Review: Shazam! Fury of the Gods
With the impending reboot of the DC Universe under the guidance of James Gunn and Peter Safran, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, while fun at times, feels like the dying gasps of the previous DC Universe where nothing that happens matters or needs to be paid attention to.
Taking place a few years after the first Shazam!, Billy Batson (Asher Angel and Zachary Levi) and his family have been protecting Philadelphia but have become dubbed the “Philly Fiascos” for their well-meaning but destructive heroics. Billy is desperate to keep everyone together but siblings like Mary (Grace Caroline Currey) and Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer/Adam Brody) are looking to do their own solo things. The family has to come back together when a pair of vengeful goddesses, Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu) arrive to take the power of Atlas that now courses through Billy and his siblings. The first movie worked great and felt different because of the origin story and Billy learning to control his new powers with help from Freddy. One of the main issues with Fury of the Gods is that there are now so many characters, nothing has time to develop or get fleshed out. There’s a vague lesson Billy needs to learn about letting the people he loves leave if they need to but the movie tries to give everyone some sort of arc or subplot and it ruins the simple fun that made the first Shazam! so enjoyable. The villain plot is also needlessly complicated, with multiple McGuffins, another realm that is never fully explained and constantly shifting motivations. There’s also Rachel Zegler’s Anthea, the third goddess sister to Hespera and Kalypso but the movie introduces her as a new high school student for no conceivable plot reason except to be a love interest for Freddy and to have a “reveal” shortly afterward. There’s nothing you haven’t really seen before in other superhero movies in Fury of the Gods but it’s not terrible, just unoriginal. There’s also the case of the big cameo and the after-credits scenes, all of which will never amount to anything more than a bizarre curiosity of corporate mergers and restructuring. The mid-credits scene was also obviously supposed to set up the face-off between Shazam and Black Adam but we all know how that mess ended up.
The aforementioned issue with so many characters to service, a lot of them fall to the wayside, especially the “normal” versions of Billy and his family, as the kid/teen versions are sidelined almost completely, including bafflingly Asher Angel, who you would think would be the co-lead of the movie but has maybe 5 minutes of screentime as Zachary Levi takes over 90% of Shazam duty. Levi is also going full breakneck comedy, with every line delivered at 11 and most of his dialogue being some sort of joke or comeback, which undermines the few times where we are supposed to take the character seriously. Of the siblings, Meagan Good stands out as one of the best of the adult alter-egos, perfectly capturing Darla’s (Faith Herman) excitement and naivete but everyone else kind of fades into the background. Grace Caroline Currey mostly carried last year’s Fall completely on her shoulders but she’s not really given much to here except be kind of a boring scold as the oldest and smartest sibling. Helen Mirren is great as always but Lucy Liu is actually pretty terrible, going full mustache-twirling villain and it doesn’t really work.
As far as set pieces, there are a few solid sequences, including the opening attempt to save the Ben Franklin Bridge that does a solid job of highlighting and reintroducing each sibling’s superpowered alter ego and the finale has some great imagery with darkness highlighted by Shazam’s lighting power and there’s some fun where the movie leans into the Greek mythology origins of Shazam and his powers by unleashing creatures like harpies, minotaurs, and cyclopses onto Philadelphia. There are some hints at the beginning of the powers that Hespera and Kalypso have, including turning people into mindless killing machines, but there are never really any clever or cool uses of their powers after that opening. Rachel Zegler’s Anthea has powers where she can manipulate and teleport the world around her and it’s visually interesting but it’s not nearly as cool as it could have been if we didn’t already see similar (and much more creative and interesting) imagery in the Doctor Strange movies.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is the perfect movie to wait for on HBO Max. It’s not terrible but any impact or importance it might have had in the DC Universe was removed well before it came out and it’s just a fairly average superhero movie. There are some funny jokes and decent action set pieces but it’s not doing anything you haven’t seen before and it lacks the originality and fun of the first Shazam!
I’m like the J. Jonah Jameson of Everything Action, writing and editing and constantly demanding pictures of Spider-Man.