Fish and Cherries Productions

Creative content from a mad mind.


Reel Snippet – Shazam!

This time, bird is not the word.

Summary: Young Billy Batson has a bit of trouble with staying put because he’s been searching for his mother for over ten years after he got separated from her when he was young. He’s run away from over twenty foster homes, but social services puts him in a group home run by Rosa and Victor Vasquez who watch over five other children, including Freddy, a superhero enthusiast and prankster who tries his hardest to bond with Billy. After Billy defends Freddy from some bullies and runs from them, he finds himself whisked away to a strange place where an ancient wizard chooses him as his champion. By uttering the wizard’s name, Shazam, Billy is transformed into an adult superhero with incredible powers and gets Freddy to help him test his limits. But time is not on his side as an obsessed scientist named Doctor Sivanna (Mark Strong) steals a treasure from the wizard’s collection to harness the power of the Seven Deadly Sins to gain powers of his own. Thus it falls to Billy to harness his powers, mature his mind, and become the hero that he has been chosen to be.

Review: Shazam! plays things by the book, going through a tried and true story, revisiting familiar character arcs, and giving you the most basic superhero story there is.

But god damn it, I LOVE it.

Yes, the basic skeleton is familiar, but the skin, sinew, and muscles are chock full of heart, soul, and talent. Every single actor in this movie is amazing, especially when two actors play one character. Sure, it’s cheesy at times, but I’d be more surprised if it wasn’t — apart from the very nature of the story or a child turning into an adult superhero with a magic word, Shazam’s (formerly Captain Marvel, but that’s a story for another time) nickname was “the Big Red Cheese.” Kinda hard to not embrace that aspect when it’s baked into the character’s history.

Our hero and villain actually compliment each other quite well as far as story arcs and themes go. As you might have guessed from my synopsis, one of the overarching themes is family, both the one you’re born with and the one you choose. Billy lost his family at an early age and became obsessed with reconnecting with them at the cost of nearly everyone who tried to adopt him. On the flipside, Doctor Thaddeus Sivana had a full childhood with his family, who were relentlessly cruel and demeaning to him and fueled his own obsession with finding the wizard. They really are two sides of the same coin which makes the fact that they have similar powers so fitting. By the way, as a fun little game, see how many times you can spot imagery and foreshadowing involving Sivana’s eye.

The director of this piece, David F. Sandberg, is a newcomer on the scene who got his start in horror and boy, does it show. The embodiments of the Seven Sins look like nightmares come to life and for a lighthearted movie, there are some intense moments. It’s kinda funny because it’s a kid-friendly concept, but there’s plenty of content that aims for higher ages. In a way, it reminds me of kids’ movies from the 80s before the PG-13 rating. You know, the ones like Gremlins where there are tons of swearing and violence and weirdly enough, it works.

The movie itself is an adaptation of the Shazam miniseries from DC’s New 52 line and for once, that’s a good thing (because that miniseries was quite good). There have been some changes, but I think most of those are for the better. Sivana replacing Black Adam as the main villain works better to tie into the aforementioned family theme rather than have a previous champion contest Billy’s right to the power. Billy is also a lot more likeable than he was at the start of the New 52 series — granted, the movie’s Billy does some questionable, borderline illegal things, but he doesn’t do anything quite so rotten as yell at an innocent cat. The term “Adaptation Distillation” is used for when an adaptation boils the best aspects of its source material into something truly special and this is a classic example.

I honestly can’t think of any serious gripes with this movie, apart from maybe the fact that Billy’s foster siblings don’t get a ton of development, though they’re still charming in their own way. Even with that, there’s nothing that brings the movie down for me. It’s easily the most fun I’ve had at a modern DC movie, though I did miss the DC opening logo that I’ve become accustomed to. In fact… and it kind of pains me to say this… I think I like it better than Wonder Woman. It was certainly a better Superman story than any we’ve had in a long time. So yeah, if you’re a fan of superheroes, feel-good stories, or a kid in the mood for an awesome power fantasy, just walk up to the ticketing booth and say the magic word.

Fun Tidbit #1: When the wizard shows an image of a disgraced champion from days of yore, you may notice a resemblance to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. A while ago, Dwayne Johnson was confirmed to be cast as Black Adam for the Shazam! Movie, though obviously he didn’t make the cut. Once again, I must ask — mythology gag or foreshadowing? I can’t wait to find out.

Fun Tidbit #2: Occasionally, there’s a stuffed tiger that pops up throughout the story. This refers to Batson’s anthropomorphic tiger from the comics, Tawky Tawny.

Fun Tidbit #3: Early in the film, Billy is sat down to talk with a social worker named Emma Glover, played by Andi Osho. This is actually a role reprisal of a character from Sandberg’s directorial debut, Lights Out.

Fun Tidbit #4: Sure, it’s fun to say that Djimon Hounsou is yet another actor who’s worked for both Marvel and DC, but this isn’t his first DC movie. He was in Aquaman as the ruler of the Fishermen Kingdom, though you wouldn’t have known it from the CGI.

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