Apr 15, 2019

Roundtable: Shazam!

Shazam came out a few weeks ago and opened to $53 million. As of this writing it has made $94.9 million domestic and $221 million international. What did the Cube think? Read on to find out.


DUY: Shazam is a franchise that means so much to me; it's literally brought me closer to my nephew and my niece. I will be unable to judge it fairly in any way. Every year I treat my whole family to one movie. This is it this year. Just by virtue of spending that much money, I feel like if even one of us doesn't enjoy it, it'll have failed.  Other franchises that mean so much to me and my family that will make it impossible for me to ever judge them objectively on my own level of enjoyment: Donald Duck, Bone, and Mouse Guard. As much as I love the new Ducktales (and I do), I doubt I would be interested in it if my niece hated it.

JD: Ugh. I hate that I just gave Warner Brothers some of my superhero dollars. I feel dirty.

TANYA: I really enjoyed the movie. Had my attention from the beginning to the end. I would definitely go back and watch it again.

JD: I thought the movie was okay. Some things I loved. Some things I hated.

PAUL: It's probably the most "Geoff Johns" film DC has done, so I think that's going to be a big factor in how much it works for people here at The Cube. For me it means yes, it does work. It has all the strengths of a Johns-penned comics/ It conveys everything it needs to about the story and the characters elegantly, it's got a really strong and consistent central theme that hooked me straight away, and fanboy-pleasing moments are present but used to enhance the story rather than just being there for the sake of it.

TANYA: That's what I thought when I first watched this. I'm wondering if it's because of Johns' involvement that the DC films are getting better.

DUY: So. I really liked it. It was fun. Billy Shazam and Freddy had a great chemistry going. And it was legitimately funny. My entire theater did not stop cracking up, including me.

PAUL:  I found the humour worked, I laughed a lot. The relationship between Billy and Freddy, and Shazam and Freddy is soooo good. Levi and the kid playing Freddie are a great double act. Also, I cried during certain bits but that might be more to do with my delicate emotional state at the moment than the film.

DUY: My only real complaints are that Sivana was generic and the Seven Deadly Sins are kinda lame. Other than that, I... don't have much to say. My niece really liked it, and that was all I really wanted.

PAUL: Yeah, the Sins were okay, but just sort of generic CGI monsters. I wish they'd done them a bit more like Gary Frank's designs. It would have potentially felt quite "Ghostbusters" and contributed to the 80s movie vibe.

DUY: That's what it is, it felt like a solid 80s movie. My friend said Spielberg, specifically ET, but that's not quite right. I think I felt for it like how people remember Ghostbusters (not how Ghostbusters actually was, because it sucked.)

KATHERINE: I don’t think I would go so far as to compare it to ET. ET makes me bawl because it’s so earnest in its emotion, and this one is much more cheeky in its sense of humor and character relationships. But it definitely reminds me of the sensibilities of Ghostbusters and The Goonies crossed with Big. And I thought the movie was great! I’ve always really liked Zachary Levi and loved him in this role. He was funny and goofy while also being charismatic and likable, even when he was temporarily acting douchey. Definitely gave off a young Tom Hanks in Big vibe, where he really did feel like a kid in an adult body. Like Momoa, he’s just fun to watch and you want to spend more time with him.

PAUL: The cast were mostly brilliant. All the kids are really likable, as are the foster parents. This is important as their likeableness stops the sentimental bits from being too mawkish. I knew the family getting powers was coming because of the comic so I'd be interested to hear how much of a surprise it was to people who hadn't read the comic. Was it a surprise or was it really obvious?

KATHERINE: I did not know what to expect with the family getting powers and didn’t see it coming right up until he remembered what the old wizard said about having many thrones to fill. I kind of gasped like OH are they really gonna do that?? Because if they do, that would be awesome. Then it actually happened and our audience genuinely fully cheered. Hands down my favorite part, I absolutely loved that! Plus, Adam Brody as hero Freddie was completely spot-on perfect casting!

PETER: Same thing happened in our theater. There were legit cheers and oohs when the foster kids transformed too. I don't read the comics so this was a very cool surprise to me too.

PAUL: I'm really glad that bit was a surprise! Even knowing it was coming, it was a great moment.

DUY: Yeah, it's such a recent development in the comics that it would take older fans by surprise too. The kids all getting the powers is such a great moment.

JD: Seeing a version of the Shazam family was by far the best part of the movie. “Say my name.” “BILLY!!” was my favorite moment.

TANYA: I really liked that he had a mixed race foster family. I particularly liked Adam Brody and Megan Good as the adult versions of their characters. I loved how everything came back around again when Billy was at the family table and embracing them as his family. As someone who knows absolutely nothing about the comics I wondered how they were going to feel those empty thrones and I'm glad it is his foster family.

DUY: So, I didn't like how Mary Shazam didn't do anything in the final fight, especially since in the comics Mary is the most important other member of the Family next to Billy.

TANYA: I'm glad there was no romance between Mary and Shazam. At first I thought they were going there and they didn't. I also wished Mary did more. Darla did a lot and I do like the actress who played here both the kid and adult version.

DUY: Mary and Billy would've been super-weird considering they're supposed to be biological siblings. Though I guess they're not siblings in this universe.

JD: I didnt think they were going to go full-on Shazam family. I thought there would just be a Mary Marvel tease and that Darla would be the "Mary Marvel." I thought they were dropping lots of hints with her "I'm a good sister!" line. So glad I was wrong.

There were legit cheers and oohs when the foster kids transformed too. -Peter

PAUL: I was disappointed in Mark Strong. He was pretty generic. There wasn't much that distinguished Sivana from his bad guy character in Sherlock Holmes. I wonder if it was a deliberate choice not to make Sivana too charismatic so as not to steal the attention away from Billy and Freddie? But still, they could have made him more interesting than he was.

DUY: I'm disappointed it wasn't more classic Sivana, but classic Sivana probably would've been too much.

PAUL: I liked how the film's "real life" bits seemed fairly grounded and they resisted the temptation to set it in a comic-booky world. This made the fantastic bits even more fantastic. But it also has the flaws of a Johns comic — the gruesome bits are so gruesome they seem at odds with the tone of the rest of the story. The slaughter of the Sivana execs is quite upsetting, not because it's particularly graphic but because it lingers on the fear and distress of the execs a lot before they're killed. It just about, kinda works because it contributes to the whole 80s film vibe that's going on but it was my least favourite aspect of the film.

JD: Two kids almost kill a disabled boy with a pickup truck, then assault him, in front of a hundred people, fifty feet from the front door of a school and no adult came to confront them. They’d be arrested. Took me right out of it for a minute. Then Djimon Hounsou won me back. I thought he was perfect as The Wizard. Y'know. Maybe I liked this more than I thought.

TANYA: The level of violence in the beginning surprised me. I could not imagine that PG 13 films now throw people out windows and eat their heads. I guess if Venom can get away with it so can Shazam.

DUY: It didn't really bug me, specifically because it was a comedy. When you have a lighthearted tone, you can get away with more stuff. Brave and the Bold was a Batman cartoon that was unbelievably silly, comedic, and lighthearted, and it had a whole episode where Joker kills Batman over and over in various ways. I get that the tone is confusing. But that's par for the course in the Golden Age... you'd sometimes have whimsical storylines with the Marvel Family and then BAM, out of nowhere, a skeleton because someone died there.

JD: Did anyone else think Asher Angel’s serious Billy was a bit too contrasting from Levy’s slap sticky Shazam?

JAY: This was my thought as well but you said it better.

DUY: I actually did feel a disconnect between the two. He's too "cool" as Billy and too frazzled as Shazam. It's understandable, and easily explainable, but it did take me out of it.

Did anyone else think Asher Angel’s serious Billy was a bit too contrasting from Levy’s slap sticky Shazam? -JD

TANYA: What did you all think about the mid-credits sequence? I read initially Black Adam was suppose to be the villain, but they want to do a stand-alone film with him first.

DUY: I'd just introduced Zha to Mr. Mind the day before, and when she saw the midcredits, she went "OH MY GOD, I CAN'T BELIEVE THEY'RE GOING WITH THE WORM!" I spotted Mr. Mind in the opening sequence and thought that was it. No way they'd go with him. BUT THEY ARE AND I'M SO HAPPY.

JD: I AB-SO-LUTE-LY loved Mr Mind. I would have liked to see them lean more in to the ultra-quirky Captain Marvel stuff. The Mr. Mind scene reminded me of the sorcerer fight in A Sword in the Stone. Intentional or not that was my favorite reference.

DUY: We saw the crocodile men really quickly. I hope we see more of them. Maybe we will with Mr. Mind.

TANYA: Much has been made about having superheroes who enjoy being superheroes. How important is that to you?

JD: I've never thought about it. My instinct is that it should be important.

DUY: I think there is a time and a place for it — and Shazam should absolutely be one of those heroes. If you're a kid and you have the ultimate wish fulfillment fantasy, turning it grim and gritty... well, it gives you the critically acclaimed series called Miracleman, but that only really works in contrast to what it's supposed to be.

TANYA: Another thing that surprised me was Billy's relationship with his biological mom was not neatly resolved. When she said she intentially let him go because she thought another family could better provide him was like a punch to the gut. I expected a happy reunion like Aquaman and his mom. That's one of the things that is being pointed out as the difference between MCU and DCEU is MCU focusing on fathers and DCEU on mothers.

DUY: I did think that was neatly resolved. That was the resolution.

Let’s leave them on the floor and let the fresh blood play for a little while. -Katherine

PAUL: Imagine if at the end Superman had sat down and you saw this face... They missed a golden opportunity to make the 'stache canon!!!

PAUL: Regarding Cavill, just to clarify, I'm joking (any excuse to share that picture). I think the Supes cameo was just right. It paid off the joke nicely and made for a perfect ending. If we'd actually seen Cavill it wouldn't have worked.

TANYA: I read that he was suppose to be part of it, but because of a commitment to another film he wasn't able to do the cameo.

KATHERINE: Not sure if I’m reading too much into what might’ve just been a cute little self referential joke, but I thought it was great when the little kid was playing with his Superman and Batman toys and dropped them both when he saw Billy and Sivana battling outside his window. And I kinda hope it was emblematic of what Warner Bros is planning to do with those two characters for now. Let’s leave them on the floor and let the fresh blood play for a little while.

JD: Had a funny conversation at drinks after the show. In this world, who owns the licenses for all those Batman and Superman backpacks/shirts/posters? And where is all the Wonder Woman merch? No young ladies at his school had WW merch. I think that's sad.

DUY: Freddy wouldn't own Wonder Woman merch. She has cooties.

JD: I said Lex Luthor owns the licenses some how and WW wouldnt sell out like that.

KATHERINE: I like that explanation. Plus, if Lex owns the licenses, maybe he's just a misogynist asshole who didn't make WW toys because he didn't believe there was a market for a female superhero. "Look, I'm not a sexist okay, I'm just saying, look at the research. Nobody is asking for this!!" Especially believable when it's Jesse Eisenberg Lex.

PETER: We just realized now that one of the grown up superpowered foster kids is Reggie from Riverdale!

DUY: Yeah, the first Reggie.

PETER: Also, It wasn't obvious to me because I hadn't seen the film it was referencing, but my wife told me that the stepping on the piano keys scene was from Big.

DUY: Favorite moment? I think mine is the Shazam off the rooftop, followed by when all the kids get their powers.

KATHERINE: Without a doubt, all the kids getting their powers. People were cheering but I think I actually said "AWWWW I LOVE THAT" out loud.

DUY: And who's everyone's Val-Kilmer-in-Tombstone winner?

ZHA: Santa Claus! Stealing the show every chance he gets!

DUY: He's mine too.

JD: Faithe Herman (Darla Dudley) or Djimon Hounsou (The Wizard).

DUY: Having said all that, I do think Jack Dylan Grazer (Freddy) was the MVP of the movie.

JD: He was definitely the glue. A good guide to introduce us to this world.

PAUL: Overall, I loved the movie just as much as I wanted to.

DUY: For comic recommendations, I'm gonna have to go with the Convergence series by Jeff Parker and Evan Shaner. However, this movie is very specifically drawing from Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's Curse of Shazam, so that needs to be mentioned as well.

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