Movie Review: ‘Shazam! Fury Of The Gods’

Review by James Lindorf

At its core, the first “Shazam!” was a simple story about a boy trying to find a family. Abandoned before birth by one parent and discarded by the other at just four years old, it took Billy 10 years to find a place to call home. All it took was an ancient wizard granting him the power of the gods. Now four years later, Billy and his family face their most dangerous foes in “Shazam! Fury of the God.” The first film was a bright spot in a bleak DCEU, and with the universe collapsing in on itself, this may be the last chance for success. The only way to find out is to buy your ticket for “Shazam! Fury of the God,” now playing everywhere.

It has been four long years since “Shazam” debuted in the spring of 2019, and the same amount of time has passed in the movie. Billy (Asher Angel) is now a few months shy of turning 18 and aging out of the foster care system. This would mean leaving the home Rosa (Marta Milans) and Victor (Cooper Andrews) built for Billy and his brothers and sisters. As the date draws closer, Billy’s grip on his siblings tightens, causing friction between him and Mary (Grace Caroline Currey) and Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer). The younger kids, Darla, Pedro, and Eugene, seem indifferent to his behavior, but that could be because Freddy is frequently drawing attention to himself.

The super six siblings have spent the time-fighting crime around Philadelphia but have gotten less than desirable results. They are eventually dubbed the Philly Fiascos by the local media. Freddy, the superhero super-fan with mobility issues, is the most taken by their abilities and likes to go out alone. Flaunting Shazam’s (Zachary Levi) rule that all of them go on a mission or none of them go. With all of his powers and a new love interest in Ana (Rachel Zegler), life couldn’t get much better for Freddy. However, the arrival of Kalypso (Lucy Liu) and Hespera (Helen Mirren), daughters of the god Atlas and a staff capable of stripping Shazam and the rest of their powers, put an end to his fun. And if they have their way, they will also end their lives. With abilities to control the elements, cause chaos with just a word, and reshape the world around them, as well as a magical dragon, it will take everyone doing their part and a sacrifice or two to save the world.

The screenplay by returning writer Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan, who is new to the DCEU, has a few issues, the most glaring of which is splitting their focus three ways. Freddy “Jeff” Freeman is possibly the most crucial character this time around. He can do great things in and out of the suit and gets all of the best jokes by a mile. It is hard to say the titular Shazam/Billy is even the second most interesting character in the film. The daughters of Atlas get a lot of time for laying out their motivation and in-fighting over the proper way to punish the humans. The first film’s success was due to the humor and the heart present in Billy’s journey to being a hero and finding a home. While the sequel is less focused, feeling more like a monster of the week tv series, the good news is that the core remains with Freddy bringing the humor and Billy/Shazam still being all heart.

Another issue with the film is its dialogue. Some of the sentences delivered, primarily by Helen Mirren, thud to the ground and do not belong in the movie; they feel unnatural. Another actor could have made it feel proper by being more badass and less Dame, but it may have been too far gone to be saved. The second issue is a combination of dialogue and character development for the kids. They seem to have aged only in body only. After four years, it is unlikely that Billy would still so gleefully shoot bottles with lightning bolts. Or that approximately 14-year-old Darla would think hiding loose Skittles in someone’s pants was a good idea. With so much time being given to conversations about growing up, they would have remembered to have the characters be more mature. The jokes may have been a bit cheesy due to that immaturity but the vast majority land without issue. The interplay between Freddy and the Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) is fantastic and possibly only second to Freddy and Ana.

“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” is a step down from the first installment, but it is far from falling off a cliff. The question is if Shazam has two of the top three or top 4 movies in the DCEU. Like most superhero films, the CGI is good when it matters and iffy when it doesn’t. Surprisingly the two post-credit scenes imply a robust future for Shazam despite James Gunn and others taking over DC for WB. While the series isn’t moving in the right direction, the future seems bright, and thanks to its heart, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” earns a 3.5 out of 5.

Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy
Original Language: English
Director: David F. Sandberg
Producer: Peter Safran
Writer: Henry Gayden, Chris Morgan
Release Date: March 17th, 2023
Runtime: 2h 10m
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

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