are. Greed we know because Sivana tells him to kill his father, so we know it is the four armed guy. Gluttony is easy to guess because he’s fat and has a big mouth. Envy we learn later and is just a small gobliny fella. But you can’t isolate the other ones easily.
The next day Billy proves how unfit for being a hero he is. To begin with, he destroys the bullies truck, which just seems to be the most heroic thing you can do as a DC superhero. He then steals a trench coat from the ninja turtles in order to cover up his super suit, transforms into his adult form and uses that to get Freddy out of school to do more power tests. Mainly they just do a lot of property damage and the only real claim to public welfare is charging people’s phones. Shazam! goes to help a few people and lowkey ask people to pay him for his heroism.
He also goes to a strip club, uses his lightning powers to hack an ATM, and uses the stolen money to buy a bunch of video game systems, computers, TV’s, and other nonsense.
Freddy tries to bank on knowing Shazam! by claiming that Shazam! will come by and meet him at lunch. Billy doesn’t want to do it. Is it because he views it as unheroic and an improper use of his powers? Nope, he lets Freddy swing to instead go to the park and show off his lightning powers to the tune of “Eye of the Tiger.” He even has a guitar case set out for passerby’s to put money in.
Freddy shows up and starts to call Shazam! out on his crap, but Shazam! just decides to show off more before accidently zapping a city bus causing it to careen off the bridge. Shazam! rushes over and stands below it saying, “Oh Jeez, oh man, oh jeez,” before it finally falls off and he catches it, much to his surprise. Though I thought we already established his strength, so the surprise would have been his climbing up to catch it.
Though I guess the difference between throwing a truck a mile in the air and catching a bus are two different experiances.
The local news calls him a hero, but Freddy continues to call him out on his shit. On air. Thank god we’re not trying to avoid super vill- Oh hi, Sivana, how’d you find us?
Come to think of it, what took Sivana so long? Shazam! has been on the news and youtube for a while now. Maybe it was just sitting still long enough.
Anywho, Sivana lets Shazam! know that he isn’t the only one with powers and drags Shazam! into orbit. Then Sivana throws him back to Earth.
Now Shazam! gets his power of flight just mere inches from crashing into the highway. Shazam! starts deliriously shouting how he can fly, just before getting hit by the same Truck driver from Iron Man 3.
Shazam! now summons all his courage and new abilities to. . .run the hell away. Again taking the most heroic DC actions possible by going into a crowded mall. They run through a toy store, and end up running over the same floor piano from Big. Batman also makes a cameo appearance, but is easily thwarted by Sivana.
In this instance, I justify it as he is not brawling with Sivana, he is trying to get the hell away. Shazam! transforms back into Billy and disappears into the crowd. Unbeknowest to Billy, Freddy still has his best interest at heart and shows up at the mall shouting his name all over the place. Sivana sees news footage of Shazam! and Freddy arguing and decides to kidnap Freddy.
Billy goes home to be grounded. Mary figures out that Billy is Shazam! and Darla is happy everyone else figured it out without her telling on him. Mary and the other foster children go to Billy and let him know they found his birth mother. She apparently lives a few blocks away.
Billy finds his mother and gets emotionally punched in the dick when his mother says she saw him with the police and decided he was better off with them instead of her. It is a really emotional scene that shows in flashback the idealized version that Billy remembers and the frustrating version that his mother remembers. Billy then gets a call from Freddy, but SIVANA IS ON THE LINE! AND THE PHONE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!
Sivana forced Freddy to take him to the foster home and Sivana calls it a shithole. By the way, they RODE the PG-13 rating like no one’s business. They use the word Shit so often, you’d think they borrowed the red suit from Deadpool!
So Billy runs to the rooftop and does the midair transformation. Which is freaking awesome! Shit is about to go down!
Shazam! shows up at the foster home and Sivana is threatening to kill all the foster kids if Shazam! doesn’t surrender his powers. Shazam! agrees and Sivana takes Shazam! back to the other dimension where Sivana and Shazam! both received their powers. Sivana is monologuing with all the Sins sitting in the thrones of the Wizards, when Freddy and the Foster Kids show up and Freddy chucks a Batarang at Sivana’s head.
Sivana has a head wound until he summons the sins back to him and he heals right up. Shazam! witnesses this and you can see the wheels turning in his head. Then he grabs the batarang, infuses it with magical lightning and stabs Sivana with it.
Then everyone runs away. They end up at Santa’s hall of endless doors- (Dude, nobody read your Santa VS the Devil review, they’re not going to get that reference, go with Monster’s Inc.) Ah come on, how can I build my brand if I don’t self reference and just go for low hanging fruit? (Dude, I’m telling you, No one read it. In fact anybody STILL reading this review is just waiting to comment how they disagree with you.) God, fine. So they end up in the hall of doors from monsters inc, which mainly seems to open on the monster side.
Eventually they figure out that the doors all suck and they are supposed to tap their ruby slippers together and say there is no place like home. In which they end up at the Strip club from earlier.
Shazam! transforms back into Billy and they then run to the much more family friendly carnival grounds and try to hide out in the crowds, figuring Sivana wouldn’t harm random civilians to get at Shazam!
Sivana starts harming random civilians in order to get at Shazam! Billy transforms into Shazam! and is ready to throw down with some Sins.
One of the Sins, I’m assuming Wrath, just starts clowning Shazam by whipping him back and forth like the Hulk did Loki. Honestly, two more slams and they would have been sued by Marvel again.
Freddy and Mary figure out that Sivana is weakest without the Sins in him giving him powers. So the Foster kids split up and Sivana has the other sins hunt them all down. Eventually we are right back to Sivana having all of the foster kids captured and threatening to kill them unless Shazam! gives up his powers. Mary shouts to Shazam! that Sivana will lose his powers if all the Sins are out. Something Shazam! should have figured out on his own, but I guess that Wisdom of Solomon can’t be buggered.
Shazam! agrees to give up the powers (again), but remembers that the Wizard Shazam! said that he had 6 other Wizards to help him. Shazam! then knocks Sivana back and has the other foster kids grab his staff(snicker! What, the movie made that joke earlier!) and say his name.
They shout BILLY and nothing happens. Alright, good joke movie. They correct and say Shazam! Lightning rains down and we now have Mighty Morphin’ Captain Marvels- err Mighty Morphin Power Shazam!s?
So NOW is it beat down time? Eh, kinda. Everyone starts testing out their new powers. Team Shazam starts taking on the Sins. Darla uses her new speed to save a bunch of people, including Santa Claus. Eugene starts zapping sins left and right well using phrases like Hadouken and other copyright protected phrases. Pedro tries to use his super strength to prevent the ferris wheel from collapsing. Freddy flies around and saves the bullies from the collapsing ferris wheel. And Mary gets grabbed by one of the Sins and it suddenly sprouts a bunch of Tentacles. Lets just say. . .
Shazam! lures Sivana out into the city to battle in the skies. After trading a few blows, Sivana and Shazam! face each other in mid air and Sivana starts giving a threatening speech(I know, I Know, monologuing, but my poor spell check is stressed out enough as it is). We then cut to Shazam! who can’t hear a word of what Sivana is saying. Eventually Shazam! just calls it and punches Sivana in the face.
Shazam! finally puts the Wisdom of Solomon to use and determines that Sivana still has one sin left inside. Envy. Shazam! goads Envy into coming out and attacking him. Sivana immediately loses his powers and begins to fall to his death. Shazam! calls down the lightning bolt as Envy is attacking him and transforms back into Billy and Envy gets blasted to smithereens.
Billy then transforms back into Shazam! and saves Sivana just before becoming street pizza. Shazam! takes the Eye of Sin out of Sivana and uses it to collect all the Sins back into it. Shazam! puts all the sins back and all is right with the world. Billy has a family, the World has a new hero, and Sivana is behind bars. Oh and Santa drops a shit ton of F bombs on the local news. With bleeps.
Freddy is at lunch and all his foster siblings are at lunch with him. Except Billy. Suddenly Shazam! shows up and starts talking about how he is friends with Freddy. Oh and Shazam! convinced another friend to show up.
We see Superman from the neck down shows up with a lunch tray. Superman’s head couldn’t be bothered to make the appearance. You can CGI a mustache but not the rest of his head?
Honestly this cameo just pissed me off. Marvel never pulls this crap. If they have an established character, they either cameo or they don’t. If you wanted Supes, get Henry Caville in the suit and bring him in.
Ultimately I think most people will enjoy this movie. I personally wanted more. But I think that is because when it comes to DC heroes, I have these idealized expectations of them that kind of gets ruined when I see them grounded. Marvel has deeply flawed heroes who have to rise to the occasion and are heroes despite their flaws. DC heroes are closer to gods and we have these images in our head of what the heroes should be, so when they don’t meet that ideal, it seems like the directors and writers don’t “get” the character.
I will at, I was laughing along with everybody else with the jokes, but I wanted to see the hero that Shazam! was supposed to be. Billy never got the same test Sivana and the other kids got. And personally, I don’t think there was ever a moment where he demonstrated that he deserved the powers more. He didn’t resist temptation, given the option, he likely would have reached for the eye of sin and been rejected like everyone else. The only reason he didn’t take the power himself at the end was because he ALREADY had powers.
Ultimately I wanted more, but I still recommend it because most people will enjoy this movie.
Next Week: The Missing Hellboy. A demon seeks the help of an explorer to find others like him.