Review: Shazam! Fury of the Gods

By Christian DiMartino

The original Shazam! from 2019 followed a young teenage orphan named Billy (Asher Angel) who was essentially given superpowers, but with a twist akin to Penny Marshall’s Big. When Billy shouts out “Shazam!”, he’s transformed into an adult, muscular version of himself (played by Zachary Levi, very winning), but he still has the mind of a teenager. The movie was a pleasant surprise; funny, warm, and filled with charm. The sequel, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, doesn’t fully recapture that charm, but when it does, it makes the movie worthwhile. When it doesn’t, it’s fairly noisy. But the good just about outweighs the noise.

I’ll say, even as a fan of the original, my expectations were pretty low. The trailers had been inflicted on me for what felt like a year, before every movie it seemed. It should also be said that the landscape for superhero movies, at least for my money, has been shifted since 2019. I find myself less patient, and I can’t tell if it’s the movies, or me. I had a terrible time at last year’s Black Adam, and last month’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania laid an egg. I feared that Shazam! Fury of the Gods may suffer from the same issue (lotta action, lotta bloat, loud volume). At times, it does. But this movie, like its predecessor, has enough personality for it to get by and it feels a little less manufactured than those two.

Can I say that I understood the entirety of the plot? No. Early on it feels like they keep force-feeding us exposition and it seemed like this was going to be a long sit. Eventually though the film finds its footing. I’m not sure how much time has passed between the two films but it’s safe to say that the young stars definitely had a growth spurt. Anyways, Billy and his right-hand Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer, honestly stealing the show) and their friends, upon being given powers, have all decided to work as a team to fight crime and save the day and such in Philadelphia.

Trouble starts a-brewing early on when the magical staff thingy from the first movie is retrieved from a museum by two mysterious, powerful warlock sisters named Kalypso and Hespera. Allow me to state for the record that these two are played by Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren. Which, okay, I have many thoughts. Because they are tasked with delivering a lot of pretty nutty dialogue, and at times Mirren is quite visibly beating the s**t out of Zachary Levi and the rest of the kiddos. I like to believe that these two were having a good time, because there is a lot of ham and cheese to these performances. But I mean, there kind of HAS to be. They seem very well aware of the movie they’re in. But I also have to know if they understood a single thing about the dialogue they were given. Because frankly I didn’t have much of a clue myself, but after a while I got past it.

These two are the daughters of Atlas, and they were banished to some realm or something whenever the staff was broken in half. I literally don’t know. What I do know is that they’re mad because they’ve been banished for so long, and they immediately seek vengeance upon Billy and company. Vengeance and they need some golden apple of youth or something to bring their main goals to life. Yeah, I don’t know. What I do know is that West Side Story‘s Rachel Zegler is a charmer as Anthea, who sort of develops the hots for Freddy but we sense something is afoot. Djimon Honsou also gets his moments as the wizard who gave them the powers in the first place.

A sequel, by its nature, is supposed to be bigger. But sometimes bigger isn’t better. My fear going into this one is that the characters would get sidelined for the spectacle. That was my main gripe with Quantamania, which substituted the bouncy, lively energy of the first two films with visual vomit. I guess what I’m getting at is that there are simply so many of these movies that you can only watch the same fight sequences so many times before it flickers out. I’m sure most people will go to Shazam! Fury of the Gods for the charm of Levi’s performance, and for the action. You’ll get both. But the film appealed more to me when the characters were just talking. I’m sure that sounds stupid, but luckily the movie tends to put its characters first, with the spectacle seeping in every so often (it also, to my surprise, doesn’t look too shabby).

There are moments in this movie that I found genuinely funny and likable, but every so often the exposition dumps and the so-so action take the stage. Look, I can compromise. Because at least the film, for the most part, held my interest. Just some things held it more than others. But it also helps that the movie, unlike a certain Marvel movie I’ve been smearing for the last month, has personality. Much of that is rested upon its performers, just about all of which are at least given a moment to shine.

The movie has occasional bloat, but you know, it’s under two hours and there are moments in it that genuinely worked. I didn’t have a bad time at this Shazam! shindig. The spirit and the heart of its predecessor isn’t always present, but there’s enough in this one to check out. I like Billy, Freddy, and company. I enjoy their company, and although this isn’t the best sequel I’ve seen THIS MONTH, I’ll say that this one gets the job done.


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