"I take orders from the Octoboss."


SHAZAM!, as a super hero premise, is no Batman. Or Aqua Man. Or Plastic Man. Or Meteor Man. He’s just some kid who meets a fuckin wizard in a cave who gives him the ability to turn into your standard adult muscular flying off-brand Superman-type cape guy. For the several years that they were talking about making a SHAZAM! movie, even when The Rock was gonna play the bad guy, I assumed I wouldn’t bother to watch it. But when it finally got made by LIGHTS OUT director David F. Sandberg – The Rock has a producer credit, but isn’t in it – it had a good enough trailer that I gave it a shot on video.

It begins in the past, when a kid (Ethan Pugiotto, MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2) and his dad (John Glover, MEET THE HOLLOWHEADS, BATMAN & ROBIN) and older brother (Landon Doak) are involved in a car accident, and as it’s happening the kid somehow flashes from the backseat of the car to the cave where the wizard (Djimon Hounsou, ELEPHANT WHITE) explains the mythology of the movie, which involves magic powers he has to pass on to a new hero, and monster statues representing the seven deadly sins. But after some simple testing I guess the wizard determines this kid is a dick and not worthy of the powers in question, so he turns him away.

That’s kind of a similar move to the 1989 BATMAN, opening with what you can assume is the origin of the titleistical hero, but turns out to be somebody else. That was 1974, and we skip to the present day when he has grown up to be Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong, ELEPHANT JUICE), a rich guy who could do anything he wants with his life and has chosen to spend it hiring experts to help him track down that fuckin wizard who wouldn’t give him super powers that one time. He still uses the Magic 8-Ball he had in the childhood flashback and still has the exact same relationship with his dad and brother (Wayne Ward, Cop #4, THE STUPIDS). It’s not as bad as in GREEN LANTERN, but I really hate when adult characters have the exact same concerns as they had as children. Obviously it’s a comic book fantasy, but they’re definitely trying to ground it with some real world texture, so it’s hard to accept this Muppet Babies shit. If it’s gonna be a child’s eye view of the world I think you should go all the way, like Tobe Hooper’s INVADERS FROM MARS, where the kid gets to drink Dr. Pepper all day and talk to the military brass about how to handle the invasion.

So anyway. We then meet Billy Batson (Asher Angel, JOLENE), who also dedicates his life to following up on a childhood incident, but at least he’s only a teen and it’s his mom abandoning him at a fair. He searches for her while bouncing from one foster family to the next, but now he arrives at a loving multi-cultural household with the most likable actor from The Walking Dead (Cooper Andrews, DEN OF THIEVES) as the dad. Billy is resistant, of course, but this kid Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer, IT) comes on aggressively as a smart-assed new brother/pal/partner in crime showing him the ropes.

A bunch of this movie felt kinda off and awkward to me. Freddy is a little much, the conversations don’t quite click, people make weird gestures just because they’re required by the plot, it feels like a dud. But Billy’s encounter with the wizard is really well done, utilizing Sandberg’s chops as a horror director – I didn’t think LIGHTS OUT amounted to much of anything, but it did have some well put together sequences, and this does too. Something eerie happens while Billy’s on the subway and he finds himself in this weird place where he has a perfect deadpan line about which stop he was trying to get off on.

And when he later says “Shazam!” and magically turns into his super hero alter ego (Zachary Levi, ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL) the movie takes off. Grazer as Freddy has a much smoother chemistry with him, authentically bugging his eyes out and having joyful laughter as they test out his new-found super powers. I wonder if they considered giving him the ability to identify songs by listening to a snippet of them? Flying is hard, but he has super strength, and can shoot lightning. It kinda has the feel of kids coming across a cache of illegal fireworks and spending the afternoon figuring out different things to blow up, having too much fun to be concerned about the danger they vaguely know they’re putting themselves in. Kind of a JACKASS attitude. They also use his adult appearance to buy beer, and of course the traditional attempts to thwart purse snatchers and convenience store robbers (he’s excited to get shot at to see if the bullets hurt him). I laughed at alot of the bits, like the way he transforms at school and puts on a trenchcoat to pretend to be a parent coming to pick up Freddy.

Dr. Sivana is a pretty generic villain, and I don’t know why the Catholic concept of deadly sins is combined with this wizard religion, but there are a bunch of cool monsters, and anyway it’s more about the friendship/brotherhood of these two kids as they try to figure out together how to do this super hero thing. It’s kind of a charmingly small version of a super hero, because so much if it involves having to sneak out of his bedroom at night. He seems more worried about his foster parents finding out what he’s up to than the world at large.

There’s a sweetness in the movie’s glorification of adoptive families. Andrews as foster father Victor and Marta Milans (THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY) as his wife Rosa are lovable (if one-dimensional) and there’s lots of cute business with the other members of the family, like little sister Darla (Faithe Herman, BODIED), who discovers what’s going on and is very proud of herself for being able to keep a secret.

The fact that the last act adds a new element that I didn’t expect (admittedly it’s right from the comics and could be obvious to most people) and is actually one of the more exciting parts goes a long way toward redeeming its flaws. Although overall I liked WONDER WOMAN much more, you gotta admit its big end fight is the not-as-good part. This one puts its peaks in the right places.

By the way I believe this is the first movie of the year, before SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME, to have a scene where a super hero, using a secret identity, has to rescue friends from a ferris wheel that’s being attacked by monsters. I don’t know if there’s an award for that or not but it’s worth pointing out.

I didn’t love SHAZAM! like I did AQUAMAN, but it definitely won me over by the end. I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise because it follows the universally beloved formula known from the popular ’80s sitcom Punky Brewster. Spunky kid is abandoned by mother in public space, finds loving foster home, uses “Punky Power”/super power to make friends and inspire others. Really pretty much the only two differences are 1) his shoes match and 2) he befriends a wizard played by Djimon Hounsou instead of a magical wish-giving creature named Glomer. But I will be very surprised if part 2 isn’t based on the episode where Punky and her friends got trapped in a cave and had to kill a giant spider.

They have indeed announced plans for a sequel. On one hand I don’t really care if there’s another one or not. On the other hand, the mid-credits scene introduces a talking caterpillar villain. It’s from a DC comic, and therefore part of an attempted movie franchise that has had some highs but stumbled in part by trying to force the type of interconnectivity that Marvel has mastered. I think they had a smart approach to that here, locating it on the outskirts of the DC Universe, where everybody reads about Batman and Superman in the newspapers but would never expect to see them in person. Like Tom Cruise. Freddy is obsessed with super heroes and actually owns a batarang that was left behind at some crime scene and sold as a collectible, with a display stand and certificate of authenticity. At the end there’s a cameo appearance by Superman, but they strategically leave his face out of frame, like Jesus in BEN-HUR. (The costume looks shitty compared to Henry Cavill’s, though. Kind of spoils the illusion.)

The idea of Shazam appearing in a movie with Aquaman or Batman is not enticing to me, but referencing them from within Shazam’s world is pretty cool. There’s an end credits sequence animating crude stick figures drawn on lined notebook paper for jokes about Shazam meeting the various Super Friends. Other than a stylistic resemblance to SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING‘s credits it’s pretty good.

It’s kind of a movie without an age group. I imagine I would enjoy it more if I was a kid, but it opens with a pretty terrifying car accident and has some surprisingly brutal parts here and there. Then again I’m sure it’s not as bad as TEMPLE OF DOOM, and we as a society managed to survive that for a while. So it’s probly best experienced by parents with their kids who like super heroes and don’t scare easily. But I kinda liked it too.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 20th, 2019 at 12:36 pm and is filed under Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

52 Responses to “Shazam!”

  1. Glad it won you over by the end, and you’re absolutely right w.r.t. WONDER WOMAN – this one had a climax that actually felt climactic. The ending right in WW was tone deaf enough that it kinda ruined the movie for me.

    Even the clumsy start and the villain backstory worked for me here. I mean, we live in a culture obsessed with superhero characters designed to appeal to kids; let’s not throw stones about being fixed on childhood events, you know? We’re talking about one right now, even…

    I especially like the vaguely Harryhausen/Ghostbusters demon dogs vibe the Seven Deadly Sins gave off, which helped get me over the odd concept. I could have used more connection between the individual friend and what sin they were supposed to be, though. Envy was the only one where I felt like I got it just by looking at him. The others felt a bit generic.

    Still this is the only superhero movie of the modern movie cycle (outside of Spider-Verse) that I felt compelled to pick up in home media. It’s got a certain quality to it.

    Plus the director still makes YouTube videos talking about his tips and tricks for making his movies. That deserves support.

  2. I’d say give LIGHTS OUT another shot too. That movie is a lean 80 minutes, and the director makes a point of not having one jump-scare or fake-out. Genuinely the only movie that’s scared me in the last 5 years.

  3. Just Redboxed this and liked it alot better than I thought I would – there’s a surprising number of clever jokes and genuine laughs – I probably laughed more than I did at most comedies, actually. It’s no classic, but if we’re going to live in a world with a billion superhero movies a year, I wouldn’t mind more of them being fun and irreverent like this. (The ending does completely wear out its welcome though, I still don’t understand why even a minor, Ant-Man style superhero comedy like this has to go on and on for TWO AND A QUARTER HOURS).

    *SPOILER* I kinda hated the non-Cavill cameo at the end. In a world where everybody and their mother showed up for Avengers Endgame, don’t tell me that guy couldn’t show up on set for a few hours and lend some credibility to this movie instead of making it feel like the awkward black sheep of the DCEU. Then again maybe he had another mustache growing or something, who knows.

  4. Wanted to like this one more than I did. Didn’t dislike it, but couldn’t get too excited about it one way or the other in the end. Wanted to love it especially after all the raves I read going into it (I didn’t catch it till it was already out about a month). Still, it was likable enough and the climax was a lot of fun.

    Guess I’m the only one who agrees on the climax to WONDER WOMAN sucks but thought it was hilarious seeing David Thewli fly around like he was Raiden in the MORTAL KOMBAT video games (and ANNIHILATION movie).

  5. I liked this movie quite a bit, even though it was way too long. I liked that they set it in Philadelphia, made it seem more immediately real than if they’d gone with Gotham or Metropolis. Most of the superhero jokes landed for me. I especially liked the gag where Dr Sivana gives a villainous speech in mid-flight but Shazam is too far away and can’t hear him. All of the dumb shit the kids do with their newfound powers seemed believable to me, especially in a world where you’ve got a bunch of other superheroes running around.

    I also thought the Superman non-cameo was just weird and like something out a superhero movie from 20 years ago. I’m sure there was a good reason for it, but it just adds to the impression that the DCEU couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery.

    I liked the video the director did about the day-to-day problem solving of filmmaking.

  6. The Undefeated Gaul

    August 21st, 2019 at 12:42 am

    I liked this one just fine while watching it but have already forgotten most of it just a few weeks later. The one thing that sticks with me is how much the kid that plays Billy Batson looks like a male Maisie Williams. It’s uncanny.

    The Superman cameo I think was just an afterthought. Plus at the time it would’ve been filmed, wasn’t Cavill already officially out as Superman?

  7. It was okay. I agree with Vern that it’s kind of like a movie without an age group because there’s a real mismatch between the violence of some of these scenes (especially the board room part) and the rest of it. When I saw it some kids in one family freaked out. I can’t really blame a five year-old for losing it in this one, but I also can’t blame the parents for bringing a kid to a movie about a kid who turns into a super-hero and does goofy, kid-friendly things like the floss dance. It reminds me of Gremlns, which apparently targeted the neglected audience of people who love adorable cuddly little puppets AND enjoy hideous monsters tearing a town apart on Christmas (with a scene in which Phoebe Cates explicitly states that Santa Clause doesn’t exist, no less).

  8. This shit looked like something Brandon Fraser would have been in 15 years ago, and for the life of me I couldn’t understand why anybody would be excited about that. But I guess enough people have enjoyed it that I’ll probably give it a shot.

    The choice of director certainly didn’t help. LIGHTS OUT might be the least memorable movie I’ve seen in the last five years. I know I saw it but I could not tell you one thing about it. I can’t even recall enough tangible details to mock it properly. In my mind, it’s just a homogenous bucket of secondhand horror atmospherics. I can’t imagine how the guy who made it got a job requiring any kind of energy or levity.

  9. I don’t know, for the most part i don’t think adults should be concerned with the same things they were as children but ON THE OTHER HAND if I learned there were magic wizards giving out superpowers and I got stiffed on them, I’d probably resent that well into my fifties at least.

  10. The fact that the film doesn’t quite have a target demographic makes it a bit more interesting to me. The opening scene was surprisingly dark. Watching a father bully his son is far more difficult to sit through than watching Thanos commit genocide off screen. It definitely harks back to those 80s kids movies that were a little more violent than they were supposed to be, which is probably why there’s a vocal group on the internet who love this movie. I wouldn’t go all in on Shazam, but I liked it.

    And Djimon Hounsou really deserves more substantive roles. He’s a good actor, but studios keep on tossing him bit parts.

  11. Yeah, at this point I believe that 2 time Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou simply doesn’t want any bigger or better roles. There is simply no other logical explanation for him being stuck with mostly thankless supporting roles and bit parts. Hollywood obviously wants him, since he keeps getting work from them and pops up in all kinds of stuff, but is it so hard to give him more to do?

  12. I STILL don’t understand how Shazam! is also Captain Marvel (even though I’ve had it explained to me a million times), but I do like that Hounsou plays a supporting role in both movies. On one hand, I do think casting him as the Wizard is kinda lazy since he was already in the DCEU in Aquaman, and he’s wearing a ton of “old man” cosplay that looks kinda silly and they wouldn’t have to deal with if they cast Morgan Freeman or Danny Glover, etc…. Then again, Hounsou is actually 55, which is a pretty acceptable age to play a wizard if he were a normal person capable of showing signs of aging.

    CJ – I think his last starring role was in the DTV actioner Special Forces, which I really, really liked. He has a big moment at the end that I still think about every once in a while, as in “not many other leading men would do this, and I love that he’s doing it”. I’m sure the pay is worse but I’d rather he have a DTV Ethan Hawke-aissance than keep showing up as the sidekick or forgettable villain (does anyone even remember he was technically the main bad guy in Furious 7???)

  13. I liked this a surprising amount. Though I wish it had been a Nickelodeon pilot instead of the start of a probably-not-gonna-happen movie franchise. I’d like to see these characters every week and now we’ll probably never see them again.

    My only complaint is Mark Strong sort of sleepwalking through his role. I feel like there’s at least a dozen other British actors who could’ve played it better. Speaking of which it took me about half the movie to realize Strong was attempting an American accent.

    I’m with you guys on the Superman cameo as well. Even if Cavill wanted to do it would still be a bad idea. Captain Marvel has always felt redundant in the DCU because he’s way too close to Superman but obviously never gets as much of a push since DC didn’t create him. If they make any more sequels (here’s hoping…) they should try to avoid referencing the other Superheroes as much as possible.

  14. Glad to hear you enjoyed it Vern. Didn’t think you’d ever review it. BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE: ULTIMATE EDITION & WONDER WOMAN are still the standard for me with this franchise.

    Nothing has been that thematically ambitious since but I dug this when I saw it in the theater. Haven’t watched it since but I remember that it won me over with the superhero family part in the 3rd act. Plus telepathic evil caterpillar from space and The Rock as the Anti-Shazam have me excited for the future.

    Also like that despite using the template from the modern comics it still retained some of the corniness and earnestness of the original Captain Marvel comics. Now if only they had a a 2 leg walking talking tiger wearing a suit and bowtie. Then I’d day they went all in. Until then……it was a cute superhero joint you can watch with the nephews or nieces.

  15. I really liked this one. It had a GOONIES feel to it.

  16. I just looked it up, but Shazam made over 350 million worldwide on a relatively reasonable 100 million dollar budget, so I think a sequel is likely.

    As a kid I actually convinced my dad to buy me a VHS copy of the Captain Marvel serial, which I remember really digging. Before Shazam came out I rewatched the first two chapters with my daughter.

    There’s actually a scene where Captain Marvel/Shazam guns down two fleeing middle eastern stereotypes as they flee. So any time in the movie Shazam show mercy and refuses to viciously murder the “bad guys,” I felt like standing up and declaring, “Not my Shazam!!”

  17. Did anyone else really enjoy Dwayne Johnson’s obnoxious and self-serving BLACK ADAM announcement? Key excerpt:

    “As a kid, Superman was the hero I always wanted to be.
    But, a few years into my fantasy, I realized that Superman was the hero, I could never be.
    I was too rebellious. Too rambunctious. Too resistant to convention and authority.
    Despite my troubles, I was still a good kid with a good heart – I just liked to do things my way.”

    Oh, brother. The human embodiment of a focus group is “resistant to convention and authority”?

  18. It’s like when people feel the need to tell you that they have “a really twisted sense of humor.” You laugh at YouTube videos of people walking into glass doors at Wal-Mart, Karen. You’re not exactly John Waters.

  19. I get that he did some hellraising as a kid, but nothing in his current body of work seems like a reflection of that, and like everything he says it reads like propaganda for himself.

  20. Yes, he’s the walking embodiment of a fully self-conscious celebrity as “brand” vs. actor as actor who is interested in taking on acting challenges. He’s a showman first and foremost, which is what it is, but makes his alpha-male-for-the-woke-era steez pretty milquetoast and ironically alienating for my money. This quote says it all:

    “Johnson has found a sweet spot with the characters he plays: highly skilled bad-asses who are also sensitive and vulnerable, flawed yet decent men with big biceps and bigger hearts. “No one’s going to see me play a borderline psychopath suffering from depression,” he says. “I have friends I admire, Oscar winners, who approach our craft with the idea of ‘Sometimes it comes out a little darker, and nobody will see it, but it’s for me.’ Great. But I have other things I can do for me. I’m gonna take care of you, the audience. You pay your hard-earned money – I don’t need to bring my dark shit to you. Maybe a little – but if it’s in there, we’re gonna overcome it, and we’re gonna overcome it together.””

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  21. “I wanted to be Superman but then I learned that Superman is a pussy and I’m cooler than him!”

  22. God forbid a celebrity ever uses their box office draw to promote, you know, ART.

  23. I love how every milquetoast four-quadrant intellectual property adaptation directed by a friend of his who mostly does shitty comedies just HAPPENS to be something deeply personal to him. Like, RAMPAGE was not just an arcade game he vaguely remembers wasting some quarters on at the pizzeria when he was 14, it is a beloved childhood memory that he has long dreamed of sharing with a new generation. SAN ANDREAS is not just a geek show of CGI carnage like so many CGI geek shows before it, but a loving ode to all the first responders out there who inspire him every day of his life. SKYSCRAPER isn’t just a bland DIE HARD ripoff made two decades too late, it’s his chance to finally give something back to all the brave souls in this world living with disabilities. (They’re the real heroes if you ask him.) If this motherfucker is trying to tell me he had any fucking clue who Black Adam was before DC backed a dump truck full of money up to his house, then he’s even more full of shit than I thought.

  24. Dan: I feel Johnson would be one of those wonderful people who will argue with you tooth and nail that movies are not art, they are product and as such they should give the audience/CUSTOMER what they want.

  25. Mr. M: What’s more bullshit: That he knew who Black Adam was or BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA is a movie he totally saw back in the day and is, in fact, his FAVORITE MOVIE OF ALL TIME and that’s why he HAD to be attached to the remake?

    Guess it can be two/five things…

  26. Mr. M,

    I’m not really a comic guy and I know you aren’t any more either. I only have a vague idea of who Black Adam is (morally ambiguous Captain Marvel?) but I think I recall you saying somewhere that you used to read those comics. If so, do you think Johnson is good casting for the role?


    Yeah, his whole “actually I’m way too awesome to be Superman, I used to run with a rough crowd. Not TOO rough of a crowd, I don’t want to scare anyone away” thing is great. And yeah, I think he’d probably phrase is differently (he’d talk about giving audiences what they want) but every interview I’ve read with him he sounds like he’s basically saying “I make unchallenging horseshit for a bunch of rubes to mindless consume” in a coded way.

  27. “do you think Johnson is good casting for the role?”

    Oh definitely. Physically speaking, there’s no one better. He looks just like the motherfucker. (See Photo A for reference.) And since the character is very austere and essentially humorless (a total cold fish/occasional cold-blooded slaughterer of innocents [See Photo B]) then it should be the one role that he can’t Dwayne The Rock Johnson into utter pablum. But we all know that won’t happen so instead of a supervillain with a code of honor who occasionally finds his goals aligned with those of the heroes (Closer to a Magneto than a Lex Luthor) we’ll just get The Rock pretending to be a bad guy until the violins swell and you find out he was really a nice guy the whole time.

    Black Adam | Captain marvel shazam, Black comics, Mr marvel

    This Pin was discovered by Will Adkison. Discover (and save!) your own Pins on Pinterest.

    Black Adam | Captain marvel shazam, Black comics, Mr marvel

    This Pin was discovered by Will Adkison. Discover (and save!) your own Pins on Pinterest.

  28. I don’t know why posting links on this sight is so difficult. That second one was supposed to be this. I redid it three times and the preview looked perfect but then it posts and it fucks me. Again. I don’t now why I trust it. Lucy and the fucking football with this shit.

  29. Sigh. Never mind. Just google “Black Adam tears a guy in half” and you’ll see what kind of character we’re dealing with here.

  30. I mean, I think he’s good casting in that Black Adam is a giant muscleman just like Dwayne. He’s also a straight-up bad guy (like, he is literally the guy who murdered Billy Batson’s parents), so I assume they’re gonna change that up for Mister The Rock.

    Also, this is a side thing, but it always annoys me when people blow off Superman as some kind of bootlicker who just bows down to any authority figure. He’s the guy who kicks your ass when you’re fucking up no matter who you are! Hell, his *arch-rival* was the president of the United States not too long ago, and he got his start way back when busting corrupt politicians. That’s half the reason he’s a reporter- so he can tell people when shit’s fucked.

  31. TIL when you tear a guy in half it sounds like SHRRAPP

  32. Well, to be fair, that character was named Corrugated Cardboard Man so that sound effect might be exclusive to him.

  33. The fact that I had to google “Corrugated Cardboard Man” just to be 100% sure you were joking is a pretty strong argument against comic book movies being cinema. #TeamMarty

  34. “Oh no! You’ve found my one weakness: moderately applied force!”

  35. Who is his arch nemesis, a damp basement?

  36. I once said that the Sticky Note Pad Guy from the OFFICE SPACE poster was the Green Lantern’s ultimate foe and then a bunch of well-adjusted fans gave me shit because apparently he no longer has a weakness to Yellow. I still think they’re just mad that they know that I am right and he would kick Hal Jordan and whoever else’s ass.

    Office Space Movie Poster

    High resolution official theatrical movie poster for Office Space (1999). Image dimensions: 1980 x 2939. Directed by Mike Judge. Starring Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, David Herman, Ajay Naidu

  37. “CGI Geek Show” has my vote for band name of the day.

    Interesting that Subtlety should mention Martin Scorsese, because, after I posted that interview with the Rock, I had the realization that the Rock and his films are pretty much the perfect example to back-up what Scorsese is saying. Basically, for me, the Rock is kind of the difference between and actor and and entertainer or a celebrity, and his films are the difference between film-as-art and film-as-entertainment or film-as-product. This is not a dichotomy, mind you, and you could argue that every actor is inherently an entertainer and every film inherently a product — in at least some fundamental sense. Whatever the case may be, I think Rock talks more like a sports athlete than an artist, in the sense that he emphasizes the athleticism and physicality of things and seems generally uninterested in using cinema to explore complex emotions and depths to the human condition. It’s more in the vein of let’s have fun, showmanship, escapism, lowest-common denominator mass appeal, power of positive thinking, everything can be solved through kinetic action. Honestly, I think that’s just him being him, and I don’t begrudge him that, but it very much limits his appeal for me, and I think it reeks of crass commercialism and superficialty. I think, probably more so than the Marvel films — which I think actually do explore some interesting emotions and ideas — Dwayne Johnson is the poster child for Scorsese’s “cinema vs. amusement park ride” distinction. Is it hyperbolic and broad-stroke? Absolutely, but Dwayne Johnson is the there that is there at the heart of what I think Scorsese’s saying, and I think Johnson’s statements on what he values and is after in choosing his roles and carrying out his work and relating to emotions and ideas pretty much lays that bare.

  38. Skani,

    Yeah, I pretty much agree.

    I’d have a lot more respect for Johnson if he used his clout once in a while, let’s say one 1 of every 5 movies, to get an interesting, offbeat, lower budget movie made where he stretched his talents a little bit. Instead, he’s emblematic of exactly the crap Scorsese is complaining about: Hollywood’s increasing unwillingness to back anything that isn’t a surface-level, sensation driven, cookie-cutter, surefire crowdpleaser based on a previously existing property.

  39. Yes, but to pick up a thread from the DOCTOR SLEEP comments, I’m still not sure I understand the chicken-egg in the relationship between film studios and consumers — ahem, audiences. I feel like younger generations are driving a lot of that in terms of their tastes and interests and what it will take to get them out to the cinema, and streaming is also a factor, and then you have a generation raised on internet and streaming options. Those of us in our later 30s and beyond came of age pre-internet, and I think that was just a different landscape in terms of the theatrical experience and other entertainment options. In many ways, I think it is of a piece with the death of music videos, physical media, local newspaper, brick and mortar retail, etc. Fuckin internet (he typed).

  40. I’d have a lot more respect for Johnson if he at least pulled an ol’skool Jackie Chan or someone who set out to just make entertaining fluff but still strived for excellence in that field.* Johnson and friends strive for ‘good enough I guess’ and can’t even get to that low bar and then say, ‘eh, still good enough…ish… I guess, maybe? Who cares? Lets cash our checks!’

    *You won’t get anything that nourishes the soul but damn are you going to have a good time!

  41. Well, that might be more of a cultural thing than anything else. Mainstream 80s Hong Kong movies, for all their flaws, had a much higher standard for what constitutes a good action scene. And they will go to much further lengths to entertain. They may make a movie that is stupid, offensive, incoherent, juvenile, and tonally all over the map, but they will also make damn sure that something attention-getting is happening at all times.

  42. Is it fair to say that Johnson is the Schwarzenegger of the 2010s, though? They‘re both boisterous self-aggrandizing musclemen who basically had the exact same goal -to become huge movie stars with the biggest salaries in Hollywood- and they both achieved that very specific if mercenary goal. The difference seems to be that Johnson never found an iconic Terminator-style role for himself.

  43. I think it’s a good comparison to highlight Johnson’s shortcomings. Arnold made similar movies for a similar audience, but his track record is way stronger, and he worked with interesting mainstream filmmakers like James Cameron, Paul Verhoeven, John Milius, John McTiernan. Johnson, as Mr. M points out, works with people such as the director of Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.

    To his credit, he did work with David Leitch on Hobbs and Shaw, although the result was Leitch’s worst film by a mile.

  44. Thinking about it, Arnie also came into real prominence playing an extremely bad guy, too. He was a literal robot monster with no redeeming qualities, and it still helped make him a huge star, but Johnson does seem kind of afraid of those roles. I wonder if playing The Terminator so early in his career made him less afraid of trying something new. I also think Johnson is at the tail end of the vogue for huge-guys-as-action-stars that Arnie himself really started. While I’m sure Johnson could absolutely make his way into any action movie role he wants to these days, I’m still hard-pressed to imagine him, say, replacing Tom Hardy in FURY ROAD, Keanu in JOHN WICK, or Karl Urban in DREDD.

  45. I don’t really give a fuck on this one. I absolutely love Jumanji 2 and suck my Dwayne The Rock Johnson if you hate it.

  46. I give so many fucks. Last thing I liked the Rock in was WALKING TALL, lol. Didn’t watch JUMANJI. I think Arnold is a lot more classically cool than Rock ad is a better actor. Then again, I’ve watched far less of Rock’s stuff, because all looks awful, and he has no charisma, and he doesn’t appear to have evolved at all as an actor.

  47. Speaking of Scorsese and “cinema” and streaming — I caught the IRISHMAN on the big screen today, and it was pretty darn good. Long. Great work by the leads and a perfect Pacino role.

  48. I agree with the disappointment in Dwayne Johnson shared by most in this thread. And I think it’s funny that apparently at some point he said that he made San Andreas as a homage to first responders, because in that movie he plays a first responder who steals a rescue helicopter and immediately abandons his post the moment disaster hits.

  49. Man, all this hating on The Rock finally convinced me to crack open my Hercules 3D Blu Ray and I still maintain that movie is an utter delight. No, it’s no Terminator or Rocky, and yes, you may roll your eyes at his attempt at a Conan-esque movie being PG-13, but c’mon, this isn’t a focus-grouped, 4 Quadrant product, it’s a fun blockbuster movie for guys with tons of action and a body count in the hundreds, and I don’t think it would have been improved one bit with blood and gore. (We can agree it’s better than the Hard-R Jason Momoa Conan (which I also liked), right?)

    And as I’m sure I’ve said somewhere here before – I think some of you guys are a little too hard on him. Yes, I wish he made better movies (and made 1-2 less a year). Yes, I wish he had a signature iconic role (even though to kids, Hobbs is probably iconic since he’s been in 5 popular movies). But c’mon, the guy’s taken a decent amount of chances in his career – he’s done hard-R stuff like Pain & Gain and Baywatch, smaller more-dramatic stuff like Faster and Snitch, he’s played the main villain in Doom and Get Smart (SPOILER). He played a gay person in Be Cool back when that would have been career suicide for a pro wrestler, and didn’t play him as a stereotype or a joke. He gives a lot to charity and seems to be well-liked if you’re not named Vin Deisel or Tyrese. Yes, I wish he was striving for excellence and Tom Cruising it up in his action movies too but he came back to wrestling in 2013 to wrestle John Cena for no fucking reason and ripped his groin and nobody cared, so I don’t blame him for hanging off CGI ledges and acting against CGI Gorillas or whatever.

    I know we love Van Damme now but if the internet was around back then we would TOTALLY all be sitting around talking shit about how he hasn’t reached his potential and how Cyborg was the poor man’s Road Warrior and Universal Soldier was no Terminator 2. And how he neutered John Woo because Hard Target was no Hard Boiled. And maybe Van Damme wouldn’t be annoying us with eye-rolling motivational speeches on social media and he wouldn’t keep making movies with Kevin Hart (even though c’mon, both Jumanji 2 and Central Intelligence are surprisingly pretty good). I just think we’re kinda taking our frustrations about the state of the entertainment world and the way shit is done now out on Johnson when he’s really not that bad.

  50. I mean, I do like the man ultimately, even if some of his movies don’t fulfill their potential. I don’t want to just be complaining over here though, so here are some movies I really enjoyed of his- SOUTHLAND TALES; the JUMANJI sequels; PAIN & GAIN (secretly Michael Bay’s best film?); FAST 5 etc.; THE RUNDOWN. I just wish he was doing more WALKING TALLs still, and not as many SKYSCRAPERs (though that movie did have a pretty good fight moment that still sticks in my mind where dude’s head gets bounced off a flatscreen tv).

  51. That TV kick is the best thing in SKYSCRAPER.

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