Amid so much dark and depressing media, the first Shazam! film arrived like a bolt of lightning for the DCEU (now DCU) that beaconed for other films to follow its example. The sequel, Shazam Fury of the Gods, arrives with the same hopeful furor as the first. In his sequel, series director David S. Sandberg masterfully directs his (large) ensemble cast with equal parts hilarity and emotion heft, showing why the Shazam Fam is one of the most beloved superhero families ever in comics—with a script from Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan, Shazam! Fury of the Gods stars Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Glazer, Adam Brody, Rachel Zegler, Ross Butler, Ian Chen, Meagan Good, Faithe Herman, Grace Caroline Currey, D. J. Cotrona, Jovan Armand, Lucy Liu, Djimon Hounsou, and Helen Mirren.
My scruples about Levi and his controversial views aside, he continues to give a riveting performance, as does Asher Angel, who plays his primary younger self. Billy is worried that his foster parents will kick him out once he turns 18, leading to friction with his found family and doubts about his place both at home and as a superhero. Billy struggles with leading the Shazam Fam, as the public has a decidedly mixed reaction to their superheroics (hint: these kids are not the best at their side gig). He knows he needs to grow up and face real (read: non-superhero) responsibilities, making his journey of understanding his family better and why they appreciate him for him all the more relatable for audiences watching. All of these story elements come together to make the challenges Billy and his family face all the more engrossing to watch.
And the rest of the Shazam Fam has appropriate moments to shine. Mary Marvel, whose actress plays both her powered and non-superpowered self, emblemizing her growth, is yearning for adulthood, bringing her into a relatable sibling conflict with Billy. Darla is the sweetest of the bunch, getting to have fun but also being pivotal in key moments mostly. The script, unfortunately, leaves Eugene and Pedro primarily as the sidekicks of the group, but they still have moments to stand out, especially Pedro. But Freddy, outside of Billy, has the most growth of the Shazam Fam as he undergoes a journey of understanding the importance of his brotherhood and gaining more confidence in his powered and non-superpowered self. Overall, the Shazam Fam as a cohesive whole makes an excellent protagonist to follow.
The villains and new characters are also riveting to watch. Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu chew up every scene, bringing menacing force to the villainous gods with an interesting connection to the Shazam Fam. The contrast of the Shakespearean seriousness Mirren brings is particularly hilarious as we see her difference with the inanity of the Shazam Fam. Rachel Zegler as “Ann” is a delight to watch, particularly in her scenes with Freddie, as they have a charming subplot.
Djimon Hounsou’s return as the wizard Shazam is very welcome, especially as he has much more to do than in the first film. And with all these characters in the ensemble, it never feels like too much, as the agile script by Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan skillfully weaves the various characters and their motivations together, making it easy for the audience to follow along.
Initially, the plot of Shazam Fury of the Gods feels a tad overbearing as Gayden and Morgan throw a lot of factoids at the audience. But as the film continues and we meet and get to know the various players of Fury of the Gods’ plot, the story captivates the audience as they realize the icons of myths are complex and messy people, harkening to the messiness of original Greek myths. In this, Gayden, Morgan, Sandberg, and their team skillfully bring that Greek mythology messiness into the modern day, with Mirren, Liu, Hounsou, and others playing their roles with equal parts seriousness and hilarity.
The visual effects and action are outstanding and are some of the top-tier best in our oversaturated superhero film sphere. While there is a typical world-ending threat endgame, the film takes an interesting approach rooted more deeply in the villains’ motivations, adding some surprising complexity. The use of CGI never feels tacky or overdone, with Sandberg consistently making clever use of real locations for filming.
But even in scenes that are mainly CGI, they feel immersive in a way that I can’t remember with any superhero movie of late. Also, Lucy Liu on a dragon: yes. Paired with film composer Christophe Beck’s superbly riveting score, it is constantly enthralling to watch, simultaneously having the trademarks of a superhero blockbuster but never weighing the audience down, as many MCU flicks have tended to do. Sandberg and his CGI team consistently paid attention to detail, which paid off in the finished cut of the film.
While it doesn’t reach all the heights of the first Shazam! film, Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a worthy successor to its predecessor that builds the story of the Shazam Fam to new soaring heights. With a keen directorial vision and fun and witty script from Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan, David S. Sandberg shows why he’s one of the best superhero film directors working today, making a compelling case for why he and others with his type of vision should still be working in the new DCU. With a strong cast, thrilling action, and a riveting plot that mostly sticks the landing, this superhero film stands out as one of the best. Whether you watch it in theaters or at home, you’re almost certain to have an electrifying time.
Shazam Fury of the Gods is available on VOD.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods
While it doesn’t reach all the heights of the first Shazam! film, Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a worthy successor to its predecessor that builds the story of the Shazam Fam to new soaring heights.