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Shazam! Fury of the Gods Review

March 17, 2023 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
SHAZAM! FURY OF THE GODS Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
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Shazam! Fury of the Gods Review  

Directed By: David F. Sandberg
Written By: Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan; Based on the comics and characters created by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck
Runtime: 130 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and language

Zachary Levi – Shazam
Asher Angel – Billy Batson
Jack Dylan Grazer – Freddy Freeman
Helen Mirren – Hespera
Lucy Liu – Calypso
Rachel Zegler – Anthea
Grace Caroline Currey – Mary Bromfield / Superhero Mary
Jovan Armand – Pedro Pena
Faithe Herman – Darla Dudley
Ian Chen – Eugene Choi
Djimon Honsou – The Wizard
Adam Brody – Superhero Freddy
Meagan Good – Superhero Darla
Ross Butler – Superhero Eugene
D.J. Cotrona – Superhero Pedro
Marta Milans – Rosa Vasquez
Cooper Andrews – Victor Vasquez

It’s been a minute, but the Shazam Family has finally returned for another adventure in the latest DC Universe sequel, Shazam! Fury of the Gods. It’s been roughly two years since the events of the first film. Teen incognito superhero Billy Batson (Angel) was granted incredible powers by The Wizard (Hounsou), and he has bonded with his foster family and siblings. Due to Batson’s abandonment by his biological parents, he experiences fear of abandonment by his new foster family. While Batson shared The Wizard’s power with foster siblings Mary (Caroline), Freddy Freeman (Grazer), Pedro (Armand), Darla (Herman), and Eugene (Chen), they are getting older and want to do things on their own. Meanwhile, Billy is still trying to get a handle on his new role as Philadelphia’s superhero. He’s desperate to keep his family unit together, and with his eighteenth birthday looming, Billy worries that there might no longer be a place for him with his foster parents Victor (Andrews) and Rosa (Milans).

Due to the actions that were taken by Shazam (Levi) in the fight with Dr. Sivana in the first film, the hero unwittingly freed The Daughters of Atlas, Hespera (Mirren) and Calypso (Liu), from their exiled realm. The Daughters appear to be of the Greek pantheon, and they seek retribution for The Wizard and his order stealing their powers and vanquishing them to squalid imprisonment. After obtaining The Wizard’s staff, they now have the means to absorb the powers of the Shazam Family and cause great calamity in the human world. It’s up to Billy and his family to unite and save their city from certain doom.

Fury of the Gods certainly has its plotting and character issues, but it’s an enjoyable comic book superhero fare. Director David F. Sandberg imbues the film with a comforting, old-school popcorn film energy, reminiscent of Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg’s films of the 1980s. It’s hard not to get caught up in the ride.

Secondarily, Sandberg handles large-scale fights and action sequences well. Lately, there have not been enough superhero films that depict invulnerable super-powered individuals with super strength trying to pulverize one another and smash through walls and concrete. There is a generous helping of that on display throughout Fury of the Gods, so the superhero action looks good and is fun to watch.

The best thing about Shazam! Fury of the Gods continues to be its utterly charming, likable cast. All the kid and adult actors for the Shazam Family are great. However, Dylan Grazer’s Freddy Freeman continues to be the standout of the group, and surprisingly, he has the most screen time in the film, aside from Zachary Levi as Shazam. Out of the Shazam siblings, Freddy has the best and most rewarding character arc in the entire film, proving that it takes more than just superpowers to make someone a hero.

Djimon Honsou also has a bigger role in the sequel as The Wizard, and the film makes good use of his extended screen time. The Wizard is given some time to bond with Freddy and some of the other Shazam family members, and they add to the overall enjoyment. The Wizard probably has some of the funnier moments in the film, sometimes overshadowing Levi’s Shazam.

Unfortunately, the actor who gets shortchanged the most in Fury of the Gods is Asher Angel as Billy Batson. Angel is largely sidelined throughout the film. Even more noticeable is the lack of parity between his and Zachary Levi’s performances. The other adult superhero actors work on matching the mannerisms and personalities of their younger counterparts. However, Shazam and Billy do not share any noticeable identifying traits. They simply do not match. Billy is solemn, serious, and almost stoic. Angel’s Billy comes off as wiser beyond his year. Levi’s Shazam is motor-mouthed, immature, juvenile, and dimwitted in his personality. Yes, early on, Shazam is meant to be a kid superhero. That’s the idea. But Billy is not a kid anymore, and it’s the same with Asher Angel. The comics benefit from keeping Asher Angel as a perpetual kid, so he can stay 12-13 years old for decades, but live-action movies and television shows do not always have that advantage. The unfortunate result is that Angel is shoved into the background throughout the film.

Fury of the Gods also suffers from its underwhelming villains. The first movie was barred from using Black Adam, and that continues to be an issue. The exciting setup teased in the post-credits epilogue goes nowhere, which could have made for an infinitely more intriguing scenario for the sequel. The Daughters of Atlas make a bland, underwhelming trio, and it’s not for lack of talent, considering it’s a group comprised of Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, and Rachel Zegler. As the main aggressors, Liu’s Calypso and Mirren’s Hespera are two-dimensional. Liu’s performance is oddly understated and falls flat. The goddess sisters could have used more development to nail down their motivations. As villains, they are not all that interesting.

Despite the teases and sequel-baiting, it’s unclear what the future holds for the Shazam Family. With the DC Universe undergoing yet another cinematic revamping process, there may not be a future for the current cast and creative team of the Shazam films. At the very least, they created two reasonably entertaining adventures. That said, Mr. Mind definitely would have been a cooler villain for this film.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Shazam! Fury of the Gods succeeds with large-scale, "bang-pow" comic book superhero action, not to mention an utterly charming cast of characters. The villains could have used further development or should have been reworked. Asher Angel is unfortunately shortchanged in the film as he's shifted into the background for most of the film, and the gap between his and Shazam's personalities grows further. Even if this is the last iteration for the current Shazam film franchise, the filmmakers did manage two solid entries of a classic comic book hero. Fury of the Gods is not a great sequel, but it's still a fairly enjoyable one.