When it comes to the DC films, fans can be a little skeptical of their track record with them—or is that just me? With various studios bouncing around the different heroes and villains, like Christopher Nolan’s Batman films and Matt Reeves’ The Batman film, the visions for the have been a never-ending cycle of ups and downs for the DC properties. Shazam! Fury of the Gods was not a terrible letdown, with its very immature jokes at times—but you are constantly reminded that these are kids, and the movie does it quite a bit.
It has been almost four years since audiences have seen Billy Batson and his Shazam persona in Toronto…I mean Philadelphia. The young caped hero of Philly picked up back with Billy and his foster home family gang of heroes, fighting crime for the last couple years since the first film. Although they all have powers, some of them had their own plans separate from saving the city together.
Things began to go awry when three gods suddenly appeared—trying to obtain the staff that Billy snapped in two in the previous movie. The three sisterly gods claimed to be daughters of the Greek titan Atlas—Hespera (Helen Mirren), Kalypso (Lucy Liu), and Anthea (Rachel Zegler). The film progressed with them trying to rebuild staff, and of course, it had to involve Billy and his superhero family.
Compared to the first film, this one shifted focus away from the children’s school lives and delved more into the superhero mythos of the gods. Shazam! and Black Adam effectively laid the groundwork for most of this, so I felt like nothing was too jarring. I thought it was perfect for retaining purposeful school moments with the kids, while advancing the plot. The previous film did a good job of establishing the children’s normal lives, so it was necessary to concentrate more on the heroic aspects which this film delivered.
Without delving too deeply into the ongoing storyline, I enjoyed the return of Djimon Hounsou’s wizard character, Shazam. He had a much larger on-screen role this time around, but within reason, and often provided comedic relief, as he typically does in his roles like in Guardians of the Galaxy.
One of the best aspects of this sequel was its ability to weave together what we learned from the first film and build upon it. The movie made sure the audience understood the references to the first film by showing flashbacks of scenes. Some connections made throughout the film were a bit far-fetched, but the fast pacing made these flaws easily forgettable. However, it never explained why their suits underwent design changes.
Some standout performances came from Zachary Levi once again! Since this film had a lot more action, he ended up being on-screen more as Billy than the younger Billy (Asher Angel). I thought Levi’s silliness in the first film was an outlandish contrast to Angel’s version of Billy, but the referential jokes were too good to ignore the bad puns. You can bet this Warner Bros. Pictures film had no problem referencing its other properties like Game of Thrones. This film even went as far as making Fast and the Furious jokes!
Despite the moments of going back and forth, I appreciated when the film utilized Angel as Billy because it could have easily lost the factor that the older heroes were just children or teenagers. Once again, the writing was purposeful because it gave each actor for the kids, both younger and older, a chance to define their characters as individuals. The adorable Darla was probably still very jarring, as she was the youngest and most childlike of them all—even when she appeared older.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the rollercoaster ride of Shazam! Fury of the Gods for what it was”
As for the new cast and characters—Mirren, Liu, and Zegler—I pretty much predicted how they would be portrayed. Even though I love the concept of humanizing villains like in Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker or Thanos from the Avengers films, I thought these elements in these three villains were a mishmash. It worked, and it didn’t.
After thinking about it more after watching the movie, I felt it was somewhat like the situation with the Sanderson sisters in Hocus Pocus—but not quite. In some ways, Atlas’ daughters did it better. I liked that there was a balance of one sister who was just pure evil, one who was morally conflicted due to changing circumstances, and another who was always morally good but had to do her sisters’ bidding essentially.
In a film filled with a bunch of superpowered kids and teenagers, Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ VFX and CGI did a pretty outstanding job. The three Atlas sisters had mighty powers, a dragon, and monsters on their side, so there was a lot to animate. The dragon itself was as if one of the dragons in HBO’s House of the Dragon or Game of Thrones had a baby with Godzilla. It was menacing, and the effects emanating from it were even more so. The new, more practical-looking suits relied less on VFX or CGI, which I really appreciated more than the last film—it made Levi and the others look less like they were in super muscle suits.
I thoroughly enjoyed the rollercoaster ride of Shazam! Fury of the Gods for what it was, minus some of the bad, facepalming jokes from Levi’s mouth. While I did not like some of the choices made or some of the ways things connected to drive the plot forward, it was still a fun movie. I thought it cemented the mood of a PG-13 Deadpool style, as it carried over from the first film. The lore really kept me interested in this film, and I hope this world continues to build out its own world more—as well as the rest of the DCEU or DCU.
For DC fans who have continued to ride this franchise’s train, be sure to catch the two post-credit scenes. Also, there may or may not be one or more surprise cameos!