I was in the mood for something completely different, so I popped in my copy of Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release of The Adventures of Captain Marvel. Better known as Shazam nowadays for legal reasons that should be self-evident, Captain Marvel was one of the very first big comic book superheroes, and while he was clearly conceived to capitalize on the success of Superman, he remains the Golden Age’s most novel creation, pushing the typical adolescent power fantasy to its most logical conclusion (the title character’s secret identity is literally a twelve-year-old boy).
Republic Pictures’ serialized cinematic adaptation takes several liberties with the source material, and for better and worse, the resulting twelve-episode adventure contains all of the elements you’d expect from the studio: exotic locales (or the facsimiles thereof), ancient artifacts, a mysterious masked villain, red herrings, harrowing cliffhangers (and the accompanying narrow escapes), casual racism (though thankfully nothing quite as egregious as Columbia’s Batman, which was basically propaganda supporting the internment of Japanese-Americans), and obvious budgetary limitations (plenty of visible wires, stiff dummies, and blatantly recycled footage) that do little to diminish the quality of the genuinely impressive stunts and acrobatics.
As much as it kills me that the filmmakers changed the protagonist’s alter ego into a twenty-something junior archeologist/cub reporter/radio operator (removing the juxtaposition that made the Big Red Cheese so appealing in the first place), The Adventures of Captain Marvel is still a fun little diversion; even the flaws only add to its old school charm.
[Originally written April 14, 2018.]