Shazam: Fury of the Gods doesn’t improve on Shazam but doesn’t do injustice.
Published on March 22, 2023
Rating 2.5 /5
Among the lingering films of the fading DCEU, soon to be replaced by James Gunn’s optimistic revisions, Shazam seemed like the brave outlier. While the other films stewed in their mess of darkness and questionable ethics, the hero Captain Marvel (not referred to by name in the film for copyright reasons), had a nostalgic superhero adventure that plays like a cross between Superman and Big. While the character will have to grow up, and it looks like he won’t have much of a place in the new DC movie universe, Fury of the Gods plays like the character’s one last trip to the candy store, even if it’s near closing hours and all the good candy is gone.
Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is still a fun and relatable orphaned kid who takes fun in the fact that he can transform into a superhero (Zachary Levi). He’s grown older, however, and questions how much of a place he still has with his foster family. It would seem like he’s grown close with all his foster siblings, including the superhero nerd Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer). After all, they’ve all gained the same superpowers as Billy and can fight crime as transformed adults when they shout the magical word. But you can only be a kid for so long, and Billy starts asking the more challenging topics about what comes with growing up.
It’d be fine if that’s all the film wanted to cover while trying to find a way to weave Doctor Silvana and Mister Mind back into the mix, considering they were teased as more prominent villains for the next film. In their place, however, we get a ho-hum tale of gods seeking revenge, where Billy and company have to clean up the dirty laundry left over by the wizard who bequeathed his powers. Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu play Hespera and Kalypso, angered daughters of Atlas after their father was killed. Seeking revenge, they swipe the Tree of Life and terraform Earth as their new homeworld. From there, the plot pretty much writes itself. Gods want revenge on humanity, a giant dome entraps a city, a giant tree grows in the city, monsters attack, powers are stolen, and sacrifices are made as Billy questions what kind of hero he wants to be.
The film is more fascinating for how much of this tired allotment of tropes still has some charm. While it still doesn’t feel like Shazam has the keys to the DC kingdom, there is some fun to be had with the concept. Aspects like a crush on Wonder Woman and commenting on continuity are neat nice little nuggets of silliness woven into the story. These aspects help break up the monotony and melodrama that has made past DCEU movies like Wonder Woman 1984 and Black Adam underwhelming films. If you’re going to have a film where kids can transform into adult superheroes, you gotta have fun with that concept. So having the cute Darla (Faithe Herman) being into unicorns and then having that dream come true when dabbling in a plot about gods and myths seems like a natural progression for fantastical thrills and sweet grins.
The film more or less succeeds in the charisma of its characters more than anything else. The special effects feel par for the course, where most of the monsters feel as generic as the revenge plot of the gods. Seriously, how many times does the DCEU have to combat villains who want to terraform the Earth of all places? There are also some cameos present, but the highlight cameo is underwhelming due to the special effects required to make one actor appear in this film instead of resorting to hiding the face in the same way that Shazam hid Superman above the neck.
Shazam: Fury of the Gods doesn’t improve on Shazam but doesn’t do injustice. It goes about the motions of a typical superhero sequel and is more admirable for its stability, far from falling a cliff in tone or character. Yet there’s still a bitter aftertaste for how the film teases what is next for the character and how unlikely Shazam will mesh with what’s coming next for DC’s big reboot of properties. At any rate, this film still has a decent dose of fun for what might be Shazam’s last eccentric adventure.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.