With the final trailer for Joker dropping yesterday, conversations are already brewing on whether DC can pump out another great movie in 2019. Although Marvel has swooned the critics and the box office with Avengers: End Game and Spider-Man: Far From Home, DC earned its first win of the year with the sleeper hit Shazam!.
I must admit, as a DC fan, I was very worried when I watched the trailer for Shazam!. The character (originally called Captain Marvel) is a lesser known DC hero and I feared the movie wouldn’t command a big audience, especially since caped crusaders tend to go in and out of style. Shazam also pulls his powers from Greek mythology, which quite frankly, I don’t care about.
However, when I found out the movie was getting great reviews, I had to see what was up and I was pleasantly surprised. The movie follows a foster kid, Billy Batson, who’s desperate to find his mom. Along the way, he encounters a wizard who believes in his potential as a hero and gives him the powers of Greek gods, including speed, super strength and lightning control. Teenage Batson also turns into an adult once he becomes Shazam, making room for a lot of gags about a kid living in a man’s body.
The element that resonated with me the most in Shazam! was Billy’s journey to accept his foster family. Billy understandably only wanted the affection of his mom, but after she rejected him, he eventually grew fond of his foster siblings. They even rallied behind him towards the end of the movie in an epic fight scene where everyone received the powers of Shazam. More storylines can be explored here, such as the messiness of the foster care system, that will hopefully be touched on in future movies.
And did I mention the action sequences were bomb? The filmmakers found a way to make them entertaining but not super-duper heroic. The scenes when Shazam tried to save people were actually pretty messy, which reflects the ups and downs of life, especially for young people trying to figure out their powers. Shazam automatically became my favorite comic movie of 2019 so far.
And yes it was better than Avengers: Endgame.
I should start by saying I was never an Avengers fan. No big reason other than I started off with Batman and Justice League comics as a kid. When Avengers heroes started hitting the big screen, I still struggled to connect with them, primarily because of the tone of the movies or because of what the heroes represented to me.
For example, Tony Stark (Iron Man) is just another rich White man with a snide, bro-y attitude. This was fine for the first Iron Man movie and maybe even Iron Man 3, but it wasn’t going to get me invested in the character. Thor is also modeled after non-Black mythology (see note above on how I feel about Greek mythology) while Captain America is modeled after overt patriotism, and I’m the least patriotic person — especially considering the ridiculousness that’s been going on in this country.
Of course, these arguments can be made about certain DC characters and I’m sure there’s nuances I might’ve missed with Avengers characters. But for the most part, I wasn’t interested. The only Marvel characters I truly cared about were Spider-Man and X-Men since I’m a sucker for coming-of-age stories (see notes above on why I love Shazam!).
Thus, I was slightly worried when Spider-Man was to be introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Each MCU movie is so closely tied to each other, I knew I’d have to pay $16 or up to watch almost every MCU flick just to understand MCU Spider-Man. My worries for MCU Spider-Man didn’t subside with Spider-Man: Homecoming either, which I didn’t care for. However, they were lifted when Spider-Man: Far From Home was released.
It was a great movie.
The coming-of-age themes were beautifully tied in with Spider-Man’s main hero story thanks to Peter Parker’s vie for Mary Jane’s heart. Jake Gyllenhaal was also amazing as Mysterio (an underrated Spider-Man villain) and the action sequences…
Time will tell whether Shazam! holds up to all the comic movies of 2019. Although I stan for the flick today, repeated viewing of Far From Home could continually place the films neck and neck.
But for now, I have to celebrate DC for taking a break from the serious, brooding tone of most their movies in favor of a light, entertaining flick with heart. I only wish they wouldn’t take the Marvel route by tying all their films together for a DC Extended Universe. Even though I don’t mind it for T.V. (The CW’s Arrowverse is pretty solid), the costs of going out for these multiple crossovers can be draining.
But tis the way of the world today.
For now, I’ll just enjoy Shazam’s stand-alone storyline as long as it lasts.