The Snyderverse DC Comics films have a well-earned reputation for taking themselves quite seriously. Even quirkier entries like Birds of Prey and Suicide Squad are violent and brooding action flicks centred on emotionally damaged people.
Director David F. Sandberg’s 2019 action-comedy Shazam! switched up the formula by presenting a kid-friendly corner of the Snyderverse. Sandberg’s follow-up Shazam! Fury of the Gods maintains the series’ easy-breezy tone. It’s another fun-loving buddy comedy about superpowered teens learning to handle adult responsibilities.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is as sweet and colourful as a pack of Rainbow Skittles. And like a pack of Skittles, it offers little nutritional value – or whatever you call cinema’s version of vitamins and proteins. The movie has some enjoyable moments scattered throughout, but overall, it’s as mind-sapping as a 130-minute sugar rush.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods takes place not long after Shazam! Billy (Asher Angel) and his crew of plucky orphans have a handle on their newly-inherited superpowers. However, being a superhero is so not a big deal to Gen Z. It seems these kids would rather play Call of Duty and thirst over hot guys than go outside to save the world.
Billy’s abandonment issues have him on edge. At 17 years old, he’s about to age out of the foster care system, and he fears nothing more than breaking up his newfound Shazam family (Shazamily). And his desperate need to keep everyone together may end up driving them away.
Billy must put his existential crisis on hold when Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu), aka the Daughters of Atlas, arrive on earth kicking ass and taking names. These ancient gods seek to reacquire a powerful magic stolen from them long ago, and they’ll crush anyone standing in their way. And just to up the threat level, the sisters possess a magical staff capable of stealing the Shazamily’s magical powers.
Billy, his best friend Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), and the rest of the team must put their superpowers on the line to prevent the Daughters of Atlas from destroying their city.
For better and for worse, Shazam! Fury of the Gods feels like a throwback to the type of comic book movies studios produced before the rise of the MCU. It feels closer to the early 2000s Daredevil, Ghost Rider, and Fantastic Four than today’s crop of superhero flicks.
Comic book movies have come a long way in gaining a mainstream audience, but you still see filmmakers toning down the source material’s geekier elements. Not Sandberg, though.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods plays like a comic book in motion. It features over-the-top characters, break-neck pacing, and chaotic action sequences that could have been lifted right off a comic’s splash page.
Believe me when I say I’m down for all of it.
I’ll take a Shazam! film full of disgusting ogres and evil unicorns over another Batman franchise with no metahumans. I want these films to be exciting and creative in ways that aren’t possible in Mission: Impossible movies. But… that doesn’t mean these adaptations shouldn’t focus on delivering sharp writing, innovative action sequences, and meaningful themes.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods tries to deliver all the big-budget spectacle audiences crave from this era’s superhero titles, while capturing the spirit of golden age Captain Marvel comics. But Sandberg’s lack of interest in character development and reliance on style over substance calls back to the superhero movie era we all wish we could forget.
Mirren and Liu’s one-dimensional Daughters of Atlas performances align more with the campy villains in the Christopher Reeve Superman films than the Machiavellian tyrants in modern comic book movies. It’s a shame the film wastes these undeniable talents because a great villain can make or break a superhero movie.
The Daughters of Atlas are villains, but they’re not the film’s true antagonist. For all his strength, Billy Batson’s greatest enemy has never been some creepy wizard in a cloak; it’s his fear of abandonment. Shazam! works so well because it tells an emotionally resonant story about a psychologically scarred child learning to heal a deep emotional wound.
Shazam! is a middle-of-the-road superhero film, but an excellent buddy movie because of the seamless way it delivers both super heroic hijinks and lots of heart. In this sequel, Billy is still driven by the same emotional hangups, but he’s mostly working through them without Freddy at his side.
The film really sings any time Freddy and Billy/Shazam (Zachary Levi) share the screen, and it suffers when they’re off having separate adventures. Grazer once again steals scene after scene and proves why he deserves his own franchise. It’s a terrible sign when Billy Batson is the least interesting aspect of a Shazam! movie.
Although Sandberg aims to wade into the same emotional depths as Shazam! he misses the mark by a mile. Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan’s script sets up plenty of exciting ideas but fails to explore them in a compelling way.
The film offers a fantastic metaphor for Gen Z’s struggles amidst the social media age. When the kids in the movie use their powers, they transform into god-like adult versions of themselves. They’re all-powerful, sexy, and the envy of everyday people who live uneventful lives.
The plot serves up a prime opportunity to examine what it means to go through life with people only seeing the best possible version of yourself. It’s the basis for an intriguing commentary on how people struggle to keep up appearances on social media.
The film touches on complex concepts like imposter syndrome, self-sacrifice, and the cost of being a hero but isn’t really interested in exploring them in a meaningful way. After all, why slow down to let Billy work through his feelings when Shazam can soar through the air and punch a dragon in the face instead?
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a disappointing step backwards after the series’ promising debut. My biggest issue is how forgettable it is. Even though I enjoyed certain moments, I’ll never think about this film again after completing this review. In fact, it’s already phasing out of my mind, like when Marty McFly screws up the timeline and starts fading out of existence.
On paper, Shazam! Fury of the Gods is an ambitious step up from Shazam! It features more heroes, more villains, and more magic-fueled mayhem, proving that sometimes less is more.