Movie Review: Shazam!


The DC Cinematic has had a rough couple of years starting from the dark Synderverse of Man of Steel that spawned Batman vs. Superman and the mixed tone of the Justice League. But with Aquaman crossing the 1 Billion Dollar mark, DC films look to take a lighter tone (not just in colour palette). So will Shazam! keep the ball rolling.

In case you didn’t know Shazam! is based on one of the oldest characters from DC (before there was a DC) Shazam is actually known as Captain Marvel. Yes, we know Captain Marvel is in the MCU and just crossed the billion dollar mark too but let us explain.

Captain Marvel in DC first appeared in 1939 and for a time was actually outselling Superman. Originally Captain Marvel was the alter-ego of a young orphan boy named Billy Batson who was granted powers by the Wizard named Shazam. In speaking the word Shazam a lightning bolt would hit Billy transforming him into Captain Marvel with the powers of Zeus, Strength of Hercules, Speed of… basically Superman, but magic.

Over time Captain Marvel’s family grew as he found his sister Mary Batson and more, sharing his power with them (in the comics when Mary Marvel or Captain Marvel Jr would transform they would siphon off part of Captain Marvel’s power). There was even a magic talking tiger named Tawney.

So how did Captain Marvel become a Marvel character, not a DC one?

Well originally before DC was DC, Captain Marvel was part of Fawcett Comics a competitor of National Comics who published Superman. Before they merged there were some legal issues between the two over the similarities of Superman and Captain Marvel that eventually after the companies merged, resulted in Captain Marvel being cancelled for many years. During this time Marvel created their own Captain Marvel (with a trademark made possible due to the lapse from DC). When DC revived their character which continued to be called Captain Marvel it was published under the title Shazam!

Ok now you are all caught up, the new film Shazam! is the big screen adaption of the origins of Billy Batson. While there have been many updates as there have been reboots in the DC Comics continuity the movie follows more of the New 52 Shazam as he appeared in the backup story of Justice League comics written by the current (sorta) DCEU architect Geoff Johns.

Billy, still an orphan, separated from his mother at a fair as a small boy and now a teenager, has been bouncing from foster family to foster family while trying to find his mother. In the latest foster family, he finds himself in a group home with other children in a similar position including his new ‘best friend’ Freddy.

During this time the Wizard Shazam, the jailer for the embodiment of the 7 deadly sins has been searching for someone pure of heart to become his champion. The Wizard in this version is not exactly the best chooser of champions having tested many people before getting to Billy (we even get an Easter Egg of Black Adam, a former champion of Shazam who is sort of an Evil Superman), including some that did not take rejection too well.

And that’s probably all the lead in you really need to know for Captain Marvel. While it is a superhero origin story it is mostly about Billy getting his powers and learning how to use them before the Wizards previous actions come back to bite, Billy.

In terms of scope (and budget) the film is not on the same level as Aquaman but what it does have in common is a definite lift in tone. While early on we see many references to Batman vs Superman and Man of Steel to know that Shazam occurs in the same universe, probably just after Justice League, it is very much a stand-alone film. But if you were looking for a clever comparison then it is probably Tom Hank’s Big but with Superpowers.

So should you go see it? If you are a fan of the lighter direction of the DC film universe then definitely. There is a lot to like about Shazam especially in the second half when Billy really starts embracing the superhero part of his life. Anyone who is a fan of Captain Marvel from the comics also will not be disappointed with a lot of boxes being ticked before the end of the movie. We are just hoping for a talking tiger for the sequel.

Shazam! is in cinemas across Australia from April 4th.

Story and Characters
Visuals and Effects
Enjoyment Factor
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