Erik Jimenez/Staff Writer
“Shazam’s” titular hero is actually the first superhero to ever make it to the big screen. Way back in 1941, Shazam – or Captain Marvel, as he was known at the time – got a dedicated film serial of his own before the likes of Batman, Captain America and even Superman got theirs.
This is a testament to the popularity of the character at the time, a popularity that has significantly decreased after his original publisher Fawcett Comics was bought out by DC. Still, Captain Marvel, or as he’s known now, Shazam – the name changed due to copyright reasons with… Marvel – is still regarded as an important part of the DC Universe. And, with DC wanting to flesh out their cinematic universe, his inevitable film was well worth the wait.
What makes Shazam interesting is that his alter-ego is a child in middle or high school called Billy Batson, who turns into his adult superhero form whenever he shouts out “Shazam!” In the film, Billy is a troubled orphan who has run away from numerous foster homes after being separated from his mother when he was younger. Billy is played by Asher Angel and his powered-up form is portrayed by Zachary Levi.
He gains these powers after being chosen as the new “Champion of Eternity” by a wizard (Djimon Honsou) whose powers are weakening due to old age. He bestows the powers onto Billy in a desperate attempt to stop The Seven Deadly Sins, a group of demonic creatures who have escaped their prison thanks to Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), a man who knew the wizard as a child and has been chosen as the Sins’ champion.
With the help of his foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), Billy decides it’s best to use his powers to fulfill some fantasies; that’s where the comedy comes in and the film becomes electric. The filmmakers use one of the most blatant appeals to children that the superhero genre has – wish fulfillment – and by applying that to one of the genre’s most child-friendly characters, it results in some magical and funny scenes that will be talked about for decades to come. The chemistry that Grazer has with both Angel and Levi helps with this.
But just because it’s more child-friendly than other superhero flicks don’t mean it appeaks to adults in many areas. Director David F. Sandberg is primarily a horror director best known for “Lights Out” and “Annabelle: Creation,” and there are numerous scenes that demonstrate that. Specifically, any scene involving Sivana and the Seven Deadly Sins.
Not only are the Sins some of the creepiest and most sinister-looking monsters to come to the screen in recent years, but their actions solidify the film’s PG-13 rating. This is a children’s film in the same sense that “Gremlins,” “Ghostbusters” and many other ‘80’s children’s films were. They’re primarily aimed at children, but they expose them to some disturbing stuff because they want to and kids are going to remember it.
The supporting cast of Billy’s foster family is charming as well, and their heavy inclusion in the third act results in many surprises that add up to the best climax of any film in this universe so far.
If “Captain Marvel” disappointed in delivering decent superhero action before “Avengers: Endgame,” then you should check out this Captain Marvel movie. It’s a success by every standard, no matter what you decide to call it.