The Shazam! franchise stands out from the superhero pack, and especially the DC lot. Big meets Superman always was a good hook, and the first film, Shazam!, did it very well. Now, we have the sequel in Shazam! Fury of the Gods, coming right as DC is in a period of transition. It leaves the property very much in limbo, but that doesn’t factor into the movie itself. While the stakes are higher here, they’re still low and the focus is on fun.
Is Shazam! Fury of the Gods disposable? Sure. Is it still a lot of fun? Absolutely. There’s plenty of charm in watching a more innocent type of hero, especially when so many other outings of this ilk are on the darker side. Both paths are worthwhile and effective, but this flick just feels like a nice palate cleanser, if nothing else.
It’s been a few years since the events of Shazam! and in that time, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) has continued as the hero Shazam (Zachary Levi). Not only that, but his siblings Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer / Adam Brody), Mary (Grace Caroline Currey), Darla (Faithe Herman / Meagan Good), Eugene (Ian Chen / Ross Butler), and Pedro (Jovan Armand / D.J. Cotrona) have joined in. Billy, however, is worried that they’re growing apart. He’s about to age out of the foster system, Mary has designs on college, and Freddy is obsessed with being a superhero. So, there are tensions building, which will only become more of an issue when a new threat emerges.
This time, it’s gods Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Lui), who want Billy’s powers in order to help avenge their father and bring back their world. Billy and his family initially underestimate them, with dire consequences. It’ll take more than just Shazam to save the day this time, but will it even be enough?
It’s wild to see Helen Mirren in this cast. Now, it’s a paycheck role, but she has undeniable gravitas that makes her villain less silly than she otherwise would have been. Lucy Liu similarly has such a badass vibe that you take her seriously. They’re surprisingly effective villains, even if the script doesn’t give them a ton to work with. The big change here, cast wise, is seeing the superhero versions of the kids more. It’s close to a 50/50 split and the adults get to have plenty of fun. Djimon Hounsou also gets way more to do this time around, while Rachel Zegler is an important new addition to the cast. Supporting players include Cooper Andrews, Diedrich Bader, P.J. Byrne, Marta Milans, and more.
Director David F. Sandberg never makes the action overly complicated, befitting a younger group of heroes. Now, the screenplay by Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan is absolute gobbledegook, but that’s par for the genre course. They fare much better with the character interactions. The lighter things are here, the better. When there’s exposition to move the plot along, it feels clunky. When it’s just the fun of kids being adult heroes? Then it’s still very fertile ground.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods may well be the end of the line for the hero, but if that’s the case, he’s going out on an enjoyable note. Whether James Gunn has future plans for the character or not, this sequel is a fun and worthy follow-up to the first one. When it comes to DC and their hit or miss slate previously, that’s a success story worth celebrating.