Shazam! Fury of the Gods Movie Review
Shazam! Fury of the Gods Movie Review Metadata
Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023) is as close as DC will ever get to the MCU formula, which is a shame since DC seems to treat the entire property like a joke. This sequel to the 2019 Shazam! tops the original in nearly every sense, from story, to pacing, to overall action.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is the sequel about growing up and letting go. It’s also a departure from most sequels since it does not focus on the main protagonist Billy Barton, the now 17-year-old champion chosen by an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou) to embody the powers of Shazam! and protect the world. Instead, Billy’s foster brother, Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) has the spotlight with a love interest, major plot time, and organic elevation to hero status.
It has been three years since the events of Shazam! and Billy and his foster siblings are settling into their new superhero routines nicely, if unevenly. The press has dubbed them the Philadelphia Fiascos, because, with every good-natured act of rescue, there is a destructive property cost. Billy believes the solution to this is meetings and a commitment to being both superheroes and siblings in an all-or-nothing bid. Freddy takes evening flyabouts with his radio scanner wanting to conquer all forms of crimes (with the appropriate playlist). Billy is desperate to keep the family together since he’s a few months from aging out of the foster care system and leaving the people he loves.
Freddy meets Ann (Rachel Zegler) on her first day of school and there’s an instant connection. Despite the bullying he receives (and generally ignores as part of his day-to-day), Ann connects to Freddy’s confidence and his connection to the Champions that he was photographed with a few years back. A lot of the movie hinges upon this interaction, without being schmaltzy or relying upon heavy-handed foreshadowing.
The movie actually opens at the Museum where a rare artifact (as we may remember) is on display (briefly) before being stolen by the Daughters of Atlas (the Hesperides, if you know your Greek mythology), in a bid to regain all of their god-like powers. Hespera (Helen Mirran) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu) are on a mission to avenge their father’s death and lay waste to the humans (and wizards) who defeated him and banished the sisters to a shadow realm. Now free and on the hunt both for the Wizard’s staff and the Seed to the Tree of Life, their laser focus is on the one group of superheroes who can bring them both.
The Shazams, who have given themselves superhero names, more or less, must band together to keep the Daughters of Atlas from turning our realm into a monstrous garden of decay, monsters, and death.
It’s rare when adult screenwriters manage to capture both the endearing sweetness and cringeworthy awkwardness of teenage life, but kudos to Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan for creating separate personalities for each of the foster kids and their super-alters. My favorite remains Darla (Faithe Herman/Meaghan Goode). As the youngest foster sibling in the Vásquez compound, she embodies the sweet optimistic innocence of youth with the sadistic wicked streak all children knowingly possess.
The Rock of Eternity, once the Wizard’s stronghold, is now a clubhouse and lair, infused with the atmosphere and comfortability children can pull off, and the massive Room of Doors has helpful signage noting what may be on the other side, like “does not suck” and “massive spiders”. There is a natural whimsy that feels comfortable and utilitarian without being stuffy.
Separately, the pieces could be clunky or feel shoehorned into a story that has a heavy undertone of retribution and failure, but in the hands of David F Sandberg Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a well-paced fantasy of wish fulfillment with a healthy dose of reality and consequence. With every character (and I do mean every character) being solid and relatable, the 130-minute runtime weaves a tight story, cutting extra scenes, fights, or dialog.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is fun, and I mean take your (older) kids to the film kind of fun. It’s the kind of movie DC should be investing more in, not the dark broody storylines of constant loss and betrayal. We want heroes we can cheer on because we know they deserve to be heroes, and not by accident of birth or wealth. Shazam! Fury of the Gods is probably going on my 2023 Best Of list, I enjoyed it that much.
There is a special appearance by a beloved superhero who may appear in the next Shazam! film, but you didn’t hear that from me. ssshhhh
Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023) is rated PG-13 for swears (Darla has a mouth on her), people becoming zombies, people jumping from buildings, people turning to stone, people being eaten by harpies, manticores, cyclopses, minotaurs, and dragons, people getting crushed, stabbed, and thrown into walls, bullying, and the collapse of a suspension bridge, a house, and a major league baseball field.
There is one mid-credit scene and one post-credit scene. Both may require a rewatch of fairly recent movies, but they’re still fun curtain raisers