“Shazam!” Delivers DC Its First Home Run

 By Michael Omoruan 

             The latest installment in the DC Cinematic Universe is here and it brings out the inner kid in all of us. Though a superhero film on the surface, at its core “Shazam!” is about family and finding one when you least expect it. There are very few movies being made currently about adopted children, let alone a superhero movie. The film has just the right amount of realism in it, even with magic wielding characters.

             Released on April 5, “Shazam!” tells the story of a foster kid named Billy Batson (Asher Angel) who has recently been adopted by the loving Vasquez couple. His first thought of the couple and the other children they have taken in is that they are just another family that he wants to escape. However, after befriending Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), Batson starts to grow attached to his new home. 

               After fending off some bullies that start beating up Freddy, Billy tries to lose them. When he does, he soon meets an old and withered man named Shazam the Wizard (Djimon Hounsou). The wizard has been looking for so-called “champions” to take on his role for ages and believes he has found one in Batson. After much-expected hesitation and questioning, he finally succumbs to his demands when he is asked to speak his name. When he does, the power of mythological gods who make up his name, such as Achilles and Mercury are imbued in him before he becomes his adult self, played by Zachary Levi.  The film’s plot is reminiscent of 1988’s “Big,” starring Tom Hanks and even makes a quick reference to it during a fight scene.

            Angel as Batson plays the role of a foster kid well, especially when his character hesitates to hang out with or acknowledge the kids he meets at the Vasquez residence. When Batson becomes Shazam, Levi’s attempts to recreate or mimic Angel’s acting choices and lines are believable. He nails the comedic scenes very well, which makes sense given his background in shows like NBC’s “Chuck” and movies like Disney’s “Tangled.” It feels very much like what a kid given powers in the modern day and age would do. The serious scenes are effectively moving, such as when Freddy feels that Billy has let the powers he’s been granted go to his head.  

              Sandberg knocks it out of the park once again. After helming horror films like “Lights Out” (2016) and “Annabelle: Creation” (2017), “Shazam!” marks his first foray into superhero films. An increasing trend has begun that more and more well-known horror directors are being given the reigns to direct big-budget superhero films. Notable examples are James Gun’s “Guardian of the Galaxy” films, James Wan’s “Aquaman” (2018), and Scott Derrickson’s “Doctor Strange” (2016). Sandberg’s background in horror shines through in his lighting choices and use of dark imagery and cinematography when filming Mark Strong’s character, Doctor Sivana. Sivana’s powers are similar to that of Shazam’s, but also include the ability to conjure huge beasts that represent each of the seven deadly sins. 

               Once offered the same abilities as Batson by Shazam the Wizard, Sivana was unable to resist the temptation of stone gargoyle-looking creatures and is cast out. Sivana grows up to become obsessed with returning to the Wizard, interviewing potential champions to find out how to return to him. After returning to him, he embraces his role as a villain and starts exacting revenge on those who mocked him. The film touches on the theme of embracing family through Billy’s journey to find his biological parents. The acting chops of the main cast and the screenplay, written by Henry Gayden, are executed near perfectly. 


               Shah Mazhar, a mathematics major at Queens College, said, “I felt like a kid watching it and it was super comic accurate.” Daniel Encarnacion, a computer science major at Lehman, said, “I really enjoyed it. I thought it was well rounded, lighthearted, and funny but also had some deeper moments as well. Honestly it was the best movie DC has done. In my opinion, it was better than Captain Marvel because Zachary Levi was able to be a more endearing character.

Grossing $125 million domestically and over $200 million in foreign box offices, it comes as no surprise that audiences everywhere are falling in love with this film. If you dig superhero films or are just a sucker for heartfelt family films, check this one out at your local theater.

The cast and crew of Shazam at Wondercon: (L to R) Stars Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, and director David F. Sandberg. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The cast and crew of Shazam at Wondercon: (L to R) Stars Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, and director David F. Sandberg. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Reel Abilities Festival Celebrates Diverse Capabilities

by Nelson N. Fernandez 

As a tribute to Disability Awareness Month, the Student Disability Services Department at Lehman College hosted the seventh annual ReelAbilities Film Festival, on April 3 and 4. The festival included four feature-length and seven short films that inspired nearly 200 viewers in attendance to change their perspectives toward people with disabilities. Each screening was followed by brief discussions with the filmmakers.  

 The feature documentary, “America,” focused on an elderly woman with dementia named “America” as her grandsons struggle with the challenge of caring for her. impressed Sebastian, an audience member who also helped with setting up the event at Lehman College, he stated that they have “never seen such a film where we see through the point of view of the caregiver.” 

Shorter films such as “Shakespeare in Tokyo” and “JMAXX and The Universal Language” were also screened. These films touched on other illnesses such as down syndrome and autism. Sebastian thought the shorts were “heart-warming and entertaining.” 

Another audience member, Joe Ottenthal, an elementary school teacher in the Bronx, said he was “happy to have found and attended [the festival] for the first time. The shorts were outstanding” and that “bringing visibility to people and students with disabilities and special needs is an effort that is near to my heart.”

Merrill Parra, Director of Student Disability Services and the developer of the festival at Lehman, stated that “the festival embodies the mission of Lehman College, as a cultural center for the Bronx, and its values of inclusion and diversity.” 

Shakespeare in Tokyo  (2018)

Shakespeare in Tokyo (2018)

Jmaxx and the Universal Language  (2017)

Jmaxx and the Universal Language (2017)

America  (2019)

America (2019)

"Avengers: Endgame" is the Brilliant Send-off Fans Deserve

By Zoe Fanzo

“Avengers: Endgame” broke numerous box office records, making an astounding global $1.2 billion in its opening weekend. It is now the second highest grossing film in history, having surpassed James Cameron’s “Titanic.”

“Avengers: Endgame” broke numerous box office records, making an astounding global $1.2 billion in its opening weekend. It is now the second highest grossing film in history, having surpassed James Cameron’s “Titanic.”

 In 2008, Marvel Comics risked everything by launching their film studio’s cinematic universe. After selling off many of their famous character properties, such as the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, Marvel Studios was left with only a handful of characters to work with. Robert Downey Jr., who some considered to be a liability based on his troubled personal life and past addictions, introduced the world to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with his portrayal of Tony Stark in 2008’s “Iron Man.” This was a risk that ultimately paid off for the studio, and now, after 11 years and 22 movies, the acclaimed Infinity Saga has drawn to a close with “Avengers: Endgame.” The film marks the conclusion for many of the franchise’s characters and storylines, closing out the first three phases of the MCU with emotional maturity and sincerity. 


“Avengers: Endgame” picks up in the immediate aftermath of 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” which featured a shocking cliffhanger where antagonist Thanos successfully used the six Infinity Stones to wipe out half of the universe’s population with the snap of his fingers. At the start of the film, the team assembles to strike back at Thanos with urgency, but when they arrive to his sanctuary planet, they find him half crippled and without any of the stones. Enraged, Thor decapitates Thanos, the team returns to Earth, and the film then jumps ahead five years into the future. The time jump is bleak, and it sets the dark tone of the film with shocking precision. 


A new hope comes to the team when Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, portrayed hilariously by Paul Rudd, shows up at the Avengers Compound. For the last five years, he had been trapped in the quantum realm, a version of the universe on a subatomic scale. Tony Stark, the smartest mind on the team, is initially hesitant to help them harness quantum time travel, but the memory of his former friend and mentee, Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, finally prompts him to develop a stable method. 


Using the technology Tony developed, the team devises a plan to visit moments in which their past selves encountered the various stones. The time heist sequence revisits scenes from past films in the MCU, ultimately serving as a functional plot device while also paying homage to the last decade of movies. The sequence is very satisfying for fans who have invested years into memorizing the many plot lines, characters, and intricacies of the MCU. When they return to their present timeline with the six stones, chaos ensues. 


After the team regains their bearings, the compound is suddenly attacked by a massive alien army. The Avengers seem vastly outnumbered and out of their depth, until through a deft plot twist a massive army of the previously fallen heroes appears on the battlefield, ready to do whatever it takes. 


The ensuing action sequence is perhaps the highlight of the film, as it is the culmination of the entire franchise. The imagery evokes the same beautiful and chaotic energy as a full-page comic illustration, with all of the many MCU heroes together for the first time, charging at Thanos and his army. The sequence features many satisfying moments for fans, with Captain America wielding Thor’s hammer, a heart-wrenching reunion between Iron Man and Spider-Man, and the iconic battle cry which fans have waited years to hear uttered on screen, “avengers assemble.”  


The climax of the battle comes as Tony Stark realizes what he has to do to defeat Thanos. In a moment which feels full-circle and gratifying, the once egotistical Tony Stark wields the stones on his metal glove with purely sacrificial intentions and he declares the famous last words of the film which kicked off the franchise, “I am Iron Man.” With that, he dusts Thanos and his army, thus sacrificing his life for the greater good. As he fades into death, he is surrounded by the people he loves, and he is finally able to rest knowing that they are safe.


“Avengers: Endgame” is a tragic yet gratifying send-off for the character of Iron Man, and for the first three phases of films. Once self-obsessed and unwilling to work with others, Tony’s growth over the course of the films has felt natural and tangible. Tony Stark fades away with the knowledge that Thanos will never again pose a threat to his reality; his team, his wife and daughter, the world he has fought to protect for so long has been made safer with this ultimate sacrifice. 


This is an end which is admittedly difficult to watch for fans who have loved and grown with Tony, yet it is a moment that feels completely necessary and earned. It is difficult to imagine an ending which could offer greater finality to this world of heroes, and fans will surely remember the Infinity Saga as one of the greatest cinematic epics of this generation.