I try to avoid writing movie reviews. Everyone does them. I mean, there are literally millions of people online, every minute, writing a movie review. And the thing is, no one cares. I don’t even care what professional movie critics think. But, if there’s one area to really look at movies, it would be comic books. It’s been a passion of mine since I was a young lad, and if ever a collection of movies to write about, it would be that one. But, i’m also doing this for myself; to make my definitive list of all the movies based off a comic book. I’ll try to go in order as well. This may take a while….Feel free to grab some coffee.
The Adventures of Captain Marvel is from 1941; this is the year Pearl Harbor was bombed, this movie, in fact is 75 years old. Captain Marvel, much better known to us now as Shazam!, famously of DC Comics, was owned by a now extinct comic book franchise known was Charlton Comics. Captain Marvel is pretty much a carbon copy of Superman; he flies, has tremendous strength and is impervious to bullets (but not wooden chairs, more on that later). DC Comics, over the years, has purchased numerous characters and older comic companies and reimainged them to fit their own brand and Captain Marvel was one of them.
This film is not a true film; it’s a serial. At the time, movie theaters showed serials, which are multi-part continuations of the same story. They aired at national theater chains much like regular TV programming shows today on networks and cable TV. I’m guessing because not every household had a television at the time this worked out pretty well, but nowadays I could never see this happening. So, I watched all 12 parts (3 and a half hours worth) and am now here to just casually rap about what I saw.
The story can summed up pretty easily; a scientific research group is digging into an old temple on sacred ground; the locals are against it but as you know, science never stops digging. They find an ancient relic that looks like a golden scorpion; one of the research assistants, young Billy Batson, decides not to tamper with sacred things but instead stumbles upon an old man who was living inside a sarcophagus, who grants him the power of Captain Marvel; all he needs to do is say the word “Shazam” and he will transform into a beefy superhero . There’s also a villain named “The Scorpion” (apt enough) who wants the scorpion idol and to collect the 4 or 5 mirrors that go onto it to create a super-weapon which presumably will help him rule the world. The 5 members of this scientific journey also happen to own all 5 of these pieces so the chase is on.
– I’m not up on my movie advancements of the 1940’s but I have to say, the special effects had to be way up on the Awesome scale. Captain Marvel, in many scenes, does seem to fly! Now, in a few others, you can tell it’s someone jumping, but apparently they used a paper-maiche dummy on a wire to simulate the flying scenes but they still look very good. And they don’t just use it once; there’s quite a bit of flying around.
- The set direction of the temple, the driving scenes, some of the fight scenes, everything looks so period for the time and very well done. I do like the look of a lot of the movie, even if I think the black and white probably takes away from the splash and color of such a theatrical movie. The scene on the ship also looks very good for this time.
- This story is just too long. I get that a serial needs to have meat, and a long drawn-out story, but it winds upon itself too many times. Billy and Betty get kidnapped so many different times and are left alone to escape it just got old. How many times would the robbers think to gag Billy so he couldn’t say the magic word?
- The script could have use some touching up as well. There’s not a lot of explanation of who the main characters are. We have this scientific exploration group, then for most of the movie, they are all in business suits working out of an office. Who is Billy Batson? What’s his job there? Then there’s the Scorpion? He has his own office too. And his design; he looks like something from Vince McMahon’s coked-out mind in the late 80’s.
As seemingly offensive as his name could be, Whitey was by far my favorite character here. He basically is like the jack of all trades around the office; he drives fast, he can throw a decent punch and he’s a good investigator. He does not like answering the phones though, as he complains when he’s left behind to answer messages. He actually has a bit of a personality unlike 90% of the rest of the cast who are dullard people in suits.
Total Score: I gave this one 58/100; it’s entertaining no doubt and even though the story is full of holes and not enough details, it’s engaging enough for most of the movie and the story is quite simple. A lot of good costumes and sets are on display and the music is very heroic. It was hailed during and after it’s release as one of the finest serials ever produced, and while I can’t speak to that, It’s a pretty entertaining watch.