How Captain Marvel Stole Shazam’s Name

shazam movie posterIt’s no surprise that Captain Marvel and Shazam! both had movies released within weeks of each other this year.  Despite being from separate comic universes, the two superheroes have always been inextricably linked by a connection with their name.

Shazam was the original Captain Marvel?!

The DC Comics character Shazam was originally known as Captain Marvel.  He started out as a Fawcett Comics character in 1940 and was the most popular superhero at the time.  In 1953, DC filed a lawsuit against Fawcett claiming Captain Marvel was basically just a version of Superman.  In 1972, Fawcett sold the character rights to Captain Marvel to DC.

Shazam’s search for a name

However, Marvel Comics was already using the copyrighted name Captain Marvel by then for their own original character.  (Note:  At this point, Captain Marvel was still male and not the Carol Danvers of the later era.)  So DC began marketing the character using the copyrighted phrase “Shazam!”, which is what protagonist Billy Batson says to change into a superhero and vice versa.  Many consumers assumed this was the name of the character.

When DC relaunched the title in 2011, they officially named the character Shazam!  There is a running gag in the new movie Shazam! about what to call the main character, which is a sly reference to his history of name changes.  Plus the title Captain Sparkle Fingers probably didn’t test well with audiences.

If you love superheroes, be sure to download the RunPee app.  Kevin Feige has said there will be no time to pee during Avengers: Endgame, but we’ve got your back.  We already have Peetimes and a review available.  You can also follow us on Twitter @RunPee for the latest movie news.

A Happy Shazam Review – A delightful time in the DC universe (for once)

Captain Marvel vs the Internet Trolls – A Common New Film Controversy

Marvel Phase 4 Predictions – Some MCU Sure-Fire Guesses

A Happy Shazam Review – A delightful time in the DC universe (for once)

zachary levi as shazam
Go in expecting fun and a lot of heart. Not your typical DC entry. Thankfully.

I’d heard from the rest of the RunPee Family that Shazam was a disappointing remake, even though I had big hopes DC would finally put out a fun, lithe, winsome feature, with a superhero I could have fun with (unlike Batman, Supes and the rest of the grim gang). Sadly, I waited an abnormally long time to see it. I typically see major genre films on opening night. I finally caught Shazam tonite. And I had a GREAT TIME.

Sure, the Shazam villain sucked

I’ll start with what wasn’t so great, since it’s only one lame thing: the bad guy. He wasn’t that interesting, and his seven deadly sins were just poorly-written/depicted fools.

But that didn’t matter

You know what? Most of the time, not even the nearly-perfect formula of the Marvel Cinematic Universe gets the villains right, especially in origin films. I’m kind of used to that.

So, in Shazam I could just get up and pee during the bad-guy scenes, and be burblingly present for what I really came for — the immense fun of young Billy Batson and his handicappable friend Freddy, figuring out how to be a superhero with little to no instruction. And their test recordings. And in finding a lair. A LAIR. (Preferably behind a waterfall, with seven bedrooms….hehehe. Where do I get one? There should be realtors doing this as a specialty.)

I loved that Shazam actually takes place in the DCEU, a world where these champions exist, and Freddy spends his entire young life making a study of them. It all ties in. He’s a great ‘chair guy’, so to speak, and a crucial component of Billy’s story. Freddy’s foreground/background nods to the Justice League are everywhere if you pay attention, and that somehow makes the darkness of those other DC flicks less despondent.

What did I want out of Shazam?

Just this: a fun DC movie that would make me happy, take me away from real-life worries for a few hours, and hopefully infuse a sense of joy into a franchise I gave up on long ago. And I got what I needed — an origin story that may not be as clever and heartfelt as MCU’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, but offered a new young hero who needed to learn heroing. You know: Billy Batson could take a bus to Queens and hang out with Peter Parker over some nice New York shwarma. I think those two young heroes would have a lot to commiserate on.

I wrote elsewhere what the anagram SHAZAM stands for, so I won’t repeat it here. And while I’m not sure the big red guy (um, not Santa, although he does make a great “cameo” in this Christmasy movie) really showed off the Wisdom and Stamina gifts, that’s okay. THE KID IS 14. Give him some time to work it out. Billy even came up with a decent catchphrase by the end.

Also, I noted a lot of nods to popular culture, including a great reference to Tom Hank’s classic Big. Remember the giant piano key scene? (I let out a loud whoop at that point, but the rest of the packed theater didn’t. Am I the only one old enough to have caught that reference? Whatever. DC did good.)

Here’s what I really want to say about Shazam:

I smiled the entire time, giggled, clapped, cheered. In essence, I had a great time at the movies. And that’s all I really want when I spend my time and money to watch some bit of magical make-believe: make me happier than when I walked in. Send me home like a kid on Christmas morning.

I’m not saying Shazam is as clever or thoughtful as a typical Marvel movie, but I do tend to grade the MCU on a curve. For DC to make me feel this good, I have to bump Shazam into the A range. I liked the characters, the foster family, the resolution (I don’t care if the plot didn’t make much sense rationally — I’m very forgiving with fantasy films); I liked Zackary Levi’s inspired goofy portrayal, and I absolutely freaked with joy at the last second cameo.

You know what? Here’s the thing: do you like gritty DC? Then maybe Shazam isn’t your cuppa. Personally, I can’t wait for a little more silly fun to jump start the Justice League Crew.

Movie Grade: A-

PS: Shazam was a Saturday morning TV kid’s show in the 70s. I enjoyed it then, but this remake is much more cool. The original show, along with their sister show Isis, played it straight. This Shazam is much, much, better. I think if I watched any of the old Shazam TV episodes, I’d be appalled. Times change, and not everything “nostalgic” ages well.

Is Shazam Part of the DC Universe or a Stand-Alone Film? How Shazam Could Fix the DCEU

Do you know what SHAZAM! Stands For?

Movie Review – Shazam! – Great for Tweens, Less So for Adults

Movie Review – Spider-Man Homecoming

YouTube: 3 Unanimous Peetimes for Shazam![Spoilers!]

Vera and Dan discuss their Peetime choices for Shazam and in a rare instance agree on all three choices.

Do you know what SHAZAM Stands For?

shazam zackary levi
Instant Shazam! Just press the big glowing button.

Shazam is not actually a name.  It’s not an expletive either, although shouting SHAZAM! sounds like one. Shazam is shorthand for various mythical gods and demi-gods who lend their immense powerful attributes to a chosen DC Champion.

Do you know offhand who these mythological Shazam characters reference? Maybe you can guess. Or you might squeak out an-almost forgotten memory that old 1970s Shazam children’s’ television show. (|Come on; show your age…)

Here’s the breakdown of those gods and what they have to offer the Shazam “chosen one” –

S – The wisdom of Solomon
 
H – The strength of Hercules
 
A – The stamina of Atlas 
 
Z – The power of Zeus 
 
A – The courage of Achilles
 
M – The speed of Mercury (Includes flight..)
—–

Good or bad as Shazam the movie was (opinions vary wildly), who couldn’t use these things? Give me Wisdom and Stamina right now. What would you want most? Tell us in RunPee’s comments below. We won’t judge. Flight would be pretty sweet, right??

A Happy Shazam Review – A delightful time in the DC universe (for once)

Is Shazam Part of the DC Universe or a Stand-Alone Film?

Movie Review – Shazam! – Great for Tweens, Less So for Adults

 

Movie Review – Shazam! – Great for Tweens, Less So for Adults

Movie Review - Shazam!I’ll start by setting the context: I love action/superhero movies, but never read any comics. So, I’m basing this review strictly on how I see the movie, not how it compares to any other body of work.

The Good:

While I definitely didn’t like the movie, I’m sure young boys under 12 years old or so will eat it up.

  • There were plenty of good laughs throughout the movie.
  • I would have given the movie a D+ if it hadn’t been for a LOT of improvement during the last 15 minutes of the film.
  • The villain was done well enough. At least his motivations, and reasons why he had those motivations, were clear enough.
  • There was a nice homage to the movie Big, with Tom Hanks. Did you catch that? 🙂

The Bad:

I didn’t like the movie on a number of levels. The pacing was poor. There was way too much time spent on scenes that just didn’t do anything for the plot or characters.

  • While the young actor who played Billy Batson (Asher Angel) did a fine job, I didn’t think he had the right look. Namely, he doesn’t look anything like a young Zachary Levi, who plays Shazam. One way or another, they should have cast two actors who could realistically look like the same person at different ages.
  • I get it that Shazam’s suit is supposed to be ridiculous, but the cape was so bad as to be distracting, and the muscle suit Zachary Levi wears looks like a high end Halloween suit — not realistic at all.
  • Then there’s the cartoonish action: like holding a bus up by the windshield.
  • Lastly, there’s a 1990s TV show quality to the production. I’m not talking about the CGI, which was adequate, but the filming and pacing. It just felt like a TV episode. Not a cinematic experience.

In short, it’s just another adequate DC production that labors to impress, then falls short.

Grade: C

About The Peetimes: Vera and I independently agreed on all 3 Peetimes, so we’re confident these are as good as they can be. The 1st Peetime is only for Emergencies, because there’s an important scene shortly after it ends. The 2nd Peetime is Recommended. You won’t miss any good humor or action. The 3rd Peetime is okay, but has a lot of hero/villain conversation.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Shazam! (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material
Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Superhero, Tweens

Is Shazam Part of the DC Universe or a Stand-Alone Film? How Shazam Could Fix the DCEU

A Happy Shazam Review – A delightful time in the DC universe (for once)

Do you know what SHAZAM! Stands For?

Is Shazam Part of the DC Universe or a Stand-Alone Film?

Shazam movie poster
It’s like Big. But with Superpowers.

Rest assured, there is an actual answer here. According to every reliable internet source, Shazam is indeed set within the larger universe of the DC superheroes, at least from the ‘official DCEU starting point’ with Man of Steel, in 2013. Just so we’re all clear, DCEU stands for the DC Extended Universe. All good? Great — let’s get into it.

It seems strange that a genuinely goofy superhero film (trailer tag line: “He’s not so serious“) would fit seamlessly within the endless grim-darkiness of the rest of the DCEU supers. Batman? Broody. Superman? Angsty. Aquaman? I don’t know what happened to the joviality he displayed in The Justice League, but his solo outing left me cold. The Justice League itself did have a few moments where I grinned, but I don’t recall any honest laughs.

Suicide Squad was billed as the “Guardians of the Galaxy of DC”, but ended up a hopelessly off-putting mess — lacking in actual, you know, levity. (James Gunn will be directing a soft-reboot of Suicide Squad, and we can hope he will bring to Suicide Squad what he did with Guardians of the Galaxy. Full stop. #InGunnWeTrust)

And then there’s Wonder Woman, which is not a  particularly comedic film, but is the best feature in the DCEU stable. It’s grand. It’s glorious. But still rather serious, in comparison with the 22+ home run hits from The Marvel Cinematic Universe (the MCU: a term you should know by now, after ten deeply interwoven years).

Would Shazam fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

This leads us to the MCU. Marvel has the movie formula down — great characters, sparkling dialogue, emotional stakes, lots of sacrifice and acts of compassion, gorgeous visuals, and yes, a TON of humor.

Would Shazam, as a character, fit into the MCU? Yes. Yes indeedy. Right next to Antman and Spider-Man, which are on the lightest, fluffiest end of Marvel’s franchise (“Wait — we have an Antman and a Spider-Man?”). Shazam could be Peter Parker’s friend, even.

But the two universes can never, ever meet. That would be like matter and antimatter colliding.

Can a purely funny film like Shazam work in the DCEU?

Back to Shazam. Batman News says to  look closely at the ‘boy’ characters — Billy Batson’s young friend Freddy Freeman is a huge DC superhero fan, wearing Aquaman logo shirts, collecting newspaper clippings of momentous hero events: generally displaying a savvy knowledge of the ‘real’ superheroes. He likes supers and knows a lot about them; he treats them as actual people in his world, not comic book fantasies.

Screenrant says the producers went to great lengths to only show background action figures the DCEU featured to date, holding back on characters they haven’t allotted movie time to yet. It’s a deliberate thing. It’s world-building.

ING.com reports: “So while Superman was battling Zod and then Batman and then Doomsday and then death and then Steppenwolf, Billy Batson was being tossed around the foster care system.”

We’re supposed to understand these boys live on a planet where Superman and Batman fought a mano-a-mano battle royale, where Gotham City is a crazed warren of evil-doers, and Wonder Woman is out there inspiring legions of little girls. I know I’ll be paying attention to everything in the background during Shazam, and you should too. Tee-shirts, wall posters, thingies on shelves and desktops…and note the city graffiti, even (see: Stan Lee, in Deadpool 2, his most minimal cameo ever).

How are they going to ultimately integrate the silly antics of Shazam with the grim reality of Batman and Co? Well, that’s assuming they’ll meet. DC has a long way to go in rehabilitating their franchise in a non-depressing way, and personally, I don’t think they can do this. Not right now. But I won’t toss in the towel just yet.

How Shazam could save DC:

If Shazam brings in the box office bucks, then clearly the producers will be thrilled to finally have a joyful origin story on the table. Besides creating Shazam sequels (which will surely lose their luster as Billy becomes a grown man on his own), they might decide to lighten up overall. This is to the good. They’ve tried to set themselves apart from the MCU over the years, but at the cost of pleasing many fans.

Not that they should be a cookie-cutter of the MCU. I hope they find their own path, because to me, the more adventure blockbusters the better…but I’d like to leave a DC movie feeling on top of the world, instead of vaguely disturbed.

If they can pick up some of the wonder of Wonder Woman, and add the (hopeful) hilarity of Shazam, they’ll have a franchise people will go nuts for. Just as a comparison, again, with the MCU, it’s only April 2nd and the tickets for April 24th’s Avengers: Endgame just became available. It’s the only thing trending on Twitter today and fans are losing their minds to secure opening night seats. Don’t you think DC would like a little of that boisterous clamor for their films?

I’m not giving up hope just yet. Shazam has me filled with it. It might be goofy as hell, but this world could stand to loosen up a little. Between the darkness of Batman and the silliness of Shazam, DC might find their way.

Enjoy the SHAZAM! trailer right here:

Shazam is 2 hours and 12 minutes long, and there are reportedly two extra scenes during the credits, so keep your RunPee app handy to tell you when to take the best breaks for the loo. 

A Happy Shazam Review – A delightful time in the DC universe (for once)

Movie Review – Man of Steel

Movie Review – Batman vs. Superman