‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ Review

To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a family superhero film based on the DC Comics character Captain Marvel. The film is directed by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) from a screenplay written by Henry Gayden (Earth to Echo) and Chris Morgan (Fast & Furious). Featuring Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Rachel Zegler, Grace Caroline Currey, Adam Brody, Ian Chen, Ross Butler, Meagan Good, Lucy Liu, Djimon Hounsou, and Helen Mirren; it is the sequel to Shazam! (2019) and the 12th film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Set two years after the events of the first movie, the story follows Billy Batson and his foster siblings as they are confronted by the Daughters of Atlas who seek to steal the heroes’ powers.

In Athens, Greece a tour guide for the Acropolis Museum shows the crowd an exhibit called the mythical staff of the gods – the wizard Shazam’s staff from the first movie. As two armored women walk in he states that the broken staff was found at a waste processing plant near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As the guide continues, the women break the casing revealing themselves to be the gods Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu). They then each grab half of the broken staff which surges their bodies with godly energy. With their newfound power, the women proceed to kill everyone in the room.

In Philadelphia, Billy Batson (Zachary Levi) talks to his pediatrician about his problems while in his adult form. Even though he states he is not a psychiatrist the doctor diagnoses the hero with imposter syndrome. After giving the doctor more details about his history of trauma Billy quickly leaves to take care of a “hostage situation.” Back at home, Billy (Asher Angel) plays video games with his foster brother Eugene (Ian Chen). When Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) hears news of a 1099 at the Benjamin Franklin Bridge on the radio the foster siblings leave to help with the situation. While the family of heroes succeeds in saving all the civilians they are unable to stop the bridge from collapsing.

Coming hot off the heels of Aquaman (2018), which was the first film in the universe to break $1 billion at the box office, Shazam! was a financially and critically successful movie for the DCEU at a time when it seemed that the universe was floundering. It was a smaller-scale story with a big heart and almost no connection to the other DCEU films save for a few mentions and a headless Superman cameo. That did stop David F. Sandberg from incorporating some horror elements in the film which worked well in its minimal capacity. Asher Angel gave a heartwarming performance as Billy Batson and Zachary Levi did a great job as the adult version of the hero. A sequel was sure to come as soon as possible with the film teasing that the family would face the wizard’s former champion in his next outing.

Alas, that did not happen as the COVID-19 Pandemic forced the film to be pushed multiple times with it eventually settling in March 2023. Black Adam got his own spin-off film which didn’t feature any characters from Shazam! save for a small blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from the wizard. That movie also cost an exorbitant amount and may or may not have broke even. In January 2023 James Gunn and Peter Safran were hired as co-CEOs and decided that they were going to reboot the entire universe. With Shazam! Fury of the Gods and other DCEU films still scheduled to hit theaters, many fans wondered if it was even worth watching.

Shazam! is already a smaller character, to begin with, and this feature arrived five years after the first. Add to that the poor marketing, other issues going on with DC, and the poor reception of Black Adam; it would have been a miracle for this movie to do extremely well. Asher Angel is now a lot older so his transformation into an adult superhero doesn’t work quite the same. While I still think Angel and Levi give great performances there does feel like a disconnect between the characters. Levi still plays the champion as if he was 13 when he should be more mature by this point. I feel the rest of the adult actors did a better job of capturing their child form personalities. Especially Meagan Good who seems to best capture the youthful naivety of Darla (Faithe Herman) and Grace Caroline Currey as she is old enough to play Mary in her super form.

Even with all the things it had going against it, I think Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a pretty good sequel. Sandberg doesn’t quite recapture the magic of the first film, but the heart is still there. The creature design is also top-notch and reminiscent of what you would see in Clash of the Titans (1981). The best addition in this department is a sentient pen named Steve who steals the show with zero lines. The cinematography is bold and chaotic with Gyula Pados’ (Predators) style paying homage I feel to many elements from the fight sequences in Man of Steel. The score is solid with Christophe Beck (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) delivering an energetic theme for the superfamily. There’s even the inclusion of the original Wonder Woman theme by Junkie XL, which considering the film’s use of Greek gods, that character should have been more prominent.

Although a little disjointed at times this is a solid sequel from Sandberg. This a superhero film the entire family can enjoy without thinking about the implications to the larger universe. I give Shazam! Fury of the Gods a Decent 7.3/10. Too bad James Gunn is rebooting the universe as I would have liked to see where they would have gone with a third Shazam! movie. Maybe they’d follow the plot thread with Dr. Sivanna and Mister Mind or maybe the family would fight Black Adam. I guess we’ll never know.

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