PG Score: 6.25/10
Shazam! Fury of the Gods was released in theaters on 3/17/23
It's been pretty clear over the last decade that DC hasn't had the best of luck with their superhero franchises. More misses than hits, but Shazam! (2019) was one of the better films put forward by the studio, thus raising expectations for the follow-up, Shazam! Fury of the Gods. Sequels bear the weight of heavy expectations and the responsibility of carrying on the story, while simultaneously hiking up the danger/action level and trying to live up to the hype of its predecessor. In the history of cinema, you would probably only need one hand to count the sequels that surpassed the original. Does Fury of the Gods make it to the top of Olympus? Or does it sink to a level of mediocrity? Let's find out together.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods has a lot of cataclysmic chaos happening throughout the 130-minute run time, but a lot of it was at the expense of the story. There wasn't much depth to our villains and some of the writers' choices throughout the film felt forced without the required background information. Sure, the film tries to circumvent some of that with shortcuts, but instead of a fury, it is more of a tantrum. The humor of the story was great and had me laughing, but a bit more seriousness would have only helped the film. I get it, though; it is a film about kids who get superpowers and only look like adults, so the humor does serve a purpose.
Picking up at some point after the first film, our Shazam! family of heroes has become the laughingstock of Philadelphia. Not sure what caused this in the interim because you have to figure saving lives would outweigh property damage, but I guess that is the media for you, even in a made-up world. Like Dom Toretto always says, the driving factor behind the film is family, both for the good guys and our new villainous trio of gods. Motives are clear, but more time spent with our three gods could only help us understand the decisions they make later in the film, leading up to the climactic end. Story decisions made in the climax of the film come off very forced as a result, and definitely didn't help end the movie on a strong note. There is cheesiness and then there is just plain bad storytelling.
Action: Good and Bad
This film had action galore; too much action, to be honest. Almost from the get-go, we got to witness some amazing powers in action and some cool fights. While some of the CGI looks good, a lot did not and it becomes very clear towards the end of the film when a lot of mythical creatures were introduced. They were terrifying, to be sure, but a little more time in post-production wouldn't have hurt, especially a certain someone flying on a certain fire-breathing creature.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods isn't really a film for great acting. No awards are coming its way. There are no standout performances even with the legendary Helen Mirren playing an important part of the cast. The two roles of note are our leading star Zachary Levi (Chuck) as Shazam, and his slightly younger foster brother Freddy Freeman, played by Jack Dylan Grazer (It). These two worked really well in the first film together and in this film they continued to build upon that relationship. The introduction of Rachel Zegler (West Side Story) as Anthea added some much-needed friction between the two that was mirrored by the villainous Kalypso, played by Lucy Liu (Lucky Number Slevin) and her sisters. Most people going to see the movie are not going for the acting, so it isn't a huge takeaway, but credit is due to these two for helping move our story along.
An Uncertain Future
There are a lot of questions following Fury of the Gods and not all of them have to do with how good and/or bad the film is. The change happening within DC and WB leaves a lot of uncertainty as to if we will ever see this cast of characters again and that makes it hard to truly invest in them, especially with James Gunn's new vision for DC. A cameo or two is spread throughout the film, but the biggest one of them all just doesn't work. Despite its flaws, Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a fun movie. I still found it enjoyable and hope that under the creative hands of Gunn we get to see this franchise continue. Is the film a must-see? Absolutely not, but there are worse things you could be doing.