You Don’t Need A Magic 8 Ball To Tell You That This Is A Must-See Movie

I get the feeling that the more comic book movies we get, the more DC seems to be overtaking Marvel in terms of execution.  Marvel knows that audiences will line up to see the MCU movies – they have nothing more to prove and, although some Marvel films are showcasing a little more creativity than others, they are relying on what they know will bring in audiences.  And because of this I feel that the MCU is at risk of reaching a plateau.  The DC films, on the other hand, are clearly striving to challenge Marvel at the box office. I feel as if the latest installment of DC films have given me a better “comic book feel” with their bright colours, intelligent costume design choices, and entertaining stories.  So over the past week, while many people have been scrambling for tickets to the next Avengers installment, I was eagerly awaiting the theatrical release of Shazam!

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I knew absolutely nothing about the character Shazam before I saw this film.  I remember when we were first dating, I looked at one of my fiance’s Justice League pictures hanging on the wall and confessed that I could identify all of the characters but one.  He then gave me a brief synopsis of Shazam and his backstory.  And that was it.  So as a comic book fan who knew nothing about the titular character, I was actually really happy with this film.  I didn’t need to know anything about Billy Batson (Asher Angel) or his alter ego (Zachary Levi) to understand this film. But I did appreciate that this movie was clearly a comic book come to life.

If you’ve seen the recent Cineplex pre-show, you may have seen the interview with costume designer Leah Butler. Watching this before I even saw the film really gave me an appreciation for what went into the costumes. And between what I learned in the pre-show and what was apparent from the film’s aesthetic, it looked as if some really interesting design choices had been made for this film. Shazam (Levi), and any characters associated with him, are dressed in bright colours and are decorated with objects with hard lines (like the lighting bolt and Grecian border around the edges of his cape).  Villains like Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong) and the 7 Deadly Sins, however, are the complete opposite as they are associated with darker/muted colours and round objects (like the magic 8 ball and the eye). I was really impressed with these kinds of visual juxtapositions between good an evil as I felt it added a little something extra to the classic “light vs. dark”.

In fact, a lot of this world is dark, both literally and figuratively.  Arguably, none of the primary or secondary characters have particularly good lives, but some of them are eventually able to overcome the adversities they face.  Essentially, what determines whether or not these characters are able to rise above their situation or not is the way in which they embrace the concepts of childhood and family.  Adults like Rosa and Victor Vasquez (Marta Milans and Cooper Andrews) accepted their childhoods experiences, embracing the fact that they were foster children, and used those experiences to create a loving foster home.  By contrast, Billy’s mom (Caroline Palmer) lost her childhood to a teen pregnancy, and chose to run from her problems and her family, and, didn’t exactly end up in a better situation.  Even Dr. Sivana is robbed of his childhood innocence by an abusive and patriarchal household, and is told he is unworthy by both his family and the Wizard (Djimon Hounsou). This causes him to spend the rest of his life trying to prove them all wrong, in a rather obsessive fashion, and in the end he seeks out to destroy his family and falls victim to the 7 Deadly Sins.

For Shazam to be such a bright and colourful character, Billy becomes a light in this darkness once he achieves his full potential.  It is obvious that the Wizard could see this potential because although Billy was running away from his problems, like his mother did, he was trying to find a sense of family in the only way he knew how.  It is only when he accepts the other foster children as his family that he truly starts to shine as Shazam.  And I feel that Zachary Levi’s acting really enhanced this.  Things could have gone so wrong if, like some other films, Levi had acted as though Billy the child was transformed into Shazam the man.  Yet, Levi embraced the childishness of the character and portrayed a child trapped in the body of a man.  I found that it was so much more effective to have Shazam be so childish and young at heart as it really enhanced the motifs of childhood and family bonds throughout the film. (Also, I really appreciated the reference to the film Big during his first fight with Dr. Sivana).

Probably the most impressive stylistic choice of all was the fact that this film took place around Christmas time.  It is a holiday associated with light, colour, the joys of childhood, and family. This was a great way to bring all of the stylistic and thematic elements neatly together.

I had a blast watching this film and would not change a thing!

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