THE CAPTAIN CINEMAXX HAS WATCHED: SHAZAM! – * SPOILERS *
Among the countless DCEU and out of the DCEU projects throwed like a rock in a pond, Shazam! Quickly showed up like a serious candidate. And despite developing an expensive Man of Steel 2, Warner Bros headmasters decided to product its opposite, a humoristic version of superman, a lot cheaper, with the hope for a new beginning, a rebirth already started with the success of Wonder Woman and Aquaman to the box-office.
Unfortunately, this Shazam! appears to be just like its trailer, a following of so-called hilarious jokes one after another, which oversteps with presumption the essential ingredients of a super-hero movie such as the dramatic stakes for example.
The Hollywoodian mediocracy in all its beauty
I can already hear the purists screaming at me that humor is an inherent part of Shazam’s character and that the movie is just like the comics, like his heroical adventures.
However, a superhero movie must not just exist because of its literary mythology, a cinematographic adaptation can transcend a comic book, just like a theatrical work such as Edmond by Alexis Michalick.
In my opinion, I utterly don’t care that a movie is accurate or no to the spirit of its creators – that wouldn’t be the first time DC offers alternate and darker versions of its characters anyway – only three criteria should be respected when we are writing the scenario of an initiatory story :
-The evolution of the hero throughout its origin-story (and its sequels)
-A threat in contradiction with the hero’s convictions to the point where he will doubt his own moral
-The psychological treatment of the Nemesis. Without a proper development of his motivations and objectives, there is just a lonely villain among many others left. If Darth Vader, Freddy, Michael Myers, the Joker or Thanos are considered as the best antagonists of the 7h art, it is because the producers understood that they had to deeply explore the background of a villain in order for him to be remembered in the story.
And Shazam! doesn’t respect any of these criteria. Even worse, it just put these aside and tries to rhythm its action with fast-paced cadence with caring humoristic sequences.
The humor never prevented any superhero movie to work, there is a plethora of examples among the competitors. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man are the perfect examples of an incredible mastering of the thrilling dramatic stakes and the clumsy childish humor. They make sure to make their heroes evolve through the villains whose purposes are both greedy and megalomaniac and threatens the life and the convictions of the heroes without falling for the cliché of the bad-guy willing to rule over the world. Thus, Shazam! Is not an example to follow…
Though the first part of the movie was working well! Switching form the origin-story to humoristic scenes, making fun of the image of the much too perfect Superman, far away from the people, flying over Metropolis like a God out of reach. And when Zachary Levy enters, slowly but surely, the movie drowns in a distressing mediocrity. The actor is annoying due to his infantile whims, his unrelenting runaways and his « cool » side, close to the people in order to give a more human feel to the superhero.
Whether it is Billy Baston or Shazam, none of them is really evolving for an hour and 49 minutes, despite the desperate tries (adoption, alliance between Freddy and Billy/Shazam, the courage of the hero finally taking his responsibilities, etc…). Everything feels wrong as the humor is everywhere. Annoying !
As far as Mark Strong is concerned, he delivered an convincing interpretation of the Doctor Sivana. He sometimes even succeeds to be terrifying. This time again, there is a deep gap between the humor and the seriousness which takes off every single bit of credibility in the antagonist’s saying and actions, representing nowaday’s society.
By the way, the idea of the 7 capital sins was brilliant, the interest in criticizing the modern world and its excesses. Nonetheless, the apparition of the creatures emphasizing them throughout the movie had no impact on the plot. It was even making fun of that when the producers had all the elements to make us question ourselves on the meaning of life and our selfishness.
Finally, Doctor Sivana’s motivations looked a lot more like the ones of a capricious child opposed to the ones of a child who really suffered.
Artistical ambition, where are you?
Shazam! is not only a deception regarding the scenario, but on the realization and the production too. The DC production is awfully annoying, just like Spider-Man : Homecoming can’t reach the expectations.
But Spider-Man : Homecoming assumed its « feel good » touch on the screen. Indeed, Jon Watts’ movie was colored and lively whereas Shazam! has this cold and greyish feel of a Man of Steel or a Wonder Woman. We’re falling again in a very « Snyderian » photography which I thought the Warner got rid-off since Aquaman. So, there is this weird shift between this greyish atmosphere – which is perfect for darker movies such as Justice League – but doesn’t fit when we are producing a super-heroic comedy such as Shazam!
And if we push further the comparison between Homecoming and Shazam!, both have a disastrous final part. The final fights between the heroes and the villains are evermore left aside, and those two movies depict it perfectly.
There is no ambition in the production, no researches in the aesthetic or the choreographies to make them unique. Homecoming and Shazam! didn’t even try to seek for a bit of suspense regarding the ending of the fight.
And regarding those kinds of « Power Rangers » rip-off, there is nothing much to say since their fight between the seven monsters was boring.
As far as their adult version are concerned, it was disturbing that the producer David F. Sandberg was proud to expose those caricatures. Why would the young overweighed kid become the delicious model of a wrong fantasy? Wouldn’t it have been smarter, for an all-public movie, to assume a less refined model? To have given a more inhibited and positive picture in order for the young to identify to those heroes whom would then become their voice?
A pair of pretty muscles or breasts won’t make you a hero, that’s the message Shazam! should have been sending !
Captain Cinemaxx’s conclusion
The super-hero movies are following one another, and for most of them, look alike despite a certain will to offer different protagonists to the public with the hope to renew for ever an always evolving universe.
Nonetheless, Shazam! doesn’t go further than the little cheap comedy, despite Zachary levy’s good will and happiness, erased by its own fantasy.