'Shazam! Fury of the Gods' is Fun But Lacks the Magic of the Original
With more action and a darker tone, the film loses some of the magic of the original, but features strong performances from Helen Mirren and Rachel Zegler.
The long-awaited sequel to 2019’s ‘Shazam!,’ entitled ‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods,’ will finally be release in theaters on March 17th and is once again directed by David F. Sandberg (‘Annabelle: Creation’). The movie will mark the 12th installment of the DC Extended Universe franchise, which will come to an end this summer when the series is rebooted by ‘The Flash.’
Shazam! Fury of the Gods
Billy Batson and his foster siblings, who transform into superheroes by saying "Shazam!", are forced to get back into action and fight the Daughters of Atlas, who... Read the Plot
What is the plot of ‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods?’
Following the events of 2019’s ‘Shazam!,’ Billy Batson (Asher Angel), Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), and their foster siblings can transform into powerful superheroes using the magic words “Shazam.” But with the Wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) missing, when the daughters of Atlas (Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu and Rachel Zegler) return to Earth to claim back their magic, it’s up to Billy, Freddy, and their brothers and sisters to save the wizard and stop the evil sisters.
Who is in the cast of ‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods?’
‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ once again stars Asher Angel and Zachary Levi as Billy Batson/Shazam, Jack Dylan Grazer and Adam Brody as Freddy Freeman, Meagan Good and Faithe Herman as Darla Dudley, Ross Butler and Ian Chen as Eugene Choi, D.J. Cotrona and Jovan Armand as Pedro Pena, Grace Caroline Currey as Mary Bromfield, and Djimon Hounsou as the Wizard Shazam. Joining the sequel are Oscar winner Helen Mirren (‘The Queen’) as Hespera, Lucy Liu (‘Kill Bill Vol. 1’) as Kalypso, and Rachel Zegler (‘West Side Story’) as Anthea.
While ‘Fury of the Gods’ is a more mature installment than the original, it loses some of its magic and charm along the way introducing several new characters, but not having enough time to adequately explore them all. Helen Mirren and Rachel Zegler are welcomed additions to the cast, and while Zachary Levi, Jack Dylan Grazer, Meagan Good, and Grace Caroline Curry all give good performances, it’s not enough to overcome a complicated script and undefined VFX characters in the third act.
Related Article: Zachary Levi Talks 'Shazam! Fury of the Gods' and Playing a Superhero
The Story and Direction
Through no fault of its own, ‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ arrives in theaters somewhat dead on arrival, as the entire DCEU will be rebooted into the DC Universe, overseen by James Gunn and Peter Safran, after the release of this summer’s ‘The Flash.’ While we know that we will not see Henry Cavill return as Superman, and ‘Wonder Woman 3’ is no long in development, the future of DCEU actors like Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, and even Zachary Levi are somewhat in question. But, since new DC co-chairman Peter Safran is a producer on ‘Fury of the Gods’ and ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,’ there might be a chance to see those actors return in their roles.
I mention this only because it takes away some of the urgency of the movie, since there is a possibility everything that happens could be erased by ‘The Flash.’ It makes it difficult to care about these characters and what happens to them, since their future is up in the air after ‘The Flash’s release.
The sequel also wants to take the ‘Empire Strikes Back’ approach and be a darker toned follow up. It manages to succeed but at the sacrifice of a lot of the fun and innocence of the original. Billy’s struggle to find his place in the world, both as a hero and a young man is a well-executed theme of the film, and works for the most part but they don’t quite stick the landing. Director David F. Sandberg’s take on the original movie was brilliant, making a superhero version of ‘Big.’ But the sequel is weighed down by the darker tone and the multiple characters and villains the movie tries to juggle.
The visual effects in the movie are used pretty well, especially Kalypso’s dragon and the Dark Unicorns that appear at the end. But the finale also features numerous VFX creatures that don’t look as sharp, and muddy the final scenes of the film.
Zachary Levi is a very likable actor, and was perfectly cast in the role of Shazam in the original, portraying an adult superhero who is really a child. The actor’s own childlike enthusiasm leant itself well to the role, but with the darker tone of the sequel, the character is at times lost amongst the action and other super-powered beings. Levi does as much as he can with the material he was given, but the character fails to resonate as well as he did in the original.
Unfortunately, Asher Angel, who plays Billy Batson before he becomes Shazam, feels lost in the role. It’s a tricky thing because basically Levi and Angel are creating Billy together, but Levi easily has more screen time than his co-star, making it very hard for the audience to relate to human Billy, since we barley see him. And his emotional moments at the end of the film don’t seem to have the gravitas they deserve.
Jack Dylan Grazer, who plays Billy’s best friend Freddy Freeman, is thankfully given more to do this time around. The darker tone of the sequel mixes well with the character’s struggles, and Freddy’s relationship with Rachel Zegler’s Anthea, is at the heart of the movie. Adam Brody plays the superhero version of Freddy, but his performance doesn’t match as well with Grazer’s and it at times feels like they are playing two different characters.
Grace Caroline Currey returns to play Mary Bromfield, but in ‘Fury of the Gods,’ also plays her superhero alter ego, the only cast member to perform both roles. Currey shines as Mary and has more to do in the sequel, as she is still a mentor to her foster siblings, but is also struggling to balance college with crime fighting.
The other standout from Shazam’s superhero family is Meagan Good, who plays Darla Dudley in her superhero form. Good’s performance is one of the most emotional and funniest of the film, and the actress perfectly captures the young and enthusiastic attitude of her co-star, Faithe Herman, who portrays Darla in her human form.
Djimon Hounsou also reprises his role as the Wizard Shazam, but his performance is very one-note, and is not given the screen time to really make the character matter to the overall story.
Lucy Liu gives a fun and villainous performance as Kalypso, but the actress is at her best when partnered with Helen Mirren, rather than when she is on her own. Lui definitely excels in the action sequences, and Kalypso’s dragon is one of the best VFX creatures in the movie.
Oscar winner Helen Mirren gives a very menacing performance as Hespera, and is clearly having a lot of fun playing the villain. The actress is commanding in the role, a great advisory for Levi’s Shazam, and has strong chemistry with Lui and Zegler. There is a pop culture reference to 'The Fast and the Furious’ franchise in the movie, and the look on Mirren’s face, who herself is a member of that series, was a fun bit of meta humor. Mirren handles her action sequences well, and injects just enough humanity into the character that she is believable, and not just evil for evil’s sake.
But the real standout of the film is Rachel Zegler as Anthea, the youngest of Atlas’ daughters and sister to Hespera and Kalypso. She begins the movie as Anne, a classmate of Freddy’s, who he develops a crush on. As Anne, Zegler is sweet and innocent, but not too much that her reveal as one of the sisters seems out of place. The actress makes the twist in the character completely believable and not too much of a stretch for the audience. She has great chemistry with Glazer, and you really believe that Anthea likes him, and is not just using him for her sister’s evil plans. Zegler has strong chemistry with Mirren and Liu as well, and you can understand how she could get caught up in their power grab.
Do Any Other DC Characters Cameo in ‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods?’
Yes. Much like the Superman cameo in the original ‘Shazam,’ there is a DCEU hero that appears in the movie, but is only seen from the neck down. However, surprisingly, the real performer that plays that character in other DCEU films does reappear for a cameo by the film’s end. It’s not in an end-credit or mid-credit scene, and I won’t say which character or performer returns, but I will say the scene takes place in the third act and is a bit more than a cameo, but not much. The character in question is played by a performer who’s future in the new DC Universe has been in question, but hopefully their appearance in ‘Fury of the Gods’ will shed some light on that.
While not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, ‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ tried to take too much on, with multiple character arcs, several new villains, and a VFX heavy third act. There are some fun moments and good performances in the movie, but the filmmakers tried to take on too much with this sequel, and with the DCEU ending soon anyways, the stakes just don’t seem that high at all.
‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ receives 6.5 out of 10 stars.
Other Movies Similar to ‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods:’
- ‘Man of Steel' (2013)
- 'Justice League: War' (2014)
- 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' (2016)
- 'Justice League' (2017)
- ‘Wonder Woman' (2017)
- ‘Shazam!' (2019)
- 'Wonder Woman 1984' (2020)
- 'Zack Snyder's Justice League' (2021)
- 'Black Adam' (2022)
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'Shazam! Fury of the Gods' is produced by New Line Cinema, The Safran Company, and DC Films, and is scheduled for release on March 17th.