A rare opportunity presented itself this past weekend. Some close friends of more than 25 years got in touch to let me know that they were headed to the movies that very night, for a late (late by my standards these days) screening of Shazam! at 9:40. Was I interested?
By that time, the kids would be asleep. Meg was fine whether I went or stayed, with no plans on our end either way. So, in a rare (these days) display of socialization, I left the house after 9 and headed to the multiplex (do they call them multiplexes still? Is that a dated reference?)
So you went to the movies, you’re saying. What is so weird about that?
I’ll offer you the small bit of perspective that makes this very rare in our personal case: the last time Meg and I went to the movies together was to see Toy Story 3 in 2010. Since then, I went to the movies in Christmas 2017 to see The Last Jedi with my brother-in-law, and when Meg and I (and gramma) took the kids to see Mary Poppins Returns this winter. Those are any movie-going ventures of the last decade. So a cinematic commitment like this was a personal big deal.
And I was excited. I’ve always enjoyed the Captain Marvel / Shazam characters and story about a boy and his friends gaining adulthood and super powers when they say a magic word. It’s the ultimate in childhood wish fulfillment.
Admittedly, I haven’t read a Shazam comic since Jerry Ordway’s masterpiece of a series Power of Shazam in the 90s (it hasn’t been collected, which is a crime to comics, so if you find issues of the series, pick them up), so I was going in with no contemporary knowledge of the character.
With that said, I loved this movie. Loved it!
It was a superhero movie full of heart and an emphasis on family. The entire cast is dynamite. Zachary Levi, who I loved watching on Chuck back in its day on NBC, was better than I could have imagined as the child in the adult body of a superhero, while Mark Strong made Dr. Thaddeus Sivana more terrifying than I ever would have thought from the comic pages I remember. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman, Asher Angel as Billy Batson, Grace Fulton as Mary…the list goes on and on, but every single one of them brought an earnestness to the screen that was an absolute delight.
As I say, there was a lot to this version of the character I was unfamiliar with (but am told can be found in more contemporary comics, which I’ll have to now check out), but none of that mattered as I sat there in the movie theatre. I was in awe. I smiled, I laughed, I got excited every time I heard that magic word and lightning struck, causing the transformation from boy to hero and back again, and me as audience viewer into a kid all over again too.
Far too often I hear cries for realism in comic books and their movie counterparts, especially when it comes to super heroes. But super heroes in and of themselves are, you know what? Not that realistic. So if we’re skewing reality anyway, why not make them fun, and maybe even uplifting? It’s what Christopher Reeve’s Superman did, and Shazam does in spades thanks to its stellar cast, sharp script courtesy of Henry Gayden and keen direction of David Sandberg, not to mention the countless other crew and cast members that make a film possible.
It was a delight.
Sure, there were a few “sh!$s” and middle fingers that didn’t bother me but would prevent it from being accessible to younger audiences or a full family with little ones (along with the scariness of the Seven Deadly Sins personified). However, even with that said, it certainly is something I plan to add to my rarely expanding DVD collection for future viewing.
This was hands down the best superhero feature film effort I’ve seen from Warner Bros / DC Comics in the past decade or so and should be the tonal template by which other superhero movies follow.
And as I try to avoid any and all spoilers, please, stay for the credits. As if the film itself didn’t carry enough easter eggs for fans of the Big Red Cheese, the mid-credits scene brought in one of my all-time favorite villains and sets up a potential plot for another installment.
“More ways than a mind can imagine,” indeed.
If this is what lies ahead, sign me up now.
Bring on the sequel.