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Tag Archive: Shazam! movie review


In marked contrast to the fun, fantastic, and surprising Warner Brothers release Shazam!, finally arriving in theaters in general release today and reviewed previously here at borg, film fans now have their first look at Warner Brothers’ fall release, Joker For a franchise from the same superhero universe, you couldn’t find a most strikingly dissimilar pair of films, if the first trailer for Joker is any indication of the rest of the film.  Joaquin Phoenix is stepping in this time to fill the role previously played by Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, Cameron Monaghan, and even Mark Hamill in animated versions, and countless others.  This time the character is named Arthur Fleck, so we don’t know whether this is truly the same as the other Jokers or just some parallel world incarnation of the larger-than-life, psychotic, clown villain who became a household word for TV audiences as portrayed by Cesar Romero in the 1960s.

If audiences and fans of DC Comics and DC movies know one character inside and out, it’s the Joker.  So why another movie with the Joker, and more to the point, why another origin story?  Phoenix, the multiple Academy Award-nominated actor from Gladiator, Walk the Line, and The Master, digs in with great, nuanced skill in all of his roles, and Joker will no doubt be any different.  So if you’re still a fan of the dozen recent dark visions into the superhero universe of DC Comics, Phoenix probably is a solid casting choice.  But can you really have a major Joker tale without Batman?  What about all that “creating each other” business?  The market certainly seems saturated with dark comics adaptations and we’re hoping Shazam! will grab audiences so we see more superhero films like it and The Lego Batman Movie ahead, or DC could split the difference and mine the Marvel Cinematic Universe for some fresh ideas.  But first, it’s going to be a Joker tale later this year.

Check it out for yourself, the first trailer for Joker:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Make no mistake, Billy Batson aka Fawcett Comics’ Captain Marvel (aka Shazam since 2012) has always been the most difficult to fold into the DC pantheon of superheroes.  With Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman–the trinity at the top of DC Comics for so long–audiences always know much of what those characters are going to bring to a story even before they walk into the theater.  To be fair, Billy wasn’t a DC original, shuffled much later into the DC universe because of some decades-long legal tedium.  Billy Batson is a kid who suddenly becomes a superhero, so the trailers have been compared to Penny Marshall’s Big, another story about a kid suddenly dealing with being grown-up.  And that is, indeed, part of Shazam!  The movie is also part origin story, because although Shazam! adheres to Billy’s origin story going back to the 1940s (just as Captain America: The First Avenger adhered to its source material), much of the audience that saw the character in his heyday–when he was even more popular and well-known than Superman–aren’t around to make up the target moviegoing audience.  But Big and an origin story is just the beginning.

You know it when you watch a movie unfold and realize something great is happening.  DC Entertainment–the movie guys–finally paid attention to DC Comics–the actual writers and artists who built the character from the ground up–and at last delivered what this comic book reader has always wanted.  Shazam!, the story, Zachary Levi‘s superhero, and a new young actor named Jack Dylan Grazer as Billy’s friend Freddy–are fantastic.  The magic, wonder, and heart of DC Comics is finally back in the theaters.  It’s a gamechanger for the DC universe, because it finally steps away from Zack Snyder’s dark and brooding Justice League and returns it to the roots of DC Comics and DC At the Movies that we first got a taste of with Christopher Reeve’s first Superman and Michael Keaton’s first Batman.  So if the executives at DC are paying attention, and audiences agree once the film hits general release April 5, this could be an opportunity for a switch-up–an excuse to build a new Marvel-level superhero film universe around the new, amazingly fun and appealing superhero characters in this film.

At its core, the story by new screenwriter Henry Gayden updating a script by Darren Lemke (Shrek Forever After, Jack the Giant Slayer, Goosebumps) is about a foster family and the importance of family, so don’t think this is another frivolous superhero movie to be easily dismissed.  As with Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it’s loaded with emotional beats, and it’s all heart.  What do kids care about, and what are they afraid of?  The film takes some time to look seriously at these things.  It’s not only laugh-out-loud funny in spots, expect some snorts, too.  But look for some emotional pangs along the way, on par with an oft-forgotten superhero movie that may have more heart than any other, the 1980 John Ritter sleeper (and one of my favorites) Hero At Large.  Which makes Shazam! also a movie for fans who count Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Incredibles among their most favorite superhero movies.

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