WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
The live-action cinematic world of the DC Universe is constantly changing, from executive shake-ups to its set roster of tonally diverse movies. However, Shazam! lit the DC Extended Universe with strong familial storytelling, charming performances, and its ability to stand out while being isolated from the rest of the DCEU. Both critics and fans loved the movie for all these reasons and provided a slimmer of hope before the world turned over a year after, impacting the entire entertainment industry. Now fresh out of the streaming-priority age, the DCEU has made its return in the form of Shazam! Fury of the Gods. Luckily, it’s still able to stand out, albeit with some tweaks.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods follows the events of Shazam! long past the events of the Philadelphia fiasco with Sivanna. Billy Batson (Asher Angel/Zachary Levi) is struggling with hanging to his foster family, who want to follow their own aspirations. However, after an ancient weapon falls into the hands of the Daughters of Atlas, Billy must bring the Family together to stop an uprising that could destroy the world.
The main cast of Shazam! Fury of the Gods certainly brings a newfound edge to their returning or first appearances in this franchise. For one, there’s surprisingly great chemistry between Jack Dylan Grazer‘s Freddy Freeman (Adam Brody as Shazam Jr.) and Rachel Zegler’s Anthea in the scenes that we get between the two. Grazer’s hero-nerdy wits and Zegler’s curiosity and teenage relatability are able to bounce off in a way that’s charismatic, providing the movie with a sweet lightheartedness. Asher Angel still has that naturalistic heart and personal grip to Billy Batson, lightly supported by Zachary Levi’s portrayal of the hero form.
The rest of Billy’s foster family, Eugene (Ian Chen/Ross Butler), Darla (Faithe Herman/Meagan Good), Pedro (Jovan Armand/D.J. Cotrona) and Mary (Grace Caroline Currey), does play a bigger role in this packed sequel. Each foster sibling, from their young to adult forms, get their chance to shine and grow bits of character development overtime, though these lines of storytelling don’t feel resolved by the third act. Meanwhile, Helen Mirren as Hespera and Lucy Liu as Kalypso provide a somewhat threatening presence with their resolve to do what they can, though their characters bear a limited amount of emotional depth, hindered until the final battle.
Unfortunately, there are some problems that even Shazam! Fury of the Gods can’t fight its way out of. In particular, the story and some action sequences felt weak as compared to the original. In regards to the action, while it felt personal with great conviction between the Shazam Family and Sivanna in the original, some of the sequences felt relegated to the blandness of CGI. Luckily, there are other sequences in the second-third act that do feel inline with what the original had in mind, which honestly made me ecstatic to see.
In regards to the story, it has a need to be tonally dramatic like some of its predecessors by upping the ante with the daughters of Atlas. Because of the underdevelopment of its villains, along with the quick exposition after their arrival, the story doesn’t feel as impactful as it wants to in being more pronounced than the original. A few quips and references here and there also try to create the humor, and some of it works while others don’t, creating a mixed bag. The movie also relies on the adult forms of the Shazam Family a lot more this time around, which makes sense in context, but we don’t really get to see the normal foster family getting together until the final third. The sincere moments with the foster family is what ultimately bonded the parts of Shazam! together and I was hoping we could see more of that here. Unfortunately, the need to move the action and plot forward is what held this movie back.
As a sequel to an acclaimed movie, Shazam! Fury of the Gods luckily rises to the occasion to be a thrilling family adventure to be enjoyed together. Though its story may not be deep or have a big impact, this sequel is adequate enough to have potential. With good performances and heartfelt moments that bind the moving parts together, Shazam! Fury of the Gods keeps true to its family ties while slowly expanding into a new outward direction. Hopefully, we could see the Shazam Family return to DC Studios’ new cinematic universe as well as David Sandberg’s hand on the wheel.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is now in theaters.