Billy is back and he brought the whole family – or squad which is kind of how he treats them in the film – but despite how super and godlike each of them is, it’s probably too late to save the day from a threat besides the fury of Greek gods: indifference. Regardless, they could still “damn sure avenge it” with a decent movie, right?
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Shazam! Fury of the Gods picks up with a more mature Billy Batson (Asher Angel) about to age out of the foster system just as his family members are growing more independent, and maybe ready to go their separate ways, in life and on the battlefield. He tries to keep it together though he increasingly feels overwhelmed as trouble erupts.
Moreover, his mistakes come back to haunt him when the Daughters of Atlas appear to claim and mend the staff Billy purposefully broke in the last film. Detesting mortals for stealing their magic, they come to take what’s theirs by any means and wreak some havoc to boot. Top to bottom, the sequel is what you expect based on leaked details.
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Like with Wonder Woman 1984, social media, Reddit, and their endemic spoilers give away a lot of the plot and its constant tomfoolery. Case in point, the gags with Wonder Woman and the Wizard you may have heard about are in there. So are the action set pieces such as the collapsing bridge and the finale in Philly Stadium.
(Or make that “Citizens Bank Park” as it’s known thanks to the modern corporate shilling in major league sports.) And so are the unicorns and that whole joke of using Skittles to whisper them. The film is full of little in-jokes and winks at the audience, and not all of them are related to the colorful source material.
Director David Sandberg, known for horror movies, and New Line Cinema, known for their throwback horror output, drop references to genre history and their contributions to it early on. When superpowered Billy (Zachary Levi) visits the pediatrician to confess his inadequacies, we learn the doctor’s name is Dario Bava – a combo of two of Italy’s most notorious Giallo filmmakers.
He also has an Annabelle doll for kids to play tea time with – a reference to Sandberg’s entry in the Conjuring-verse. The director keeps certain things in that wheelhouse, especially in the final act when mythical creatures from Minotaurs to Griffins and dragons have to look terrifying. But he subdues the horror elements this time and leans more into the fantasy elements.
That choice worked for me and felt true to the spirit of the comics which were always enjoyably campy when done right. The magic pen that writes everything Billy says is a played-out gag but is still fun and not overused. Such stuff gives me “Monster Society of Evil” vibes and fewer New 52 ones than before.
And that’s the sweet spot for this kind of thing. Fury of the Gods might look and feel familiar but it doesn’t come across as corny or cliche the way Wonder Woman 1984 did – and Reddit spoiled that just as thoroughly. Fury is downright fresh in comparison. Moreover, it’s far from the same level of disappointment or wasted opportunity the latter was.
Shazam! was one of the last remnants of the DCEU. In many ways, he’s all we had left because he didn’t come with the same baggage of Ezra Miller and the series hadn’t been shot in the foot the way Patty Jenkins did Wonder Woman in her second try. But none of that matters and everyone is declaring him DOA.
Personally, I don’t get it. To me, people are giving up too easily on this series which still has enough charm and wonder to spare. They can use any excuse they want – superhero fatigue, timing, The Rock dropped the ball with Black Adam, there are no stakes, DC is dying – but each is weak and convoluted in its own way.
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I feel like we could’ve had a breakthrough with Shazam! Fury of the Gods and it could have defied the odds to prove the doubters wrong if audiences and fans were willing. More importantly, if the studio was willing. I see no reason beyond the price tag why James Gunn and co. can’t lump Shazam! films in with those standalone projects “actively happening.”
Can the Shazam Fam avenge that? Probably not, but if this is it, they aren’t going out on too terrible a note – bittersweet, yes, but not terrible. In the end, it took Henry Cavill to earn Black Adam an 8 out of 10 but Shazam! Fury of the Gods does that all by itself. Based on Rotten Tomatoes scores, audiences who dared to see it agree.
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- Bigger spectacle than the original but the tone is consistent with it
- Djimon Hounsou and Grace Currey step more into the forefront to add depth to Mary and The Wizard
- Jack Dylan Grazer steals the show as Freddy Freeman whenever he's the focus
- Lucy Liu really phones it in
- Plot threads with Freddy going solo and Billy's foster mother looking upon him as a real son could've been explored better
- The twist of Pedro's sexuality serves no purpose, affects nothing, and doesn't need to be in there