Shazam! vs. Captain Marvel

Max Munoz, Staff Writer

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The characters of Captain Marvel and Shazam have an intertwined and puzzling relationship rooted in rich history and bitter rivalry between comic titans Marvel and DC. For instance, Shazam actually used to be named Captain Marvel at the same time that Marvel had a captain of their own. A few lawsuits and grudges later, DC was forced to change their hero Shazam, while their competitor got busy killing and gender swapping the Marvel counterpart. Confused? Great!

Fastforward to 2019, where a new rivalry is brewing in the movie industry. Here, Marvel reigns supreme as DC struggles to pick up their scraps. Both companies have new films, “Captain Marvel” and “Shazam!,” both aiming to change the course of their future. Who succeeds in this battle of Captain Marvels? I’ll break it down for you.

 

“Captain Marvel” is easily the most mindless piece of cinema to emerge from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in quite a long time. If you took everything wrong with “Thor: the Dark World,” (being boring and lasting for seemingly hundreds of years) give it the same sci-fi ideas as “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and put it into a blender with the cliches of the MCU, you have your basics to make this movie.

I’ll start with what works here. The controversial de-aging effects used on the 70-year-old Sam Jackson are nothing short of groundbreaking. I’d be hard-pressed to find visual evidence that the movie producer didn’t just use a time machine to pluck Jackson straight out of “Pulp Fiction.” While we’re on the subject of Jackson, his character is both the most interesting and the best acted. I love the insight that the film brings into Nick Fury’s motivations and what makes him tick. The villain of the film, which I won’t spoil here, was also quite refreshing. The MCU has been on a hot streak of great villains since “Civil War”, which is nice, since one of the main criticisms for the MCU up until that point was that the villains didn’t get as much care as the heroes. Kind of ironic now, seeing as how badly the titular character of “Captain Marvel” was botched.

Oscar winner Brie Larson misses the mark with nearly everything about her character. All aspects of her performance, from her dialogue and CGI fight scenes to even her posture, feels wooden and awkward. Here’s a fun game to play with your friends: count each time Larson is supposed to look angry or sad and messes it up.

Even in the scenes where some genuine buddy-comedy chemistry starts to blossom between Larson and Samuel L. Jackson, ala “Terminator 2,” the dialogue is ruined by the overbearing and unfunny Marvel banter. I’ve honestly never noticed how cliche and overused the banter is until in this film. Maybe I’m getting older, or maybe I’m just noticing it now, but it is so annoying.

For a superhero movie, the movie is also weirdly visually bland. The action scenes are somehow both disorienting and tame, and the non-action scenes are seriously dry. Walking out of the theater, I felt the need to rub my eyes and take in the natural beauty and color around me.

This, along with the plethora of issues with the writing, score, supporting cast, world-building, logic, etcetera, make for one painfully inoffensive and uneventful superhero movie. Rating: 4/10.

   Conversely, “Shazam!” is the most thoughtful pieces of cinema to come out of the DC Extended Universe, with no other film out of its contemporaries even coming close. Since 2013, Warner Bros. and DC have formed a reputation for boring, misguided, and needlessly dark (both visually and tonally) comic book films. 2016’s “Suicide Squad” and 2017’s “Justice League” seemed to be competing to make the most hated films in the business. These films’ main issue