Ah, the DCEU, probably one of the most inconsistent franchises there is. They started off with the so-so Man of Steel, then the incredibly dull Batman V. Superman, then one of my least favorite films ever Suicide Squad, the overall decent Wonder Woman, the mediocre Justice League, and my personal favorite, Aquaman. Now they come to us with Shazam, which had a fantastic trailer.
They made a trailer which looked like it was bringing wonder back to the superhero genre. I was super excited, and when I learned of advance screenings, I bought my tickets immediately. When I actually saw it, I sat there for two hours and twelve minutes, and when it ended, I was thoroughly feeling like I was brought back… to a superhero movie from 2013, but I’ll get into that. Let’s just get into the movie as a whole.
As I always do, I’ll start with my positives. I liked the villain. I used to read Shazam comics when I was a kid, so seeing Dr. Sivana on the big screen is pretty cool. Mark Strong always does his best playing the antagonist of kinda forgettable films (Green Lantern, Sherlock Holmes) and it’s no different here. It’s also probably the only character design of any character which I actually liked. It has a nice flair, as well as just looking pretty cool. Now, when it comes to the actual character development and motivation, those aren’t great… but he looks cool! So there’s that…
Another thing I liked was some of the comedy. It definitely isn’t gold and I’ll get into that later, but I definitely laughed a few times. The scene in the convenience store seen in the trailer is extended and is probably the comedic highlight of the film. There’s also a pretty good reference to the biggest comparison this movie is getting, Big. I won’t say what it is, but when it really is the best way to acknowledge it without having Zachary Levi turning to the camera and yelling “It’s like Big!” a-la end of Happy Death Day. There’s also a few jokes sprinkled throughout I found funny, but those two scenes are the most memorable.
That’s really all I liked, now let’s talk about what I didn’t, and first up is the design of the characters. Now, there’s a thing at the end where I actually did like some character designs, but I don’t want to spoil that so I’m just going to talk about the Shazam suit and the seven deadly sins. So first is the Shazam suit, and I know it’s supposed to look kinda silly, but come on.
That thing looks so ridiculous that I don’t know how the criminals didn’t burst out laughing when they saw him in it. It just looks so stupid with the weird double cape and the hood. It’s just so dumb. On the other end of the spectrum with the sins, it’s kind of the opposite. I don’t want to be someone who says “That’s not what it’s like in the comics!” but those designs in the comics were great.
They had individualized appearances with specific colors and looks. They had their own personalities. Here, they’re just giant gray demons who yell “BLEH!” and are indistinguishable from one another. It’s not only bland, it doesn’t really match the tone of the film and other costumes. Speaking of which…
Next item on this list is the story and tone of the film. Now, did you see Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle? I did, and apparently so did Henry Gayden, who wrote Shazam! because this movie has so many parallels it’s kind of weird. Not only is there the whole body-swapping thing that Jumanji had, not only is there a fantastical/comedic tone, but both of these films will have the Rock in the sequel (hopefully, still no word on it for Shazam! 2 which we all know is happening).
Now, does this really affect the story? No, but it definitely has its effects on the tone which shifts around a lot. It tries to get that Jumanji tone at times, but then it’ll go to Billy’s abandonment issues right after a scene of Captain Sparkle-fingers testing out his powers. It’s just distracting.
As for the story, well it just meanders for so long. The power-testing scenes, as well as the jokes within them go on for far too long, and there’s also one or two more scenes than needed with the foster home kids. Overall, there’s so much stuff that could have been cut that I swear this could have been over in under 110 minutes.
Even the second of the two end credit scenes is so unneeded, as it’s pretty much just another thing from the power testing montage. You definitely don’t need to stick around for that. However, if you cut out all the comedy which didn’t really land… I don’t think you would have a feature length movie. The pacing and storyline is so heavily dependent on jokes that the fact they don’t ever land is really bad.
So those are my thoughts on Shazam!, and if you told me out of this and Aquaman, that Aquaman is the one I’d really like I would call you a liar. However, I will say Shazam! is still my 3rd favorite DCEU film, because the other 4 it had to go against for third included Justice League, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad, not exactly the cream of the crop there. Overall, it feels like a 2013 superhero film. It has the same quality of a Thor: The Dark World or an Iron Man 3.
Not bad films peresay, heck I think those two both get kind of a bad rap, but Shazam! is definitely a movie like that. Something you see on a Saturday at 4 on cable and think to yourself “Sure, why not?” and you have a good time. I didn’t really dislike the film, but I was thoroughly disappointed. I’ll say see it, but out of the two Captain Marvel films released within the last month, I adored one, and the other was Shazam!