Back in 2019, Warner Brothers released their sleeper hit Shazam! which not only breathed new life into the dying DC Extended Universe but proved that DC didn’t need to be dark and brooding to be successful. Since the first Shazam! movie was such a success, Warner Brothers made a sequel that promised to show more of what made the first film so good in addition to explaining the lore of Shazam!. Does it work?
Two of the daughters of Atlas: Hespera (played by Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (played by Lucy Liu) break into a museum and retrieve the broken staff of the wizard while killing everyone present. Meanwhile, Billy Batson (played by Asher Angel) begins to develop imposter syndrome over his superhero identity and obligations. He feels that the rest of his family is leaving him behind and desperately wants to cling on to them. This insecurity forms a rift between Freddy Freeman and Billy, with Freddy flying solo more often. Freddy one day meets a new girl at school named Anne (played by Rachel Zegler) who he develops a crush on and the two begin to spend more time together. Meanwhile, the two Daughters of Atlas force the wizard to repair his staff and steal the power of Shazam.
On the surface, Shazam! Fury of the Gods felt a lot like a Shazam! movie. Zachary Levi still had that charm as a kid stuck in a grownup body, the family is still lovable and Freddy, God bless Freddy, still is the ever so adorkable superhero fanboy. However, something didn’t sit right with me. Shazam! as a film works best when there is not too much going on. The first film is the perfect example of this. Despite clocking in at around two hours, it still featured a simple story of a boy learning how to love and accept his new foster family. I don’t even know what the new one was really trying to tell. Learn to become a hero? The film doesn’t really do a good job keeping that theme consistent. Was it that Billy needed to learn how to do things himself without relying on help from his family? That wasn’t really addressed until the very end.
To me, the film really tried too hard to build a universe around the Shazam family. It tried to feature more of the Shazam family’s new lair, address the fact that Billy and the rest of his foster family is growing up and apart from one another, introduce Greek gods and magic and pave a path for future film entries. Shazam! Fury of the Gods is doing almost exactly what Avengers: Age of Ultron did. Unlike the first film which had only one villain, the second one has two, and neither are really fleshed out characters. Hell, I struggled to even tell their personalities apart, aside from Anthea who is just the kind sister compared to her more overbearing older sisters. Also, I find it strange that they are so far apart in age. I understand that they’re supposed to be immortal, but Hespera looks like Anthea’s grandma, not sister.
And that brings me to my next biggest gripe I have with the film: romance. Or more specifically, the significant age gap that is present in the romance. So Freddy falls in love with Anthea before he realizes she is a 6,000 year old goddess. While this is normal as she looks no older than 18-20, once he realizes her true age and identity, he is still into her and she does nothing to dissuade him. Hell, even his foster parents are seemingly ok with this, just writing it off as a quirk that boys have a thing for older women. And for some reason, they’re ok with Freddy dating Anthea when she turns human, despite this age difference. Why do DCU sequels seem to have very questionable romances? First with Wonder Woman 1984 and now with Shazam! Fury of the Gods.
Besides the rather disjointed plot and questionable romance, the creature design is not much better. Much like the first film, the creatures all have a very similar look. All are various shades of brown or piss yellow and puke green with glowing red eyes. The only unique designs are the unicorns and the dragon Laden which guards the Garden of the Daughters of Atlas. Unlike the unicorns you’d typically expect, these unicorns are dark, violent and low-key terrifying. Meanwhile, Laden is reimagined as being made of the same wood as the Tree of the Hesperides and has stark blue eyes, a contrast to the red eyes of every other monster.
I felt that Shazam was given the same treatment as Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man from The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It felt like Warner Brothers tried too hard to make him funny to the point where he just lets innocent people die or accidentally kills innocent people. For example, he tackles Kalypso through several floors of a high rise building without ever realizing that there could be people living there. While this could be chalked up to Shazam being a kid stuck in a adult body, he should have a least matured a bit considering that Billy’s been fighting crime for at least two years and would have learned to be more responsible.
I really wanted to like this film as much as the first one, if not more. It just didn’t live up to its predecessor. While the first film cheered me up when I was having a really bad week, this just felt like a quick burn of two hours; I didn’t feel particularly inspired or uplifted. Shazam! Fury of the Gods just felt average through and through. There were too many storylines introduced and not enough time to wrap everything up. Not to mention that I didn’t feel much tension as I knew that none of the Shazam family would die or that there would be any lasting consequences. Although the final fight between Shazam and Kalypso was actually really impressive and felt epic and grand, it was bogged down by a mediocre story and rather jagged plot. I guess lightning doesn’t always strike twice.