For the most part, I’m a huge fan of superhero films. Their predictability is my comfort cinema; I love their simplicity and determination for obvious good to prevail over evil. I love their surprisingly inspirational training montages. I even love that all the protagonists have cheesy superhero names (seriously, though, why are there so many names that end with “Man”?).
However, I will never understand superhero disguises. At least Batman has a whole mask and a voice-changing device to help him out. Spider-Man just puts on a mask, and we’re expected to believe no one recognizes his voice? And Superman doesn’t even try; let’s not pretend we couldn’t pick Henry Cavill out of a lineup, glasses or not.
However, I was impressed by the disguise of the characters in Shazam! Fury of the Gods. Released in theaters on March 17, the movie commits hard to the idea that superheroes have alter egos. Billy Batson (Asher Angel) and his super-powered, adolescent, foster siblings battle ancient Greek goddesses to save Earth from destruction but not as their angsty, child selves — that would be too simple.
Batson fully shape shifts (or spontaneously ages twenty years?) into a powerful, adult being, Shazam (Zachary Levi), at the drop of the word “shazam!” and gains superpowers. Not to mention, he undergoes an extremely cool, impromptu wardrobe change, complete with a cape and shiny armor. Really, Superman? Do better.
So, I really wanted to like this film even though it was getting lackluster reviews. I could overlook a 51% on Rotten Tomatoes, or a 6.6 on IMDb. I wanted to believe in it. Unfortunately, this movie was definitely not worth the price of a theater ticket.
Like the first Shazam!, it derives all of its humor from the fact that an immature, seventeen-year-old boy has been magically stuffed into the body of a man old enough to be his father. It was funny at first, but the jokes got stale quickly, especially once I came to the realization that there is nothing more awkward than a bunch of adults in spandex acting like children transformed into adults. Seriously, nothing.
However, at least I believed the awkwardness. The adult actors did a decent job channeling their inner teenager, especially Levi. The actual teenagers, though, were far from convincing, and the romance blossoming between Anthea/Anne (Rachel Zegler) and Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) felt forced and exaggerated. There is cute, and there is cringe-inducing discomfort. The writers clearly did not know the difference.
However, the worst part of this film by far was the blatant product placement. I honestly didn’t know who I pity more: the writers, who had to find some way to work the Skittles slogan “Taste the rainbow” into the script, or Meagan Good, the poor actress who had to deliver it twice, completely unironically. It was horrendous.
I have to admit, though, that I got what I wanted out of the experience. Was the film flawed? Yes, terribly. But, did I enjoy it? Did I still snort at its attempts at comedy and get sucked into the pretty CGI in the battle sequences? Yes. The movie had a clear beginning, middle and end. It had a clear plot and likable characters. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone — and I certainly wouldn’t recommend paying money for it — but, if you have nothing else to do and are looking for something light, you could do a lot worse.
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