You know what movies need more of? Punctuation in the titles. Also, does that mean the exclamation point is part of his superhero name? Seems like something a teenage boy would decide. At any rate, Shazam! is back, following up its highly underrated, slept-on debut a few years ago. Seriously, guys, in the DCEU, the first Shazam! is near the top of my list, bested by maybe only Wonder Woman. Can the sequel live up to its legacy?
Quick answer: Yes-ish. Fury of the Gods brings back the whole cast, and if you’ll remember, that means all the orphans are now Shazams, which creates a whole quandary about naming, but we’ll ignore that for now. Suffice it to say that all of the personalities that you loved about the first film, are back in the second and though all of the boys especially have aged way more than the story would suggest, they still feel like the same characters.
This time around, however, we spend a lot more time with their Shazammed up glam-bods which puts the focus on those actors instead. I don’t know if all of them were cast with the intention of expanded roles, but some do a better job than others delivering memorable performances. Among the ones that shine are, to no surprise, Adam Brody. Given that he’s the Shazam version of the disabled Freddy, it makes sense that he especially would revel in being full-abled and then some. Another honorable mention goes out to Meagan Good who manages the gleeful innocence of her child counterpart quite well.
But, let’s be honest, Shazam is really the Zachary Levi show and he’s on full flex here, with all his jokes and charisma. And on the other side? Dame Helen Mirren and universal badass Lucy Liu. It shouldn’t work mixing those three actors together, but somehow it does, the latter being generally over Shazam’s immaturity. This creates a humorous dynamic.
There’s also some good writing here with the family struggles of the Shazam family mirrored in the differing opinions of the Daughters of Atlas (Mirren and Liu). The villains are layered and nuanced, with no question as to their motivations and opposite approaches to how they want to handle the fact that humanity stole their godhood. Add to this the return of Djimon Hounsou’s Wizard and a few twists, turns, and cameos, and you’re given a nice serving of solid character work.
The same glowing review can’t be said for the action, however. It tends to get a bit repetitive without as much freshness as one would expect. Like Superman, Shazam is so all-powerful that choreographers seem to struggle with finding unique ways for him to fight aside from punching and flying straight toward his enemy. Oh, he also shoots lightning, I guess. That’s your variety. Enjoy it.
The CG is decent, but a little muddled, much like the first one, but the tone is preserved, somehow walking a weird line between completely immature humor to truly terrifying horror. Some of the deaths in this movie are especially disturbing and brutal for a superhero movie that could almost be PG otherwise.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is good. If it had come out in the early 2000s, we would have heralded it as the best superhero movie ever, but at this point it’s just old hat without too much to differentiate it from what’s come before. Like Black Adam, it’s fun, enjoyable, and worth the watch, but you’ll forget it a few minutes after you walk out of the theater.
Should you watch it? If you liked the first Shazam, or “fun” superhero movies, this is for you.
Should you take your kids? Generally as safe for kids as any superhero movie is these days. Look to the first Shazam for a cue on the tone to expect for this one.
What you should watch first: The original Shazam is a must-watch. Other DC movies may enhance the experience, as there are numerous references.