Shazam! Gets Comic Books Right

Captain Thunder Bubble gum

Shazam! put an exclamation on this new era of the DCEU. Don’t look now, but Marvel isn’t the only comic book studio putting out funny, personal, story-driven movies anymore. I love all comic books equally and went to see Shazam! with InQua’s resident Marvel fanboy Madison. Is he scared that Marvel’s got some competition or just excited for a new fun superhero movie? Let’s ask him.

Cole: So. Are you scared that Marvel’s got some competition or just excited for a new fun superhero movie?

Madison: I genuinely had the thought during the movie, “uh-oh, they just figured out how to do a Marvel film.” DC figured it out with this one. But I’m not worried it’ll steal Marvel’s thunder because Marvel has a decade of films. Shazam! demonstrates to audiences that DC is beyond the dark gritty Dawn of Justice days and is ready to play.

Cole: Play is a great word for what they did with Captain Marvel, er, Shazam! Marvel learned the secret early on that these buff dudes in spandex invented in the 60’s (or earlier in this case) can sometimes have a ridiculous premise or outfit. Let’s make fun of it. That’s what DC so unceremoniously did in this movie. As well as throwing a few other heroes under the bus too.

Madison: And it was enjoyable to watch DC thematically and cinematically tell the audience that they were done with the Batman v. Superman thing. It was bright, colorful, hilarious, and had real heart.

Cole: For me, it was funny because it was allowed to be funny. This is our introduction to the character and he is a 14-year-old boy in the body of a god. Automatically funny. He starts in the universe as an immature kid making immature kid jokes. I like that better than when Thor starts cracking wise seven years into an established serious character arc.

Madison: When Marvel does humor, sometimes I think, “how did this joke make it past edits?” Some pretty cringy humor must test well with audiences, but I hate it. Shazam! had really good writing all throughout delivered by some pretty solid child actors I’ve never seen before. It is very very funny. The film basically rested on the chemistry of child actors which is usually a recipe for disaster but here it was the recipe for success.

Meet the new Shazam Family.

Cole: It could do that because the underlying heart and story work as well. There are strong themes of family, acceptance, and choosing your own destiny that carry through the funny moments that make it so watchable.

Madison: I think it also helps that Shazam is a lesser known character of the DC pantheon. There is so much hype and baggage around Superman and Batman that no matter what you do, some people are going to be disappointed. So in this respect, they took one from Marvel’s playbook and took a lesser known hero and completely re-wrote the script.

Cole: Ooo ooo and similar to what I thought about the other Captain Marvel movie this year, the changes they made to his lore made sense for this movie. It’s cool that Billy Batson isn’t chosen because he is pure of heart like he traditionally was in the comics. The Envy of the villainous Dr. Sivana plays into one of the themes of the movie; destiny is what we make of it, not just what is given to us.

Madison: Captain America flashed through my head while I was watching the film because his origin story is kind of similar. A typically weak social outcast is given extraordinary power, but in Billy Batson’s case, he wasn’t the Steve Rogers perfect. He is just a kid. And probably not even the best kid. But it helps the narrative that you don’t have to be perfect to decide to be a hero.

Cole: Beautifully said and it is beautifully portrayed in the film. Themes aside it was beautiful to look at too. I mentioned hokey costumes before, and Shazam! has one of the classics. But this is a different world from early 2000’s black leather X-Men, and even further from Chris Nolan’s Gritty Batman™. This is a loud and colorful and ENJOYABLE movie.

The dark days are over.

Madison: I will say that this is the first time I’ve been excited to see DC bring in more of their roster. And that is a big leap for me. I had DC hero fatigue and now Wonder Woman and Shazam have made me excited to see Brainiac or Gorilla Grodd on screen.

Cole: We might be getting Mister Mind sooner than that. Also can I lament Justice League’s lack of vision for a second? Marvel movies have been maligned for their villain quality, and the DC roster has an Doom-tastic Legion to pull from. I will always remember Justice League’s post-credit scene starting to assemble the bad guys. I was pumped. It looks like they gave up on that, and it makes me sad.

Madison: All in all, I’d say the future looks little brighter for DC. It looks like they’ve pulled themselves out a tailspin and might could gain some momentum. Though, once they get 10 good movies under their belt, then I’ll worry that they’re stealing Marvel’s thunder.

Cole: It’s official, we both enjoyed watching Shazam! But we’re both still a little bit looking forward to that Marvel movie later this month too..

Madison: There is room enough in this town for both Marvel and DC…if that town is my heart.

Shazam! is in theaters this weekend and is the seventh movie in the DC Extended Universe.

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