Review | Shazam! Fury Of The Gods (2023)
“Shazam! Fury of the Gods is an absolute blast. It’s action-packed, funny, and packed full of iconic DC moments and wholesome family values”
It’s been a minute since we caught up with Billy Batson. In the time since his big-screen debut in 2019, we’ve seen the introduction of The Batman. We’ve witnessed the rise and fall of Black Adam. And even saw the landscape at DC Studios change forever. Nevertheless, the studio is still rolling out content from the outgoing regime and that includes a new adventure for the Shazam! family. But with the fate of the current crop of DC heroes still uncertain, can Shazam! Fury of the Gods furnish the sequel we’re all hoping for? Or is this new adventure doomed to repeat the sins of the past and topple into the bargain bin?
Fear not DC fans because Shazam! Fury of the Gods is an absolute blast from start to finish. It’s action-packed, amusing, and packed full of iconic moments. And although it’s not without its flaws, Christophe Beck’s bombastic score coupled with a heroic finale and a wholesome family message delivers the superhero sequel we’ve been hoping for.
THE SUPERHERO PUNCHLINE
Picking up where he left off in 2019, David F. Sandberg’s second spell in the DC directors chair centers on the Shazam family as they grow into their new roles as superheroes. And for a child that transforms into a superhero, life is good! Not that the populous agrees. Their superhero endeavors are reckless and their strategies are immature at best, which results in the residents of Fawcett City, Philadelphia mocking them as phony heroes. This angle is played for laughs and highlights the benefits of wisdom and experience employed by our traditional DC heroes.
But the innocence and naivety of their methods serve to remind us that this team of would-be heroes is comprised entirely of children and young adults. And they see the world through a different lens. Especially when they are bestowed with amazing superpowers. But the crux of the story boils down to children acting with the best of intentions. Without the experience necessary to get the job done. All the while facing an uncertain future where growing up means the evolution of the family dynamic. And embracing the insecurities attached to coming of age. It’s a delicate balance. But director David F. Sandberg effortlessly manages to get the symmetry right. And when a new threat emerges in the form of the Daughters of Atlas, they are forced to set aside their immaturity, and their egos to meet the challenge.
A NEW THREAT
Capitalizing on the Shazam Family’s turmoil are the Daughters of Atlas, Anthea, Kalypso, and Hespera. The trio of fallen Gods emerges from their incarceration intent on restoring the realm of the Gods to its former glory. However, to achieve their goal they must reclaim the Wizard’s broken staff and restore it to power. And they are willing to crush anyone who gets in their way. After a brutal and destructive curtain-raiser, they soon set their sights on Philadelphia intending to strip the family of its powers. Powers that were harnessed from their father.
As far as antagonists go, the Daughters of Atlas are solid – without truly offering much menace in the process. Yes their debut is harrowing and their deeds are horrifying, but when all is said and done their roles as antagonists are trivial. For the most part, the trio is led by Hespera (Helen Mirren), the oldest and wisest of the Daughters, while Kalypso (Lucy Liu) serves as the most intolerant and apathetic of the trio. And rounding out the villains is Rachel Zegler’s Anthea who is presented as the conscience of the group and the most empathetic of the sisters.
THE DAUGHTERS OF ATLAS
Now to be clear, the sisters are not the dominant threat we are all expecting. Far from it. In fact, aside from a few minor confrontations, the threat from the trio is tepid at best. Helen Mirren takes to the DC Universe like a duck to water and is relishing her part as a villain. But her role is confined to making speeches and conjuring magical elements and often finds herself criminally underused and banished to the sidelines.
Lucy Liu’s Kalypso, on the other hand, is an entirely different beast. Having been a fan of Liu’s for some time, It pains me to report that her performance here is as wooden as her dragon. Frustratingly, every line of dialogue is indifferent and feels like it’s being read from an autocue. There’s a genuine lack of passion in the performance, and it’s difficult to take the character seriously when her dialogue sounds like she is reciting stereo instructions.
This criticism feels harsh. But the critique is genuine. We get no sense of character from her, just lines of dialogue that are designed to add gravitas, but betray a genuine lack of enthusiasm. And for me, it is the biggest detraction from what otherwise is an intriguing but empty group of DC villains.
Zegler, on the other hand, finds herself at odds with her sisters and delivers a solid performance packed with conviction. She approaches the role with a childlike innocence that is effortlessly compelling. And she encounters a kindred spirit in Frederick “Freddy” Freeman. Freeman is still adjusting to his new double life as a disabled teen by day and a superhero by night. And he yearns to set out on his own and free himself of the shackles of his overprotective stepbrother Billy. The latter of which is struggling to let his superhero family grow because he fears being abandoned once again.
The film does well in highlighting the genuine fears attached to children living in the foster system. Especially when they land on their feet and find a loving family. But when their place is threatened the fear of loss can be crippling. Especially after being abandoned by those whom they rely on the most. It is this subplot that carries the movie forwards and serves as the beating heart of the story.
HEROES & FAMILY
Encapsulating the heroic end of the spectrum is the Shazam Family. Led fantastically by the scene-stealing Zachary Levi and the increasingly vital Mary played by Grace Caroline Currey. Once again Levi brings his A-game to the dance and it pays off in spades. His exuberance is infectious, and when he isn’t on the screen his presence is sorely missed. The same can be said about Freddy Freeman. No disrespect to Adam Brody, but like the previous outing, Freeman serves the family best when out of the cape. And Jack Dylan Grazer emerges as one of the true standouts of this sequel. His performance is perfectly weighted. It’s confident and assured in one scene, and poignant and wounded in the next. And it shows the actor’s true potential. And on the strength of this performance, he will have his pick of the roles once he hangs up his cape.
Meagan Good delivers a solid performance as Darla but is quickly upstaged by her younger counterpart played by Faithe Herman. The latter of which has some of the best lines of the movie and will have us laughing in the aisles by the time the credits roll. And rounding out the cast are Ross Butler and Ian Chen as Eugene Choi, and D. J. Cotrona and Jovan Armand as Pedro Peña. And finally, Djimon Hounsou is the last surviving member of the Council of Wizards. Who, thankfully has far more to do this time out and embraces his newfound freedom with zeal.
Now, a DC tentpole move is always judged on the strength of its special effects and aside from a few minor niggles, Fury of the Gods sticks the landing. The film harnesses some of the very best creatures from the pages of Greek mythology and fans of the Ray Harryhausen movies are in for a treat. Some of Ray’s most beloved creatures are given a contemporary polish and presented here in stunning fashion. I hesitate to say replicated – more along the lines of “inspired by.” But Harryhausen fans will be salivating by the time the credits roll.
Much in the same vein, Kalypso’s Dragon is perfectly conceptualized and delivers some genuine threat. There’s something surreal in watching a dragon taking flight above a major city. And although the dragon is primarily made of wood in this sequel, it doesn’t dampen the impact it makes. Nor the menace it provides. The monster is truly colossal and when it roars, and believe me it does, the booming sound reverberates around the theater gloriously.
The result is a feast for the senses. And not just in terms of CGI either. The locations selected for the movie never cease to dazzle, and the beauty of the landscape easily makes the sequel one of the most vibrant entries to date. Especially Mount Olympus. The environments are rich and rewarding, and the costumes are arguably some of the best we’ve seen in the DC Universe. And that leads us to the score.
Despite turning in a perfectly serviceable soundtrack for the previous outing, the composer Benjamin Wallfisch was unable to return due to scheduling conflicts. Therefore, Christophe Beck makes the leap from the quantum realm a joins the DC fraternity. And his score for Shazam! Fury of the Gods is as bombastic as it is heroic. Every superhero movie yearns for a worthy soundtrack to bring the ship home, and Beck delivers on the mandate in spades. His soundtrack is packed to the brim with powerful soundscapes. The Daughters of Atlas are rewarded with a powerful theme to accompany their screen presence. But even this is upstaged by a powerfully heroic theme for the Shazam family. And when all is said and done, the combination packs a real punch. One that will have you updating your DC playlist with glee. Mark my words.
Instead of feeling like a cheap cash grab, Fury of the Gods does the unthinkable and improves on the formula of its predecessor. From the epic set pieces to the bombastic score, the movie’s got it where it counts. It’s heroic, passionate, and packed full of heart. Especially when handling the foster home aspects. Seeing life through the eyes of a foster child is a harrowing prospect. But Sandberg manages to turn the trauma into a conversation starter and bookends it with a compelling good-luck story with superhero overtones. But at its center is an uplifting family story.
The balance of light-hearted fare and compelling drama is a tough balance to find, but Sandberg and his team have guided this ship home. And if you were thinking the comedy aspects would suffer as a result, think again. This sequel is hilarious. Breaking the fourth wall is commonplace these days, but it’s dialed to eleven here. Even poking fun at the titular hero’s origins. And these moments deliver nuggets of pure gold. Its tongue-in-cheek humor will tickle the pickle of every ticket holder and I defy anyone not to enjoy the childish quips of the unconquerable Faithe Herman who truly shines here.
Sure the Daughters of Atlas are disappointing. Naturally, Helen Mirren is Hollywood gold. And without a doubt, Zachary Levi is back to his brilliant best. But with Shazam! Fury of the Gods, David F. Sandberg has captured lightning in a bottle and delivered a movie greater than the sum of its parts. And that is the hallmark of a visionary director at the top of his game.
The DC Universe may have a bright future ahead of it. But this sequel reminds us that the current crop of DC movies can still hit the high notes and deliver something memorable. And if this is the last time Zachary Levi suits up, at least he went out on the biggest stage of them all. So book your tickets, say the word, and enjoy the ride!
Shazam! Fury of the Gods arrives in UK cinemas this Friday. Don’t leave until after the credits!!
Will you be lining up to experience this new DC heavyweight? Or are you waiting for James Gunn’s DC reset? Sound off below. We’d love to hear from you.
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Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager, and Editor-In-Chief of The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force and babbles frequently!