Shazam! Fury of the Gods feels like a blatant attempt to recapture the financial success of the first Shazam film without any solid concept for a new storyline for the superheroes. It manages to lose what was great about the first one while introducing interesting new characters, only to underutilize them.
When Shazam! came out in 2019, it felt like a breath of fresh air in the midst of the superhero genre. A comic book movie in which our hero is coming of age and looking to find a family in which he can belong represented something new amongst more serious superhero fare. It was remarkably self-contained, funny, and light-hearted. But the DCEU has never been consistent, so it’s little surprise that the Shazam sequel is unfortunately never able to recapture the charm of the first.
The twelfth film in the DCEU opens with new characters Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu) storming into a museum in traditional Roman soldier gear. The two cause chaos and destruction of artifacts while stealing a broken staff that was recently installed in the museum. They’re seeking revenge for their father who was defeated by The Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) and to have access to their own powers again.
Meanwhile, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) – and his superhero alter ego Shazam (Zachary Levi) – is having a crisis of imposter syndrome. Despite his successes in the last film and his foster siblings now having superpowers of their own, he can’t seem to find his purpose or even to convince the people of Philadelphia to like him.
There’s potential for real emotional material with Billy’s older sister Mary (Grace Fulton) reminding him that he’s only months away from aging out of the foster system and urging him to think about finding a job so that he’s not a burden on their affectionate, but not wealthy foster parents. However, the film is unfortunately more interested in Shazam than it is in Billy.
Perhaps the greatest failing of Shazam! Fury of the Gods is that it seems to misunderstand that most of the appeal of the first film was in the young cast. We barely see any of Asher’s Billy in the sequel, and when we do, there’s an ever-apparent disconnect between him and Levi’s Shazam. They never seem like a coherent character in the way that the other kids and their superhero alter egos do. It’s also a shame because Asher’s angst is actually much more compelling than Levi’s over-exaggerated facial expressions.
In the film, the superheroes must remember how to work together as they fight against the Daughters of Atlas. The plot is remarkably thin, to the point of being confusing. There’s a lot of people yelling at each other, and when there are action scenes, they’re disappointing. The scene early on in the film in which the heroes save people on a falling bridge while “Holding Out for a Hero” plays is corny and has terrible visuals. The later big fight scene against Kalypso is interrupted for some of the most blatant product placement I’ve ever seen as a unicorn is fed Skittles and a character literally says the phrase, “Taste the rainbow.”
David F. Sandberg’s direction is lackluster and the script, by Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan, includes cringe-worthy lines in almost every scene. The one truly redeeming factor of the film – other than the wasted, but still somewhat engaging Liu and Mirren – is the romance subplot between Freddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Anthea (Rachel Zegler). Their sweet bonding over having controlling older siblings and her recognition of what he puts up with from bullies at school are the closest the film ever gets to genuine emotion. Grazer and Zegler have solid chemistry and it’s a shame that the film isn’t more focused around their characters.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods feels like a blatant attempt to recapture the financial success of the first Shazam film without any solid concept for a new storyline for the superheroes. It manages to lose what was great about the first one, while introducing interesting new characters, only to underutilize them. There’s also something grating in Shazam’s unwillingness to take the Daughters of Atlas seriously that feels distinctly like undiagnosed sexism. If we never get another Shazam film, it’ll be a blessing.
Should be Considered: None.
Where to Watch: In Theaters
Living out her childhood dreams of being a writer, just like Jo March
Favorite Directors: Kenneth Branagh and Greta Gerwig
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