Shazam! Fury of the Gods has the dubious honour of being the first DCEU movie to be released after Warner Bros. announced plans to reboot the entire franchise. After multiple delays and a massive four-year gap since Shazam!, the timing of that slate reveal could not have been worse and appears to have doomed filmmaker David F. Sandberg’s sequel at the box office. That’s a shame, of course, but looking beyond studio politics, the movie serves as an enjoyable, albeit somewhat unambitious, follow-up to its predecessor that delivers plenty of laughs and memorable moments which emphasise just how much potential the DCEU once had.
With so much comic book content now available on the big and small screens, a simple tale about superheroes battling vaguely defined mythological baddies in an effort to save the world is no longer enough for most, and it’s here Shazam! Fury of the Gods stumbles. With even the formerly critic-proof Marvel Studios now being asked to deliver more than straightforward superhero stories, this DCEU outing doesn’t do enough to really stand out as anything more than just another familiar tale of good versus evil. However, there are some genuinely delightful character beats, very funny moments, and enough standout action scenes to make this movie one it’s worth spending time with. Some will expect more, but as comic book readers know, not every monthly title can be a home run!
The newly created Daughters of Atlas are admittedly uninspired but excel thanks to good work from Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, and the massively talented Rachel Zegler. Unfortunately, the sequel struggles to balance them with the members of the Shazam Family, meaning no one - and that includes Billy Batson - quite gets the screentime they need and deserve. Struggling to work as a team, the teenagers are off doing their own thing for the most part, with Billy desperately trying to keep them united. There’s a subplot thrown in there about that being down to the fact he’s going to age out of the foster system and is at risk of losing his new family, but Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ emotional moments don’t get the same sort of room to breathe as they did last time around. By the time Billy finally calls Rosa "mom," for example, a scene that should have left us weeping like babies, it becomes just another blink-and-you’d-miss-it moment in a movie that crams in far too much and struggles to do any of it justice.
However, as easy as it is to pick holes in the Shazam! sequel, it’s oddly hard not to enjoy it. As a family adventure/comedy, the movie works, and the relatively straightforward tale is one you can sit back and get lost in for a couple of hours. Black Adam was an absolute bore and chore to sit through, with only its fight scenes redeeming the otherwise dire debut for the anti-hero; Shazam! Fury of the Gods is at least entertaining and it will be down to you to decide how much you can get out of it. It's a movie you're probably unlikely to ever watch again, but there are enough laughs and sweet moments to find something to love, even if the franchise’s magic is waning.
Much of that can be blamed on the fact these kids are so much older. Mary, for example, no longer transforms into an adult when she says "Shazam!" and seems thoroughly fed up with being a superhero. In fact, aside from Billy and Freddy Freeman, none of these teens really want to be there, sapping the fun out of seeing what would happen if children could be aged up into powerful superheroes. It doesn’t help that there’s something of a disconnect between the younger and older actors either, with Ross Butler and Ian Chen as Eugene Choi and D. J. Cotrona and Jovan Armand as Pedro Peña never really given the chance to show what they can do. Faithe Herman and Meagan Good do fine jobs respectively, but the latter seems to be playing Darla Dudley at the age she was the last time we saw her rather than the whip-smart kid now dropping F-bombs! Grace Caroline Currey is excellent, though, and clearly having a blast.
Lead star Zachary Levi continues to ham it up as the goofy Shazam, but that doesn’t really feel similar to how Asher Angel plays Billy. Despite the teenager closing in on 18, Levi portrays his superhero counterpart as too much of a dummy and it comes across like these two have never even met. Again, they’re good on their own merits and Levi delivers some fine work, but they aren't really the same character, something that might have not been such an issue with a younger actor as Billy. On the plus side, Jack Dylan Grazer steals the show as Freddy (particularly in some hilarious exchanges with Djimon Hounsou’s Wizard), while Adam Brody appears to have put in a tonne of work to ensure his grown-up superhero still feels like the same kid. Forget Shazam! 3, we’ll take a Captain Everypower film!
Shazam! Fury of the Gods isn’t a bad movie and, if we’re being honest, it’s one that’s miles ahead of Black Adam, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania (faint praise, we know). For whatever reason, it never comes together quite right and struggles to capture what made its predecessor such a refreshing change of pace for the DCEU. That was always going to be a tough act to follow, but Sandberg still directs the hell out of his sequel with some gorgeous visuals and phenomenal creature designs. We don’t expect to see Shazam again for a while, and even though it’s a shame the character doesn’t get to go out on a high, grab some Skittles and give this one a shot because you still might find yourself pleasantly surprised.
Despite lacking so much of what made Shazam! great, there’s plenty of fun to be had with Shazam! Fury of the Gods, a movie that serves as a reminder the DCEU wasn’t all bad. It’s just a shame it never quite manages to electrify us in the same way as its predecessor.