This week’s Pull List will be delayed for the same reason I didn’t record with CineGeek last night. Nashville was hit with yet another snow storm that, while only a couple of inches, brought the city to a standstill for several hours. Instead, I spent the night in with friends, drinking perfectly acceptable orange juice and apple cider while watching Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam.
Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam is really more of a compilation film, also featuringthe DC Showcase shorts The Spectre, Green Arrow and Jonah Hex shorts that Warner Bros. had previously attached to other direct-to-video animated works.
The Superman/Shazam main film retells the origin of Billy Baston as Captain Marvel, keeping Billy as a poor kid living in a rat hole but still has a heart of gold. Black Adam comes to defeat his soon-to-be competition before the wizard Shazam grants him his powers. All while Clark Kent happens to be writing a story about the courageous little boy Billy overcoming all odds. With Clark near by, his suspiciously similar-looking friend Superman is bound to be near by.
The story is put together decently enough. The wordplay with Billy/Captain Marvel actually using “Shazam” is amusing. The voice work is well done. Reprising their roles from Justice League/Justice League Unlimited are George Newbern as Clark Kent/Superman and Jerry O’Connell as Captain Marvel. James Garner is the obligatory big celebrity, playing Shazam (O’Connell kind of is too, but he’s already done it before), and his accent spills through at times.
The character designs were pretty good for the most part. I really dug the more youthful Superman look. Black Adam, on the other hand, looked way too old and creepy.
Probably my favorite part though is how much the film really plays up Superman’s weakness to magic. Black Adam really brings the pain once he realizes magic lightning actually does damage to the Man of Steel. The payback is just as satisfying as Superman and Captain Marvel pay back Black Adam in kind with some impressive team work.
As for the shorts, the only one I had seen before was The Spectre (originally featured with Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths). Gary Cole plays the titular character (the Jim Corrigan incarnation) in a really neat ’70s exploitation-esque style as The Spectre brings vengeance to the murderers of a Hollywood movie producer. Even the video is given a grainy, flickering look to duplicate an old-style cinema.
Green Arrow (originally featured with Superman/Batman: Apocalypse) featured Ollie sounding a bit too young (voiced by Neal McDonough) but otherwise spot on in showing Green Arrow as Batman if he actually had a life. Malcolm McDowell voices the evil archer Merlin for Green Arrow to fight. The fights are full with fun arrow action, with Black Canary joining in on the fun too.
Jonah Hex (originally featured with Batman: Under the Red Hood) is what the Jonah Hex movie should have been, right down to the main character. Hex is voiced by Thomas Jane (the 2004 Punisher), who had expressed interest in the movie role and had some fan support (Nathan Fillion voicing Hal Jordan in the latest animated movie after missing out in the live-action version is eerily similar). And he’s spot on. Hex just doing some bounty hunting and laying the smack down on Linda Hamilton’s thugs. Most importantly, no Megan Fox. Good times.
All of these films were fun watches. If you’ve seen any of the prior DC animated direct-to-home features, you’ve probably seen some of the DC Showcase shorts, but the Superman/Shazam film alone is worth checking this disc out. And if you haven’t seen the shorts, then there’s no excuse.
(Fun Fact: I watched this feature on Netflix Streaming, and it included all the DC Showcase shorts. However, when I saw Superman/Batman: Apocalypse and Batman: Under the Red Hood on Netflix Streaming, those shorts were not included. If you’re a Netflix Streaming subscriber, definitely add this to your queue to catch what you missed.)