Shazam! Fury of the Gods
Updated: Apr 18
The sequel to the charming original surrenders into generic superhero territory
Through the chaos of the Warner Media merger with Discovery, the superhero extended universe of DC has been scrapped, to be restarted from scratch by a new creative team. However, there still are a handful of unreleased films set in this now-defunct extended universe; they’ll be released throughout 2023, teasing and setting up future films that will never come.
The first of these films to be released after the knowledge of the DC EU’s death is Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023), the sequel to the likeable coming-of-age Shazam! (2019). In Fury of the Gods, Billy Baxton (Asher Angel as a kid, Zachary Levi as a superhero) and his foster family are faced with the godlike Daughters of Atlas (Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu) who seek to take Billy’s powers, originally stolen from them centuries ago. Between these sides, the mysterious character of Anne (Rachel Zegler) must decide where her loyalties lie.
David F. Sandberg returns to direct this sequel, and throughout the first act, retains the youthful energy and charm that made the first film so appealing. Sandberg smartly adjusts aspects, giving us more of Jack Dylan Grazer as Billy’s foster brother Freddy, and Levi with his “kid-in-an-adult-body” energy. However, as Fury of the Gods gears up for bigger fights, effects, and stakes, the compact charm that made the Shazam! such a hit, dissipates into generic superhero territory.
Much like in the first film, the villains in Fury of the Gods are tepid and playing it far too seriously, specifically Liu, who is laughably cliché with her performance. While in Shazam!, this weak villain was counteracted by the fun origin story of Billy learning his powers, Fury of the Gods muddles into an unceasing deluge of lore and backstory; recycled from hundreds of other superhero films before. The lack of a narrow focus also dilutes the series’ focus on family, which proved so affecting in the first film. After the second act, Fury of the Gods becomes embroiled in a CGI extravaganza.
There appears to be a competing set of narratives in Fury of the Gods. There is the more character-based that had been at the core of the first film, and then there’s the blockbuster dimension. Freddy and Anne are given a rather compelling romantic arc that is rather sidelined by the bigger narrative elements, and wastes the intriguing chemistry between Dylan Glazer and Zegler. Meanwhile, the blockbuster side of Fury of the Gods, shamelessly takes over, with embarrassing product placement and demeaning dialogue. Dylan Glazer and Levi lighten these duller scenes with their charm and charisma, but are forced to submit to the predictable and uninvolving finale.
In the end, Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a victim of its bigger budget and scope, losing its intriguing Big (1988)-like concept for an increasingly generic superhero film. The final battle is the typical CGI Pollock painting, with the required evil minions and even a minor sky beam, which have become jokes about DC films at this point. The charm of Levi and Dylan Glazer can't pull this film out of “forgettable” territory, and sadly their efforts are in vain as this storyline and cast are sunset in DC’s rebooted universe.