DC Showcase: Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam (2010)

Film: Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam
Release: 2010, Video
Starring: Zach Callison, James Garner, Josh Keaton
Directed by: Joaquim Dos Santos
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: This DVD holds 4 showcases of classic DC Universe characters in the form of animated shorts, In Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam a new superpowered foe has come to Earth, destroying everything in his path. He seems focused on the orphaned boy Billy Batson for mysterious reasons. In Green Arrow, the title hero thwarts the murder-attempt of the young heir to a European throne. In Jonah Hex, the title hero tracks down a group of vigilantes operating too heavily on the wrong side of the law and in The Spectre,  the murder of a popular Hollywood producer brings out supernatural forces and mysterious killings begin to occur.

Hans' thoughts:

Okay, So since this one is a special case I've decided to give each short it's own text blurb. This one's a long one let's go!

Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam:

This one is definitely the strongest of the bunch, which explains why it got top billing. It recounts the origin story of Captain Marvel or - as he's named now, Shazam! It's a very nice little introduction for people who are new to the character, as it's very much grounded in the behind-the-scenes history of the character. Ready for a short history lesson? Back when superheroes was a new thing in 1939 Captain Marvel was actually the property of a rivalling company: Fawcett Comics.  In 1953, DC Comics sued Fawcett comic alleging that Captain Marvel was a blatant copy of Superman and Fawcett ceased publishing his books. In 72', DC Comics aquired the rights to the character and his sorrounding cast. However, in the meantime Marvel comics had created their own "Captain Marvel" character (long story short, an alien) so DC has henceforth promoted the character under the name "Shazam!" finally renaming the character entirely in 2012. Back to the actual movie, the animation style is very nice but it is fairly obvious that a japanese studio was hired to do this one. This movie also felt like it could've been the pilot of an animated series or a shortened script for what would have been a full movie. It could also have been an episode of Justice League: Unlimited from the feel and the atmosphere. Supermans prescense isn't entirely neglected, but he does seem to have put in the movie to have a familiar face to draw people in.

Green Arrow:

This doesn't actually work all that well as an introduction to the character (as he already seems to have an established relationship with follow Justice League member Black Canary). So this one also feels like a scrapped episode of Justice League: Unlimited. While the plot is fairly simple, it is nice to see Green Arrow get some solo action in animated form and the voice actors all did really really great. While I can objectively see that this one is one of the weaker ones it is inarguably my favourite of the bunch. But that mostly comes from my love of the character. Overall, Green Arrow made me smile every time he was on screen, and they definitely managed to capture the spirit of the character. But again, this one may not work as a "Showcase" for the character as I would argue that the best way to introduce someone to a new hero is almost always to explain or retell their origin (like the top billing title did). It was also a bit distracting that a well-established liberal character like Green Arrow would be given a plot to protect monarchy, but I guess that only comes into play when you like me are familiar with him beforehand.

The Spectre:

This one is done very tongue-in-cheek. The whole movie has a 70's quality filter on it, with the frame jumping at times and the colours being faded. It oozes the atmosphere of a grind house feature which makes it even more sad that this one is actually the weakest of the bunch. While Green Arrow did a poor job at showcasing the character, this one actually does a disservice to the casual viewer by not explaining most of what's going on at all. We are expected to accept the events of the movie through-out the most of it and is given a short dissatisfying explanation at the very end through monologue. Number one of any visual medium: Show, don't tell. That said, like the others the animations are well-done and the voice acting is also top notch. They can't save the movie from a, sadly, sub-par script and this one is very forgettable. I honestly recommend the casual viewer lets this one play for the toilet break.

Jonah Hex:

The best one besides the main attraction, this one actually showcases the character of Jonah Hex very well without retelling the origin. Set in the old west, it has all the clichés of spaghetti westerns. Jonah Hex is like Batman in the old west however and the sheer personality of the character is enough to hold ones interest. While the plot is perhaps the most straight forward of them all, this one has the most action. It also has some downright cruel moments so I hesitate to recommend this one to younger viewers. This one is shown last on the disc, after The Spectre and it's apparent that they've saved some of their best for last. The animation of this one out-ranks all of the others and the art style is dark and gritty, befitting for one of the darkest characters of the DC Universe. Do not miss out on this one, even if you did not like the rest. It is the one I think casual viewers will enjoy the most.
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