Shazam! Fury of the Gods
3 out of 5 Stars
Director: David F. Sandberg
Writers: Henry Gayden, Chris Morgan, Bill Parker
Starring: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer
Genre: Adventure, Comedy
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and language
SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) – Studio Synopsis: Bestowed with the powers of the gods, Billy Batson and his fellow foster kids are still learning how to juggle teenage life with having adult Super Hero alter-egos. But when the Daughters of Atlas, a vengeful trio of ancient gods, arrive on Earth in search of the magic stolen from them long ago, Billy—aka Shazam—and his family are thrust into a battle for their superpowers, their lives, and the fate of their world.
Review: "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" picks up a short time after the events of the first film. Billy Batson and his fellow foster kids have had their powers long enough to decorate their base of operations and make a lukewarm impression on their home city of Philadelphia. Working as a team has proven to be problematic. Trust and abandonment issues abound. To make matters worse, Billy’s actions at the end of the first film have allowed the Daughters of Atlas to be released from their magical jail and are hellbent on exacting their sense of justice on the good people of Earth.
I’d like to pretend that the uncertain future of the Shazam! franchise didn’t impact my viewing experience. But to ignore my reluctance to further invest in the characters would be dishonest. I don’t know if “Fury of the Gods” is a dead end or if James Gunn has left space in his retooled DC universe for the franchise. There are two cameos that suggest that Shazam! could be culled into the new plans, but Henry Cavill’s cameo at the end of “Black Adam” proved to be misleading. Sometimes it is hard to simply watch a film without letting all the noise surrounding it get in the way.
There is a moment in the film where the franchise could self-determine its future and rather than embracing it, they kick the can down the road. Honestly, I would have preferred the more definitive ending, but I’m not entirely convinced that they made the wrong decision in taking the film in the opposite direction.
Shazam! isn’t Batman. There are tonal considerations that need to be taken into account. “Fury of the Gods” is a fairly dark film, but I insist that the film is aimed at the lower end of the PG-13 demographic. Its characters are primarily juveniles (even if they transform into adults) and that gives it the opportunity to be more innocent and playful than the rest of the DC Universe. Love it or hate it, the goofiness is purposeful.
And, despite my reluctance to care, the cast is still amiable. It’s hard to not like Zachary Levi. The teenage characters could easily be insufferable. Asher Angel and Jack Dylan Grazer do a nice job of keeping Billy and Freddy from being too abrasive. Caroline Grace-Cassidy, who now plays both the teenage and superhero versions of Mary, is more than capable. It’s hard to go wrong when casting Helen Mirren. Rachel Zegler is never particularly menacing, but I’m not sure she needs to be.
There are large sections of the film that feel like they were lifted directly out of the Harry Potter movies. I don’t know that it is possible to make a film about teens and magic that doesn’t somehow feel like it is referencing the Wizarding World. Maybe we’ve reached the saturation point where everything is going to feel like a version of something we’ve already seen.
“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” is too sugary for my taste, but those who enjoyed the original film will likely be satisfied with its sequel. It’s as good as, if not a bit better, than “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.”