Shazam! Fury of the Gods review
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is the sequel to the 2019 Shazam! film, and while it retains some of the funny earnestness and lightheartedness that the first film had, it gets bogged down in the need to increase its spectacle. Despite the first film’s inversion of some comic book tropes, the sequel instead doubles down on the genre’s staples, which makes it feel less like a breath of fresh air and more like a stale gust of wind.
Starting with the villains of the film, there’s Helen Mirren as Hespera, Lucy Liu as Kalypso, and Rachel Zelger as Anthea. They’re all largely generic villains spouting generic villain dialogue (which considering the star power of at least the first two, is a shame), but do share some unique conflict between each other that makes them more memorable. Anthea has somewhat of a twist about her, that is spoiled in main trailers, and in the context of the film is a weird decision that doesn’t quite come together.
The trio are based in Greek myth, though at times it doesn’t feel like the film wanted to use that and instead went for every mythical creature in the book. Who knew that unicorns were such a prominent part of Theseus and the Minator? Shazam’s powers themselves come from some Greek deities, but some aren’t. It contributes to a hodge podge feeling that anything and everything is game.
The unicorns feature in some of the most obvious product placement (for Skittles of all things) in a film for a while. It’s surprising that the film doesn’t riff on the Skittles’ touch ad in any way, especially since that ad itself was a play on a tale found in Greek legend.
Speaking of Greek myth, the film brings in a character, who at first features as a hilarious callback to a moment in the original film and a quick cameo, actually has a vital part to play for the deus ex machina ending and avoid a sad ending for this upbeat hero. It brings up questions about where this character was for the rest of the film, as Greek gods running amok is something the character has dealt with before, but that’s beside the point.
That said, the fantasy elements aren’t all confusing. The dark and damp lair Shazam has found is made much brighter by the kids inhabiting it, and is built off in a way that’s natural and expands the lore. It even includes a fantasy ChatGPT, a probable coincidence than intentional but still funny all the same.
The film is very much about big setpieces, with huge city levelling destruction that’s not just a staple of comic book films, but especially common in DC. This seems like a note passed down from the DC management, telling director David F. Sandberg that he didn’t destroy enough buildings in his first film, and that to make up for it he needs to destroy Philadelphia. It’s overwhelming in places, destruction just for destruction’s sake.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The humour that was present in the first Shazam! is still here, and Zachary Levi gives an upbeat if not slightly over the top performance, a character who has gained imposter syndrome since the last film, and desperately wants to retain his family. This doesn’t affect the film too much, as it’s mostly pushed aside for the increased spectacle.
Jack Dylan Grazer gives an equally over the top performance as Freddy Freeman, and is still being treated like dirt at school, even after sitting with Shazam and Superman. He provides a large chunk of the laughs, and his bits with Djimon Hounsou’s Wizard (who has come back to life because the film says he does) are the standout moments of the film.
Overall, the film’s increased focus on spectacle and lack of interesting villains cause it to fall below the standard set by the original, but it still manages to capture some of the charm and humour of being a child superhero. It does rely too much on tropes of the genre but there is still a fun time to be had.