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Shazam! Discussion (SPOILERS)

#1

Out next week, but there’s been plenty of screenings already.

I enjoyed it a lot, a bit more than Aquaman. Not on the same level as Wonder Woman though, and the first half hour is a bit slow. Once it gets going, it’s lots of fun.

I’ve almost no history with the characters, and have only read a handful of Shazam issues, but I was never confused. Strong’s villain was a bit too generic, but he seemed to be having fun. The foster family were okay, but the movie obviously didn’t have time to develop them all, so most of them feel a bit one-dimensional. They try giving Mary a subplot at one point, but it’s completely dropped almost immediately.

The humour mostly worked for me, and I really liked Levi. I was a fan of Chuck for the entire run, and I’m glad to see he’s still got it. I was spoiled for some of the actors who showed up in the third act, but I was very happy to see them.

The joke during the big final fight scene of Strong monologuing but Levi being too far away to hear him absolutely cracked me up. Easily the best part of the movie for me.

It’s slightly odd that it’s yet another superhero movie, after Captain Marvel, which doesn’t even hint at a romantic subplot. I didn’t need that to be in there, but it’ll be interesting to see if this is a pattern.

In summary, this was easily one of the two best Philadelphia-set superhero movies of the last few months in which the villain attempts to drown the hero in a small pool of water.

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What are you watching? 2019 edition
#2

Shazam, more than anything, is just really good. There is no getting around that.

First things first, Shazam was just surprising in how it presented itself. It’s ostensibly a kid’s film, or at least has really tried to sell itself in that sense. All of these comparisons to Amblin Films or BIG…which, on reflection, wasn’t that bad a comparison. I mean, the kids in ET get guns pointed at them and Tom Hanks has sex…and Shazam really does push the envelope with its PG-13 rating as far as it can in the same way. It’s more or less a family film. With a light, fun, and very moral story for the littler kids, and then some more extreme gags and even darker scenes for older kids and the adults. They say shit as much as they possibly could, and have a recurring gag about a Strip Club. It has something for everyone. Two things that really stood out to me are those extreme gags and darker scenes. Like, the movie opens up with a very stark scene about Sivana’s origin - and it is just so raw and honestly depressing. David F. Sandberg really was a good choice for this movie, because given his horror movie background he’s able to set perfectly uneasy moods for a lot of bits of the movie just like that opening. Hell, there’s also this huge bit that is framed and shot exactly like a horror movie and it is…unsettling to say the least. It’s very nerve wracking, especially if you were looking for something…well…Big Red Cheese. But nope, this opening has emotional abuse, blood, and a lot of cursing. In fact, the whole movie has a lot of that. Sometimes used for comedic effect, but mostly to underscore the tension and drama of both Sivana as the outside antagonistic force…but also the subtextual emotional arcs. It’s why I find it so laughable that people are using this movie as a bastion for how the DCEU is “moving away from Snyder”…because it’s honestly doing the same thing as he was attempting atmospherically. Just a whole lot more entertainingly.

Hell, in Shazam there is this insanely sorrowful scene where Billy has to confront with the truth about his parents and it’s definitely treading along the same lines as any of the parental stuff from MoS or BvS…but it stops just short of being overwrought. Being played for exemplary pathos instead. It’s genuinely great and engaging, and kudos to Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, and David F. Sanberg…and all involved. Because they hit the landing perfectly.

Of course none of this is meant to say that the movie isn’t without it’s light or fun moments. Not at all, in fact both aspects help to reaffirm each other. It’s like night and day, but complimentary. Perhaps best personified through how Sivana and Billy contrast each other. There’s this plot beat in the movie where The Wizard tests his candidates for champion with the Seven Sins, and in a way both Billy and Sivana fail this test. However Sivana decides not to grow as a person, he withdraws from any sense of connection, and never reaches out to others. Only his internal single minded goal. Billy similary has a singular goal, but also doesn’t shy away from building connections and bonds with others. They both sin…a lot, but Billy realizes that it’s only a bandaid for what is really missing in his life. Emotional tethers with other people. There’s this wonderful beat that really sells this, where Sivana has just finished severing these ties…and Mark Strong exudes in his body language and facial expressions this perfect aura of distraught and confused rage. It’s self-defeating and destructing. That’s what makes Billy worthy…because he grows, and lets go, and has the capacity to let others into his heart. It’s something he has to overcome by himself, but he does. It’s quite lovely.

It helps that Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Zachary Levi bounce off each other immaculately. Billy’s connection to Freddy is the strongest out of anyone else in the cast, and they needed each other for these moments to be as realized as they were. When their relationships start to rise or breakdown…you feel it. And, well, awesome. They were great.

This is also the perfect segue into my…issues with the film. Before we get to the real nitpicky stuff let’s start off with some general problems I had. The first of which is that, well, Freddy is the only character of the Marvel family to get anything to do. The rest don’t really have anything of note. They’re pretty interchangeable, except for maybe Darla - but only because she’s the focal point of several punchlines. It’s a shame, it really is, and it lessens the impact of the finale. Because when the other foster kids get their powers and become the Shazamily - because that happens and it’s a great moment - it’s hampered by the fact that you don’t really know anything about them. They’re caricaturish blank slates. Thankfully the Freddy stuff works because it helps you not notice it, but it is a missed opportunity for a film and franchise that has a core theme about family.

Another thing is that this movie does confirm that Johns only made Mary 18 in his new series for Synergy reasons and that she and Billy are not related. Not a mark on the movie, but it will reflect my opinions on the new Shazam! series moving forward.

My next two complaints are tied with the comic that this movie takes chief inspiration from - Curse of Shazam! The first of which has to do with Billy’s character arc. Now before I’ve said that Billy has this real development and journey throughout the movie. And it’s true. But it also feels like it comes way too late. The actors and the writers make it work, but it still feels like we’ve spent way too much time on Billy not really growing as a person, or really what makes him a hero outside of generally being a decentish kid at heart. In Curse of Shazam, Billy’s first fight with Black Adam happens in a crowded public place, a mall, and one of Billy’s first reactions is his concern that Black Adam is going to cause collateral damage and injure people in this path of destruction. It’s a small one panel beat…but it speaks volumes about Billy’s character. The same scene happens in Shazam…but Billy has no such moment. Throughout the scene he only is concerned about getting away from Sivana, who takes Black Adam’s place within the narratve. It just feels like a weird decision to not include a moment that would have added to the scene. Because it feels kinda empty without it, if you knew about it, and the movie in general can feel kinda lopsided.

But, honestly, that’s kinda it. Not enough development or misused development. And even then mostly understandable. Not bad, not bad at all. It’s not only surprisingly faithful to Curse of Shazam in every other respect, but also brings back the “he can’t say it without changing” and has way too much fun with it. By the end of the movie Billy has no superhero name. At all. It’s fantastic. I swear, just go out and call him Captain Marvel for the sequel. Just do it.

Overall, it was a fun, well made, entertainingly acted, and really effective film. About growing up, letting go, but never shutting or cutting yourself off. Not from life, and not from family or friends. Who ever you feel like calling either.

I really hope Black Adam is a villain, he’d fit right in.

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#3

I was expecting him in the post-credits scene, but I like where they went instead. He could still show up, and I think Dwayne Johnson could do well with the tone of the movie, but I don’t think he wants to be in movies in which he’s not the star.

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#4

Yeah, which is a shame.

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#5
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#6

Without wishing to reference the beloved president, I noticed how small Zachary’s hands looked coming from the oversized sleeves of the muscle suit. Once noticed I found it quite distracting.

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#7

Somehow, there seems to be an unlisted advance screening of this at my local cinema today.

Gosh, I wonder how that happened. I might just have to go and watch it.

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#8

Yeah, it’s alright.

I loved that the entire marvel family came into play later on. Didn’t expect it but it was kinda obvious. The post credits scene was good. Setup but a bit fun.

Levi is like an Alex Ross comic written by Nicieza come to life. Perfect casting. Loved the Superman inclusion at the end even if it didn’t show the face.

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#9

Four old people (75+) just came in the cinema eager to watch Shazam, having enjoyed the old series with their kids when they were my age, lol.

edited a shitlot later:

As a follow-up, the two old ladies liked it well enough, but the older males were less happy. One of them was pissed about this being allowed from 11 years and up.

I think that was a clear a case as any of “being out of touch with reality”.

Sweden has the following ratings:
B - child-friendly
7 - 7 years old upwards, younger than seven ok when accompanied by an adult
11 - 11 years old upwards, a child (no younger than 7) ok when accompanied by an adult
15 - 15 years up, 11 years up ok with adult

Shazam was nowhere near 15… That’s the toughest rating we have.

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#10

It’s good, but not great, and I think it’s aiming for “good”. This isn’t trying to reinvent the superhero movie, it’s trying to enjoy it, and it succeeds.

Downsides are mostly that it’s very light, even in the areas of heavier subtext. Tonally some things don’t quite line up.

‪But it’s also a rare movie I wish was a little longer so some bits could breathe more. Darla steals the film but everyone gets their moments.

Mark Strong has the least to work with, it would be generous to say his character is even two dimensional, but it’s Mark Strong so he gets more mileage out of it than many would.

And I disagree with any comparison to Snyder. It’s not that spectacular and it’s definitely not that dark.

I’ll take that as a way for DC to move forward with some of their characters.

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#11

seconded.

Zachary Levi comes in second.

the only thing I didn’t like was Mary’s battle with the Sin. they never mentioned what power she got and the idea that they had the one with tentacles go after the Hot woman(anime cliche much?)

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#12

I agree. I found some of the movie funny and engaging, liked the opening, but it felt more like a light Harry Potter rip-off like Percy Jackson or The Spiderwick Chronicles. Or even the recent The Kid Who Would Be King which looks really similar, but didn’t attract much attendance. All that with the usual deus ex SFX conclusion at the end. Perfunctory plot, well done moral lessons (with no serious consequences) with a few nice but light touches.

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#14

So, this film is for older (women) people?

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#15

No, it’s definitely a kids movie.

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#16

Yeah, there isn’t a lot in this other than one scary massacre, a couple strip club jokes and a beer joke that sets it apart from GOOSEBUMPS. The villains are a little bit more grotesque than goosebumps, but not awfully worse. Not as harrowing as the last two Harry Potter movies, but not as childish as the first two.

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#17

I don’t know.

Sivana trying to drown Billy was pretty harrowing.

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#18

The car crash at the start is darker than that though, I never felt that Billy was actually going to drown, but John Glover bleeding on the road is one of those road safety images they use to scare kids into driving better… when they’re old enough to drive obviously.

It was interesting to see him play another bad dad to another super villain.

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#19

Yeah, that was fun. He’s actually a really nice guy so he must get his dark side out in all these roles.

Essentially, though, the board room scene was just moderately effective dramatically. The movie disguises that with all the action, but there was barely any work put in to develop Sivana’s relationship with his dad and brother. And why introduce the Sivana Corporation if it’s not going to ever come up again? It just seemed like a waste, actually. Again, the word perfunctory comes to mind. They did just enough, and that’s most of the film. The relationships have the least amount of effort required put into them.

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#20

It is darker than that, and I brought up that scene when Chris asked if he could bring his kids to the film.

I also thought it was fairly dark, in a different way, that Billy’s mom simply let him wander off and disappear, and just didn’t want him. I’d expect that it is a strange and hard concept for some children in the audience to wrap their heads around.

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#21

Yeah, that also was, and the scene between them felt so…awkward and morose at the end.

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