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Friday, 25 October 2013

Review Round-Up: Shazam - Volume One; Superhero Movie; Quatermass And The Pit

Shazam, Volume One - The collected origin story of Shazam (previously known as Captain Marvel) in DC's New 52, from the back-up feature that ran in issues of Justice League.

While visually appealing (thanks to Gary Frank), I didn't find Geoff Johns reworking of the origin of this character to be particularly engaging. Making young Billy Batson a juvenile delinquent destroyed much of the charm of the original character and, if anything, made him more like any other superstrong DC character rather than more individual.

Also, by changing the character's name to Shazam makes me wonder what names the other members of the character's "family" will adopt. Is Mary Marvel now Mary Shazam, for instance?

The whole effort just felt like a bit of a make-it-up-as-we-go-along hodge-podge of ideas in an attempt to make the character more "gritty" and more "now". Which it simply didn't need.

The magical aspects of the story are the most interesting - as this is what differentiates Shazam from Superman - and, as is often the case in Geoff Johns' work, it's the villains who benefit from the more interesting treatment (even if the Seven Deadly Sins were rather rubbish, disposable characters).

Superhero Movie (2008) - Imagine a barrel. Now imagine scraping the bottom of that barrel. Now imagine what's underneath that barrel. And imagine scraping that because that's where you'll find the awful "---- Movie" franchise (think Date Movie, Disaster Movie etc).

Until last week I didn't even know they'd churned out a Superhero Movie. Somehow this masterpiece had escaped my attention.

Primarily it is a parody of the Spider-Man movies, with some other superhero movie tropes thrown in for good measure.

To be fair there are a handful of decent laughs (some of which are lifted from Airplane and Naked Gun, anyway) in the film, but every time you mistakenly think it might be a half-decent superhero comedy it sinks to new depths of puerile, lowest-common-denominator, fart gags and cheap, uncomfortable mockery.

There really is nothing clever or satirical about this film (although the villain of the piece, The Hourglass, not being a straight send-up of any particular character is actually an okay supervillain) and the numerous cameos by semi-famous names are obviously there for purely financial reasons. I can't imagine anyone proudly promoting this on their CV.

Quatermass And The Pit (1967) - Although this is my favourite Quatermas story it struck me the other day, when I saw the Hammer version was being shown on the Horror Channel, that I'd never actually seen this particular take on the tale.

Work to extend the London Underground at Hobb's End Station uncovers fossils of a previously-unknown species of humanoid, but then what is believed to be an old German rocket from the war turns out to be something far more sinister.

Of course, the effects - very similar to Doctor Who episodes from this era - are incredibly dated (bordering on laughable), but this isn't shock-and-gore horror, this is intelligent horror that unnerves with its ideas and scientific suggestions.

When Quatermass (Andrew Keir) is suggesting the insectoid Martians may have tampered with early man's development you can follow his reasoning and it sends a very Lovecraftian shiver down the spine.

The Quatermass canon is surely deserved of a 21st Century resurrection. Think how terrifying this story could be in the hands of a smart and talented modern director with access to cutting-edge special effects?

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Black Widow (2021) + Shangi-Chi (2021) + Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) + The Batman (2022)

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