REVIEW: Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)

A film directed by David F. Sandberg

I have been rather lukewarm on the vast majority of the Warner Brothers-produced DC Comics-based feature length films (The DC Extended Universe) that have come out in the past decade or so. I feel that Zack Snyder squandered a rather impressive first outing in his original Superman film (Man of Steel 2013), following it up with somewhat bland sequels that eventually got corrupted even further by Joss whedon’s dumb ideas (FYI-never been a fan, sorry nerds). The DCEU ultimitely devolved into melodramatic plots with bleak backdrops and baffling writing such as having Batman and Superman come to terms with each other entirely due to a realization that their mothers both shared the same first name. I did, however, really enjoy some of the more recent films including James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad and the first Shazam film. Keeping in mind that Shazam is honestly one of my favorite DC characters and vastly underrated and underutilized, I was pumped for this sequel.

The original Shazam especially felt like a “proper DC film” largely due to the fact that it was hopeful, energetic, and had the optimism that I would consider tantamount to the overall vibe within DC comic books. What Snyder got wrong (in my opinion) was trying to make everything post-apocalyptic and dark which is more of the Frank Miller vision for the universe, and even his books were not main continuity. Sadly, I feel that Shazam! Fury of the Gods is unfortunately doomed for failure, as it is coming out in a strange time period wherein fans are well aware that everything is about to get rebooted with the upcoming flash movie and any film not already released is almost assuredly destined to “not matter” in most fans’ eyes. With Discovery taking over Warner Brothers and drastically changing anything not bolted down, who knows if we’ll see these characters again any time soon, which is a shame.

“The film continues the story of teenage Billy Batson who, upon reciting the magic word “SHAZAM!” is transformed into his adult Super Hero alter ego, Shazam.”

Shazam! Fury of the Gods was a film that I unfortunately feel did not live up to the expectations I had for it. The first Shazam succeeded mostly because it was the right blend of action, comedy, and charm that most DC films up to that point severely lacked. Perhaps by splitting the screen time from the titular character, this film overall gets diluted somewhat and treads a thin fine line between being fun and having most of the characters come out seeming somewhat unlikeable.

There is an attempt to interject a little bit of drama into the narrative wherein Billy Batson is suffering from both imposter syndrome and a fear of rejection in that he wants to control every aspect of the crime fighting operations of he and his family, now also imbued with special powers. His brothers and sisters heavily resent this and the first 30 minutes or so of the movie are a bunch of uncomfortable scenes of him trying to get people to see his vision and them not wanting to have any part of it. There’s bickering between characters that slows the film down and honestly hurts the movie to a large degree. I was also somewhat annoyed that the characters (not sure what to call them because they used to be “The Marvel Family” and that’s off-limits) end up saddled with a Spider-Man plotline where everyone in Philadelphia thinks they are terrible and local media paints them as menaces, known as “The Philly Fiascos”.

That isn’t to say that I did not enjoy this film, as the overall action in the film is very good and the finale is one of the better finales that they have had in any of these DC films up to this date. The final showdown Between Shazam and an ancient Dragon meant to guard the Garden of the Hesperides is well worth the price of admission alone. The primary villains, a group of sisters descended from Atlas himself, are interesting albeit a little bit one-dimensional at times. For example, Lucy liu’s character, Calypso, is especially silly at times bordering on cartoonishly evil for the sake of it. Lucy liu makes it all work due to her acting skills, but under a less-experienced actress, it could have been rough.

Dame Helen Mirren adds some gravitas by just being in the film, and embodies the power and wisdom of an ancient demi-goddess well. The acting is overall not too shabby with most characters being well realized, and that means the child actors also did well. Zachary Levi is especially hilarious in this film and steals most of the scenes he is in, even though the best jokes were sadly shown in the trailers.

Overall, I enjoyed Shazam! Fury of the Gods, but feel that a bit of the charm has worn off from the first one. On one hand this film has some impressive action scenes and some cool moments such as a BIG cameo I won’t elaborate too much on. However, I can’t help but shake the feeling that nothing matters with the timeline considering the reset and re-shuffling of the whole Warner Brothers film slate. This film, Black Adam, and even Justice league have been leading up to what I assume was going to be a “JSA vs The League of Evil” film, entirely based on post-credit sequences, and who knows if that’s even going to happen now. Here’s hoping James Gunn doesn’t kill off one of my favorite characters for no reason, and we get to see some form of the JSA soon.


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