I’ve avoided watching this movie for awhile simply because it is only 20 minutes long and the rest of the DVD has short films that I’ve already watched on other DC Animated projects. When this short film was announced, I was really excited, but I couldn’t justify the DVD’s full price given that I had already watched the Spectre, Jonah Hex, and Green Arrow shorts. This past week, Sam and I decided to get Netflix, and with Superman/Shazam on instant, I could finally watch this film without the guilt of paying for the movie.
So, how is it?
Honestly, even though I’ve watched it, I tempted to buy it, but then, I’m a Captain Marvel fan.
The film begins with Black Adam crash-landing on Earth (hence, “the Return of Black Adam” portion of the film’s title) and promptly shifts to Billy Batson waking up in bed. He lives in poverty as emphasized by his bare cupboards and the rats that he chooses to feed and keep as pets. Billy defends a homeless man from a gang of thugs and gives him his last coin, a subway token. I’ve always been a sucker for sentimentality and I’ll be the first to admit that I got choked up by Billy’s heroism and his despair towards a world that doesn’t reward kindness.
Sure, it plays upon a tradition rooted back to Charles Dickens and it might be ridiculous to be so worked up over the trials Billy Batson must go through, but I can’t help it. Billy’s always been a sympathetic character to me and this film portrays him as exceptionally likable.
Most of this movie is action fluff with Superman and Black Adam beating the crap out of one another until Billy gains his powers from the Wizard Shazam in a scene that is absolutely wonderful. James Garner portrays the Wizard and I don’t know of anyone who is more perfect though I never would have thought of him initially. Perhaps my only problem with the origin story is that the mythical and Biblical characters that make up the name “SHAZAM” are never mentioned. For a character deeply rooted in mythology, it’s a shame to cut out the mythological ideas that are essential to him. It effectively strips him of what makes him special and instead creates a Captain Marvel that is essentially the magic version of Superman.
After Billy becomes Captain Marvel, there is more action fluff and in th end, Captain Marvel is in the position to kill Black Adam, but Superman convinces him to stop.
Once again, I was a little bothered by this because Captain Marvel is the most morally pure character in the DCU, and to have Superman morally superior to Cap, it further makes the latter less special. It’s a bit interesting to think of Billy growing up through Captain Marvel and Superman leading him towards that growth, but I would have preferred the idea that Billy can suddenly have all the answers with the use of a magic word.
I talked it over with Sam and she pointed out that I can’t expect comic translations to film to be perfect, and with that logic, I’ll have to agree. As a movie, this film is solid (if a bit short and breezy). The action is great, Billy Batson is wonderful, and considering there aren’t a lot of cartoon portrayals of Captain Marvel, we have to take what we can get, and this is a great cartoon.
If you don’t already own the movies that the additional short films are attached to, then you MUST BUY this movie! The Spectre alone is worth the price for its moodiness and 70’s horror film feel. Jonah Hex is also amazing, dark, and gritty. Seriously, if you’ve never watched these before, do yourself a favor and buy this movie.