Shazam: Fury of the Gods | Review


Much has changed across DC’s Extended Universe since Shazam! first bolted into cinemas. A pass the parcel of creative control has seen Marvel’s murkier cousin shuffle between soft reboots and directional alt rights. As things stand, Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck are out, while Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa sit patiently on the bench. Robert Pattinson and Joaquin Phoenix, by contrast, enjoy a league of their own. When it comes to Shazam, the judge’s gavel has yet to fall and there’s little optimism in the jury. It would be a shame if Fury of the Gods marked the final bow for Zachary Levi’s lovably insecure supe but the battle for retention won’t be easy. It’s hard to see so second rate a sequel mirroring the success of its peppier predecessor nor enjoying anything like the audience adoration.

In an era where DC desperately needed to lighten up, David F. Sandberg’s Shazam!, as much goofball comedy as super powered blockbuster, proved a breath of fresh air in 2019. The film married a lightness of touch with Freaky Friday farce, heart and humour, putting character in the driving seat, even in the face of one-note villainy. In that regard, part two marks an improvement.

Fury of the Gods one ups its predecessor with the vengeful daughters of Atlas and a doublet of gusto performances by Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu, each dressed to the nines and stuffed to the brim with chewed up scenery. The seek the powers of Shazam, which originated within their father, and don’t care who gets hurt in the retrieval process. Film one’s magic staff returns and there’s a golden apple too. Why stick at just the one MacGuffin, after all?

Standing in their way are the holders of this Atlantean power: young Billy Batson (Asher Angel, not so young now) and his Shazamily of foster siblings. With a shout of ‘Shazam!’, each one transforms to some Barbie doll version of super-humanity, all primed, slick and hunky. The lycra and white cape come part and parcel. Billy – in Levi form – serves as keystone to the collective but struggles with both the burden and an increasing awareness that his adoptive siblings might not share his lost boys ideology: ‘I’m the only one holding it to-ge-therrr!’

Chief among the outliers is Freddie Freeman – bullied, disabled and played by It star Jack Dylan. Adam Brody brings a high dosage of smug to Freddie’s self titled alter ego Captain Everypower but it’s Dylan with the greater screen time. And presence. Through Freddie, the film channels a core interest in the notion of being super even without the powers. It’s a vital awakening for a young man who is so physically limited in his day to day life and hugely potent progression for the character. A burgeoning high school romance with Rachel Zegler’s Ann is less convincing but key to Freddie’s development towards all important self-belief.

Where Sandberg and company really fly is in the blending of great power/great responsibility malarkey with themes of fish out of water adolescence. Even in his beefy Shazam form, Billy is just the kid abandoned at a Christmas fayre. Much fun is had with imagining how a group of teens might take to developing superpowers – of course they turn the ancient Rock of Eternity into a lair cum ruin bar – but it’s with surprising impact that to this a metaphor for pubescent fear is melded. The challenge of living up to the man the world sees on the outside, when you’re still a boy at heart, is palpably real.

Such is the film at its best. More broadly, Fury of the Gods is a patchier affair than that which came before. A script by Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan achieves only fleeting coherency, while sludgy visual effects do to highlight the film’s more generic qualities. The irreverence and underdog qualities that saw Shazam! shine remain but, four years on, the DC diamond lacks the old polish.



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