The Importance of Being Earnest…!

Shazam! further emboldens my hottest of takes: DC > Marvel.

Come at me.

Even with all the genre’s now-requisite self-aware wink-winking, Shazam! boasts an earned sense of homey earnestness rarely churned out — it might be impossible, given the production conditions…sorry: condition$ — on the factory line conveyer belt that is the Marvel Money Machine. Does Shazam!‘s pathos prevent the affair from cannonballing into the saccharine end of the pool, tugging on the obvious heartstrings dangling oh-so-appetizingly from sad orphan tales that all but scream EMOTIONAL DRAMAAAAAAA? Of course not! Because gluttony is the modus operandi of comic-book adaptations. Like, is there some sort of rule that stipulates superhero movies DARE NOT clock in under two hours?

Two easy Shazam! shaves:

Get to the fucking superpowers, already! The bloated (but apparently necessary?) character introductions — TRY NOT FALLING IN LOVE WITH HIS KOOKY FAMILY!!! — feel tedious, dwarfed by the shadow of the inevitable spectacle to come. Asher Angel‘s fine — and Jack Dylan Grazer‘s more than fine (yes, he’s related to Brian) — but they’re basically biding our time in needless preparation for the too-long-awaited arrival of Zachary Levi’s breezy affability. Why should we engage with means to an end that aren’t treated as ends in themselves?

And then there’s the protracted, multi-set-piece-spanning action climax. Remember, friends:

It’s not the size, mate, it's how you use it.

And at this point in the current epoch’s superhero onslaught, my mind’s incapable of not glazing over when faced with yet another and another and another and another and another and another and another and another and another origin story. Narratively, the how usually trumps the what, but that doesn’t mean the what doesn’t matter at all. Must the world endure one more physically-hazardous, superpower test-run montage?

To Shazam!‘s credit, parts of the movie outside of this sequence dabble in its brand of Looney-Tunes-style physical slapstick, a rather refreshing sensibility that’s both inconsistently-deployed and direly-lacking in the visual aesthetic. The juxtaposition between the colorful hijinks and blank palette has almost a deadpan effect on the material at times, but it seems like nothing more than a happily-accidental byproduct of the otherwise deadening panache.

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