It’s always a little weird to take a step back and look “where we are now” since the superhero movie revolution started back in the previous decade. I mean, there’s now a Shazam movie. That’s kind of crazy! What was once a Fawcett Comics, let’s say, maybe, “re-imagining” of Superman – it’s actually kind of funny how closely the early comics version resembled each other; DC would eventually sue, then purchase the rights to Captain Marvel/Shazam – has his own 2019 movie. And, let’s be honest here, this is a superhero with a kind of weird and confusing origin story. And I swear if anyone tries to tell me that Shazam has been their lifelong favorite superhero, unless that person is at least 80, I will not believe this person. (Look, I like Shazam. He’s fine. I used to watch the cartoon. Freddy Freeman turning into Captain Marvel Jr. was my favorite. I just have a hard time believing people love Shazam. But, whatever.)
And, in 2019, because of a copyright snafu with Marvel Comics, his actual character name, Captain Marvel, can’t even be spoken during the movie! Could you imagine this in any other instance? “Okay, we are going to make a Superman movie, but we can’t say Superman. We can only call him by his catchphrase. So the name of our movie will be Up, Up, and Away.” But, since it is 2019, none of these things have stopped this movie from being made. And, the craziest thing of all is … this movie is pretty good! What a world.
The trick of Shazam! is that the movie kind of realizes it’s about a dopey character, so they lean heavily into the dopiness. Throughout the course of the movie, it’s a running punchline that the title character doesn’t even have a superhero name. And he can’t even identify himself as Shazam because that triggers the lightning bolt transformation. For those who don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, Shazam* is actually Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a surly teen who is given superpowers by an old wizard named Shazam (Djimon Hounsou, who is somehow in both movies released in the last month based on a character named Captain Marvel) that allow him to summon a lightning bolt that turns him into (Captain Marvel) Shazam, a grown man pushing 40 (Zachary Levi) with superpowers.
(It’s so weird referring to a character I’ve always known as Captain Marvel as “Shazam.” Yes, the comics have marketed themselves as Shazam for a few years now, but, in the story, the character is still referred to as Captain Marvel. That’s not the case here. It becomes even more confusing with the extended family. What will Captain Marvel Jr. be called now?