Our favorite smarmy, local Philadelphia hero (not Rocky) is back in town with friends against noisy CGI monsters and a star-studded cast of villains that seem as lost as everyone else that wrote this screenplay (and paid homage to every other lethargic superhero film out there). Yours indeed may have busted out laughing at one moment, but that pales compared to the 2019 predecessor that warmly graced our screens with a breezy and relatively sagacious story. Shazam! Fury of the Gods is kind of in the same boat as Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which came out a month ago, a once fun (side) franchise becoming bogged with forced irreverence, bland garish visuals, and chaotic end-of-the-world shenanigans.
The sequel brings together the foster family again to fight crime and stop the evil folk. Billy Batson (Zachary Levi/Asher Angel) tries to keep everyone together as he faces his insecurities but learns from his former wizard friend Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) that the Daughters of Atlas (played by Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, and Rachel Zegler) will be using some Golden Apple weapon to bring back their realm and power while destroying the Earth. The daughters reclaim the staff from the predecessor and utilize it against our heroes, stripping their powers while summoning CGI dragons and a massive bubble shield to enclose the city of Philadelphia. Even spelling out the premise in writing solidifies that it’s a by-the-numbers, second-tier adventure with some moments to grasp and others filled with bloat.
The cast and all are great, but Mirren and Liu never seem invested in this tale, and that line between good and evil is never spelled out. Levi and Hounsou do their best to muscle through many of the feature’s faults. Skittles, Fast and Furious references (more like a promotion for Fast X), and a Wonder Woman cameo never help carry the weight, though. It’s a demolition derby for destructive spectacle every ten minutes; maybe you’ll be entertained or ready to head home.
The DC Extended Universe (or Studios as it’ll be called, progressing forward) seems never to know its aspirations. We’ve spoken about it somewhat extensively, but what is the plan for the counterpart to Marvel down the line? Mimicking the steps of the Disney IP isn’t going to work (believe me, it will not), nor will please audiences’ expectations and end up leaving them with a whimpering product (see Black Adam, for instance). Zack Snyder’s once crazy, expansive decision for this universe has become uncontrollably wobbly, a sign that things can’t even seem to heal old wounds. Marvel fatigue is strangely prevalent with all the delights every month, but DC’s inconsistency since 2013 is like trying to walk a straight line while inebriated all the time. Wonder Woman, The Suicide Squad (2021), Birds of Prey, and Shazam! did wonders. Still, they cannot overpower Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad (2016), Justice League (2017), Wonder Woman 1984, Black Adam, and our latest sequel from director David F. Sandberg.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is assuredly fun like its predecessor, but this time, its magic is severely diluted that any other generic superhero film could’ve taken its place. James Gunn and Peter Safran’s DC reboot can’t come soon enough, presuming it arrives at all.