Review: After successfully delivering a grounded superhero movie in 2019, Shazam! Fury of the Gods aims for new heights, losing it’s own magic in the process. A film filled with generic villains and poor CGI work, Fury of the Gods leaves a lot to be desired.
It was never a good sign for Shazam! Fury of the Gods when new DC overseer James Gunn avoided any announcement for future plans involving this particular superhero. Perhaps it showed the lack of confidence by the studio’s executive team that the quality would stay consistent for movie after movie, or that the fan interest would stay high amid the ongoing prospects of “superhero fatigue” by moviegoers.
Or maybe it was that they knew one bad installment of a Shazam! movie would have patrons running for the exits, never to return to see Billy Batson and his family fight various intergalactic villains again. And maybe James Gunn and company knew that Fury of the Gods was just that film – because I’ll say that after watching it: this movie has me wanting the DC reboot more than ever.
That’s probably a bit harsh given my disdain for Black Adam just last year (when Dwayne “The Rock Johnson” wanted to play both the hero and the villain in his own story), but Shazam! Fury of the Gods feels like the last resting point for a set of B-tier DC heroes that barely got off the ground to begin with.
I liked the original Shazam! too, which makes it all the more frustrating that director David F. Sandberg’s second entry into the franchise sheds everything that made the first one feel distinct. It was about family, opting for smaller portion sizes of superhero motifs and instead focusing on telling a coming-of-age origin story.
And it was funny (!), which all superhero movies try to be these days, mostly to negative results. Shazam! was a slight break from the mold, casting hope that smaller stories can be told in between battles to save mankind that ultimately result in the destruction of entire cities and worlds.
I’m saddened to report that Fury of the Gods tries to become the latter, tossing aside childhood wonder for uninteresting villains, goopy CGI dragons, and fight sequences that lack vigor and intent. It’s one of the most generic superhero flicks made since the modern coup of cinema by this genre. It opts to grow bigger in scale – and loses itself in the process.
Zachary Levi returns as the titular adult superhero of one Billy Batson (played by Asher Angel when in the form of a teenager – much less present in Fury of the Gods than the first). After teaming up with his family of fellow Shazam shapeshifters to save their home from the menacing threat of Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) in the first film, the siblings are forced back into action to save their city of Philadelphia from the “Daughters of Atlas.”
But despite being played by three of the medium’s strongest leading ladies – Rachel Zegler as Anthea, Lucy Liu as Kalypso, and Helen Mirren as Hespera – the new antagonists land hard with a thud. Nothing about them is all that new, from obvious plot twists to generic exposition. They take turns at headlining their own battles, but the stakes are so low in the moment that they rarely stick out in the crowd.
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Jack Dylan Grazer returns as Freddy Freeman, who stole the first film with his quick wits and connections with his foster family, and largely does the same here – even if it’s at odds with the rest of Fury of the God’s aching script. The first movie worked better as Freddy was allowed to experience the events as a high school kid, not a superhero tasked with saving the world.
The direction is pretty messy from David F. Sandberg, who chooses to go in a handful of different directions to tell this expansive story. If he had tightened the story more and subtracted many of the laugh lines and unnecessary superhero fodder, Shazam! Fury of the Gods may have turned out closer in tone to the original. This installment struggles to stay grounded as a high schooler’s story when it’s all enhanced to a cosmic level.
And it’s hard to capture the magic of the first – a movie that felt fresh in context because of the other superhero films that were released next to it. 2023 has been a relatively strong year for Marvel properties, and Shazam! Fury of the Gods feels like the little brother to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. The comedy and emotion land much better in Marvel’s movie than in DC’s.
But there are a few quips that got me to chuckle, and Jack Dylan Grazer and Zachary Levi have undeniable screen presence (even though it’s hard to give the latter credit given his eye-rolling outbursts regarding his own vaccination status). Focusing more on the family dynamics now that all of the foster children are superheroes could’ve done Shazam! Fury of the Gods wonders. Instead, we got an installment that wants to be something it’s not. A possible nail in the coffin for this era of DC superheroes.
Where to watch Shazam! Fury of the Gods: Max, VOD
Film Cast and Credits
Zachary Levi as Shazam
Asher Angel as Billy Batson
Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman
Rachel Zegler as Anthea
Adam Brody as Super Hero Freddy
Lucy Liu as Kalypso
Djimon Hounsou as Wizard
Helen Mirren as Hespera
Director: David F. Sandberg
Cinematography: Gyula Pados
Editor: Michel Aller
Composer: Christophe Beck
Shazam! Fury of the Gods movie on Letterboxd
Shazam! Fury of the Gods movie on IMDb