David F. Sandberg’s long-awaited sequel Shazam! Fury of the Gods is finally here and it’s just as hilarious and endearing as the first. The Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation director continues his streak of superhero greatness with this heartfelt new chapter of the Shazam story. Shazam! Fury of the Gods is totally entertaining from start to finish, as this entertaining comic-book ride is full of twists and fun surprises that will have DC fans buzzing after the film.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods picks up two years after the defeat of Mark Strong’s devious Sivana. Billy (Asher Angel) and his foster family aspire to work as a full-functioning superhero team with their newfound powers, but they are ridiculed by the media as they often fail to save the day. The problem isn’t that they can’t work together, it’s just that they are all perhaps trying too hard on their endeavors. Everything changes when a trio of ancient goddesses descend on a Greek museum and steal Shazam’s magic staff. Chaos is unleashed in Philadelphia as the goddesses hunt down the “Shazamily” to strip them of their powers.
Joining the Shazamily cast is an all-powerful Helen Mirren, a cunning Lucy Liu, and a sweet yet formidable Rachel Zegler as the aforementioned goddesses, otherwise known as the daughters of Atlas. They add to an already large ensemble, which is undoubtedly a tedious balancing act that David F. Sandberg successfully pulls off. Lucy Liu’s Kalypso is arguably the weakest link of the three, though, thanks to the third act caring more about dragons and monsters than her actual character development. Shazam himself takes most of the spotlight as he comes to terms with his inner struggles and makes the ultimate sacrifice to save his family from the world-ending threats of the Greek goddesses. Kalypso is nothing much more than a devious agent of chaos, but that’s not to say that Liu doesn’t give it her all.
The Shazam family is where David F. Sandberg’s duo of films separate themselves from the DCU as they are written and portrayed with such heart. In the sequel’s heavier moments, there is a genuine levity to the emotions on screen. And in the joyous bits, one can’t help but chuckle along with the family’s energetic humor. The various adult and teen combinations of Meagan Good and Faithe Herman as Darla Dudley, D. J. Cotrona and Jovan Armand as Pedro Peña, Ross Butler and Ian Chen as Eugene Cho, and Grace Fulton as Mary Bromfield are an utter delight to watch. The comedy is even more hysterical in this second chapter as the Shazamily is further exposed to DC’s world of magic. Additionally, Djimon Hounsou’s wise-cracking Wizard is back only to realize what a huge mistake it was to bestow the power of the gods on a bunch of kids.
With Shazam! Fury of the Gods having a larger $125 million budget, the stakes are upped as this sequel attempts to outdo its predecessor in standard Hollywood fashion. In some ways, this is detrimental to the film as it has a greater reliance on big CGI-driven action sequences. The small scale of 2019’s Shazam! gave it a unique charm; it felt rather grounded and disconnected from the larger universe Warner Bros. and DC was building at the time. Of course, there were a few huge action scenes included, as Shazam faced off against Sivana, but those were simply not as bombastic and in-your-face as what’s seen in Shazam! Fury of the Gods.
Although the third act of David F. Sandberg’s follow-up is quite enthralling, it’s hard to turn away from some of the shoddy VFX work on display. There is just too much of it directly in your face to ignore and it does this film no favors when taking a step back to look at how poor visual effects in comic-book films have been lately. The action itself in Shazam! Fury of the Gods is very similar to the first movie, keeping to the basics of DC fight scenes with lots of punching and flying with the addition of magical takedowns. Unlike Black Adam, Shazam is an inexperienced fighter and a teenager who can barely keep his family together, so sticking to action scenes that are more straight to the point often makes for a great representation of who he really is.
Zachary Levi continues to fully embrace the inner childish nature of the now 17-year-old Billy Batson in his own charming ways. Freddy Freeman aka “Captain Every power” is the MVP once again. Jack Dylan Grazer and Adam Brody give a delightfully hilarious shared performance as the wise-cracking superhero. David F. Sandberg finds space to form a special bond between Freddy and a few unexpected characters, which make for some of the funniest and most powerful scenes of the movie. Out of the new goddesses, Helen Mirren is pre-eminent as Hespera, and proves to be way more than just a god-like villain as an unprecedented bond is formed between her and the viewer. A sprinkling of humanity emanates from her and Rachel Zegler’s Anthea as well, making them stand out in comparison to their power-hungry and vengeful sister Kalypso.
There is nothing too special when it comes to the visuals of Shazam! Fury of the Gods, but Hungarian cinematographer Gyula Pados shows some occasional bursts of invigorating creative energy. By the end, the film does own its fair share of grandiose imagery. Meanwhile, composer Christophe Beck is firing on all cylinders as his heroic score rattles the cinema. However, a big part of this comes from composer Benjamin Wallfisch laying the groundwork with the first film’s score. Beck takes the material to new heights and has now arguably created one of the best original DCU scores. This isn’t too surprising given his track record across Hollywood, from the Frozen to Ant-Man franchises.
Twists and turns galore, Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a worthy follow-up that expands on DC mythology in exciting ways. Director David F. Sandberg and writers Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan continue to strike gold with their unique opportunity of being able to write young kids as supposedly fully-functioning adult superheroes. Despite its minor flaws, this sequel more than makes up for it with pure joy and will surely be embraced by many over time. DC fans will be left wondering where Shazam and his supporting cast go next under James Gunn and Peter Safran’s DCU regime, and Shazam! Fury of the Gods makes it clear that it would be a huge shame to throw such a unique and lively set of characters away.