Cast: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer
Writers: Henry Gayden
Director: David F. Sanberg
First appearing in Whiz Comics #2 in 1939, Captain Marvel..aka…Shazam is one of the comic book industry’s oldest and most popular characters. So popular, in fact, that he was actually outselling DC’s Superman during World War II. Over the years the character has appeared in cartoons and a 1970s live-action TV show and now a big screen adaptation….meh…
The film opens to introducing Thaddeus Sivanna in 1974, a young boy recruited by the wizard Shazam to be his new champion and inherit his powers. But Sivanna is instead swayed by the evil of the Seven Deadly Sins and rejected. In present day the now adult Sivanna played by Mark Strong has been trying to track down Shazam for decades, investigating others who have encountered the Wizard. He manages to steal the Eye of Sin which gives him the power to release the demons of the Seven Deadly Sins.
Meanwhile young Billy Batson (Asher Angel) has been searching for his birth mother for years after being separated when he was a toddler. Billy is placed into a new foster home where me meets Freddy Freeman(Grazer), another child who lives in the home and is physically challenged and walks with the aid of a cane. Billy is deemed to be pure of heart by Shazam and granted his powers putting him in the crosshairs of Sivanna who intends to steal them for himself.
If you have seen the outstanding Captain Marvel film serial produced in the 1940s (It’s on blu-ray)…this is clearly not the same Shazam. That character was a boy that transformed into man, as was the 1970s TV incarnation. Instead, Director David F. Sandberg goes for the DC Comics’ more modern take where the character is still a boy but in a man’s body with all of the insecurities and immaturity of a young teen. Thus this version of Shazam (played by Zachary Levi) uses his powers and look to earn money by posing for selfies on the street, buying beer, and skipping out of school. I was waiting for the moment he asked Freddy to “pull my finger.”
Billy and Sandberg bumble their way around, generally making a mockery of the character and his 80 years of history. Add to that there is a silly and pointless sub-plot (spoilers ahead) where Billy finally tracks down his birth mother only to discover she abandoned her son because she didn’t want to accept her responsibility as a parent. Wow…now there is a modern lesson. Don’t like your responsibilities? Just walk away and let someone else worry about them. There was nothing serve by this plot thread. Billy should have been left as an orphan as he was in the comics.
Mark Strong is a fantastic actor and does his best as the villainous Sivanna to raise Shazam above the pure stupidity of the script and direction. Zachary Levi is no stranger to superhero films having played Fandral, one of Thor’s “Warriors Three” friends in Thor: The Dark World and Thor Ragnarok. The best I could have hoped for was for him to finally transform in the hero he should be but that moment is rather dull and limp. Forgiving the fact that the script stinks, Levi still did little on his end to make his hero seem like an actual superhero.
DC and Warner Brothers missed out on a golden opportunity for a true smash hit. The film could have been on the same level as say The Guardians of the Galaxy but instead was a modest hit at best but enough to announce a sequel is in the works. I’m crossing my fingers that the sequel is much better.
On the plus side the blu-ray is packed with some fun extras
Deleted scenes (37:00) – There are a ton of deleted/extended scenes some of which highlight cast changes so it’s quite interesting.
The Magical World of Shazam! (27:09) – Basically a making of/behind-the-scenes look at the production
Super Fun Zac (3:19)
Gag Reel (3:16): A typical gag reel that features goofs and outtakes form the various cast members.
Who is Shazam? (5:42) An all-too short look at the history of the character.
Carnival Scene Study (10:23) A look at the battle at the carnival
Shazamily Values (6:06) A look at the foster family and their superhero counterparts