THE captain was born in 1939 as the alter ego of teenaged Billy Batson, the child of Fawcett Comics which was looking for a worthy competitor on America’s newsstands for Clark Kent (aka Superman).
A wizard gave young Billy the magic word “shazam”, an acronym for a bunch of legendary heroes long since out of copyright – Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury.
When Billy saw a wrong needing righting, all he needed to was say “shazam” to call down a transformative lightning bolt that turned him into the Captain.
Fast forward to June 1995. It may surprise you to know that agents of the intergalactic civilisation Skrull had by then been coming to Earth for several centuries to prepare it for colonisation. Who can tell what might have happened if the takeover had gone ahead? Would we by now be careening through space on a less-self-destructive platform?
Enough of this juvenile nonsense. Consider briefly the 124 minutes’ cinematic confection from Disney written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Copious CG visual effects embroidering a well-worn story about defending Earth against extraterrestrial invaders inflate that run-time to the boundary of boredom. Don’t extraterrestrial leaders read the papers? What galaxy would want to own a planet whose inhabitants are unable to agree whether or not it’s heading for self-annihilation?
The story doesn’t expect great acting and doesn’t deliver it (except for third-billed Australian Ben Mendelsohn as an intruder in human form). “Shazam” is now past its use-by date. As Captain Marvel, Brie Larson is expected to deliver athleticism above all else. About three-quarters of the way into the film, we learn what has happened to give her the superhuman powers without which the Captain would be just another bloke. Or girl, in this case.
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