Shazam! Fury of the Gods places its focus on what it does best, which is the family dynamic, and to my surprise elevates it from the first film, Shazam! What puts this film right alongside the first is the new inclusions to the cast, specifically with the addition of two of movie royalty – Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren. While their motivations and delivery left quite a bit to be desired, the most fun came from Rachel Zegler’s Anthea.
This film’s potential may not be that high, but those in search of some moderate fun will find some enjoyment here. Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a heartwarming hug of a movie, and absolutely worth a watch as it hits theaters today.
[Warning: Mild spoilers and impressions from Shazam! Fury of the Gods below!]
Family is everything in Shazam! Fury of the Gods
As stated above, one thing that distinctly makes the Shazam! movies stand out from the rest of the recent DC releases are its absolute focus on family. Whether it’s the lack of or introduction of it, it paves the way for nearly all our characters. What I found most interesting was the turn on the villains. Kalypso (Lucy Liu) and Hespera (Helen Mirren) are the Daughters of Atlas who have their powers stolen by The Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) and subsequently sealed off from the world inhabited by the Shazam Family.
If you recall the final moments of the first Shazam! film, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) opts to share the powers of The Champion with his foster siblings and then snaps the staff. Billy, lacking The Wisdom of Solomon, unknowingly shatters the barrier when he destroyed the staff which has been keeping Hespera and Kalypso from escaping their imprisonment at the hands of The Wizard.
Meanwhile, Rachel Zegler as Anthea shows up at the school where Billy and Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Glazer/Adam Brody) attend. Why she does that is never actually explained during the course of the film, which could cause some confusion. However it could possibly be chalked up to an infiltration situation, based on whatever information Hespera figured out and passed along. Moving forward a bit, it turns out Anthea is also a Daughter of Atlas and sadly betrays Freddy, with whom she had just begun developing feelings.
Anthea eventually betrays her family not just once but multiple times by saving Freddy and The Wizard’s life and helping them escape capture from her sisters. Further along, she serves as a distraction against Kalypso which provides Billy/Shazam an opportunity to enact a final plan. So, while family might be everything it’s not the only thing to the Gods. This is quite fascinating as their entire motivation is to right the wrongs committed against their father and other gods, even making a mention of their Uncle Hades.
Problems in the Shazam! family
Even though the villains had their own in-family fighting, we have similar issues with the Shazam family. Although they ‘share’ powers, there’s a sense of disorganization and interest from the rest of Billy’s siblings. Mary (Grace Caroline Currey) is distraught that she gave up her chances to go to college, Freddy wants to literally fly solo as ‘Captain Everypower’, Eugene (Ross Butler/Ian Chen) keeps himself occupied by cataloging every door they have in the Rock of Eternity stronghold they use as a base.
Sadly the film failed to develop Pedro (DJ Cortona/Jovan Armand) entirely and barely gave Darla (Meagan Good/Faithe Herman) much to work with until the final act. Although they’ve been working together for a couple of years, they lack any sort of proper teamwork and get bested multiple times throughout the story. It even becomes a bit of a joke when they note that Billy is always asking Mary what they should be doing.
Positives and negatives of Fury of the Gods
One thing I do want to give full credit to is the leaning into the title, Fury of the Gods. It’s an apt descriptor as the rage contained was on display by Hespera and Kalypso. They’ve felt wronged for a long period of time and exert it onto everyone, even one another. The battles put up between both families provided a couple of moments where the pain was coupled well with the aforementioned fury.
Another impressive exhibition was the elements of Greek culture, showcasing beasts of classic mythology (minotaurs, harpies, chimeras, and cyclops) and a quick detour through a labyrinth.
Visually, the movie was rather stunning, with only a few “bad” CGI moments of the characters in flight. The ones that stood out the worst were Kalypso riding on the back of the dragon and Shazam flying in the air during daylight. I did have some minor gripes with the lighting at times, when they were in the Kingdom of Atlas it had a weird blooming effect that made me squint my eyes since it had a reverse vignette around the corners. Slightly disappointing but mostly forgivable as it was intended to show how special that realm was since it’s where the gods roamed.
As far as the humor in this film, I was hoping it would land better. Some of the jokes sucked the air out of the room and there were a few belly-busters. Although I will say Darla had zingers and those mostly gave me some genuine laughs. Shazam himself just felt more like a try-hard in trying to make the audience laugh, which I’d put on the jokes themselves and not the delivery from Levi.
The emotional moments managed to get a couple of punches in, Billy fretting over getting kicked out of the house once he turns 18, and Mary regretting her decision to stay at home and pass on attending college. Yet, by the end, they resolved the first issue by having Rosa (Marta Milans) reiterate that Billy is HER son and he can stay as long as he likes. In the closing scene, I noticed Mary wearing an Oxford hoodie and a smile, but there’s no mention of whether she was able to move forward with her academic dispositions.
Freddy manages to get the girl, ending the film with a new relationship with Anthea. Honestly, this felt weird as the age gap was quite sizable (and made into a joke by Rosa “Why are all our boys attracted to older women?” A joke driven home throughout the movie with Shazam constantly bringing up Wonder Woman).
Final thoughts on Shazam! Fury of the Gods
This leads me to my final note, it was intriguing that they had many callouts to the wider DC Universe. Shazam says that he isn’t even the most original superhero since The Flash has the same color scheme and also sports a lightning bolt. Other DC heroes are brought up in passing, but it feels odd to keep them since the James Gunn/Peter Safran reorganization.
The inclusion of these DC references of the wider world provides more questions than answers. In interviews, it’s been said that another movie is dependent on the success of this one. Even both post-credits scenes were setting up future appearances down the line for the Shazamily. Whether or not those end up happening seems improbable and left me questioning why they were kept.
Overall, I did enjoy the film as family is as important to me as it is to Billy. There were some questionable decisions from both the studio and the characters that made me feel like not everything was aligned internally. I feel for the general audiences who don’t keep up with the news. The appearance of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman felt gratuitous since it likely won’t lead anywhere and was shoe-horned to entice fans with a cameo in marketing. Sadly, it seems this one might come off as forgettable and lacked some of the charm from the first film.
My rating for the film:
★★★ / ♥♥♥♥
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is in theaters now! Have you watched it yet? What did you think? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out Episode 18 of The Cosmic Circle, all about the new DC Slate!