When the trailer for Shazam! hit the theatres, I was prepared to hate it. I planned to go see it anyway, but I didn’t expect to like it. Yes, Billy Batson was always a kid inside the body of the hero, but he always seemed to gain some level of maturity with it. If nothing else, there is the wisdom of Solomon to guide him. The trailers portrayed
Captain Marvel Shazam as a person who would make the stereotypical Adam Sandler character look like a paragon of maturity. No one I knew expected much of the movie but we were going to give it a shot.
The movie comes around and people are actually saying it’s a good movie. I have a friend I always see the super-hero movies with and we didn’t go until a week after it was released. I have hope now that it would be a good movie as I sat down with my soda and pretzel. While it was not a total flop, it was not what I was led to expect from my friends either.
The Captain Marvel I grew up with was raised on his own by Uncle Dudley. (Yes, I’m calling him that. I don’t care. He was the first one named Captain Marvel and Shazam is the wizard’s name anyway!) The post-New 52 version of Billy Batson has a whole foster family with Freddy Freeman (formerly Captain Marvel Jr.) already included which is where the movie picks up. We start off with bad boy Billy Batson running away from home and trying to find his mother. He gets tossed in with the afore mentioned foster family and the whole process starts. He defends his foster brother Freddy which leads to him being chased down into the subway train that takes him to the wizard’s chamber. Unlike the pure Billy of Fawcett Comics, this one is not worthy of the Wizard’s power but he’s got to give it to someone so, why not Billy? All he has to do is grab the old man’s staff and shout him name. (First off all, this sounds way too dirty especially given how old the wizard is.) One big problem though. He’s never told Billy is name. At least Billy points this out instead of magically knowing plot information. (That will come later.) And with a flash of lightning, Billy is transformed into Shazam. No, not the wizard, you silly reader. He’s the OTHER Shazam. See, that’s not confusing. (Excuse me while I bang my head on the desk.)
On we move to the “comical” (read: somewhat painful to watch) mishaps of Shazam and Freddy as they use the adult body to buy beer, which they hate, and try out possible super powers. To no real surprise, the real powers are learned by accident and all the tested ones fail. This includes flying which he learns much later as he stops himself an inch or so from crashing into the ground. This cliche is as bad as stopping the bomb with 1 second left. On goes the story with Billy being a waste of time and showing off his powers while Freddy becomes a jealous mess. In comes Sivana and a citywide fight ensues. The saddest part of the whole thing is that Billy/Shazam is such a loser at this point that I was honestly not sure which of them I wanted to win. It’s not good writing when you can’t even root for the protagonist.
Finally, when Billy’s foster brothers and sisters are threatened by Sivana, he finally takes things seriously and becomes a hero. He works to protect the kids while Mary works on a plan to stop Sivana and the 7 deadly sins. Wait a minute! How the heck did Mary know his powers came from the 7 deadly sins? They just look like a bunch of demons. Did a scene get cut somewhere where this was revealed? Nonetheless, the battles happen and we reach the point that we all knew would happen. Like in the comics, he shares his powers with his siblings and they end up winning the day. The 7 deadly sins are entombed again and the kids take over the Rock of Eternity as a lair. The end of the movie redeemed it some but I was still not impressed.
What I was really looking forward to was seeing how the green Shazam (Pedro) would look. Anyone who knows me knows bearded guys are a weakness so I was hoping they would do well with him. I am very impressed with how they did. What really surprised and also impressed me was something they did with Pedro himself. When Billy ends up teleporting the siblings into a strip bar, they each come out with their own reactions. Pedro’s was a surprising “not my thing” pointing to a hint that there would be a gay super-hero in the movie. Making the hottest of the Shazams (IMHO) gay just makes it even better. And if you want a look at a comparison of the comic and movie version, I’m hiding it for those avoiding spoilers