The DC Cinematic Universe has been living in the shadows of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) for a very long time; it seems to be a never-ending catch-up. In 2019, Shazam! gave DCEU fans a glimmer of hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Now, four years later, Billy Batson is back in Shazam! Fury of the Gods. Is the light still shining? Yes, but only just.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that DC’s attempts to replicate or surpass Marvel have been nothing but disastrous. Shazam!‘s success was unexpected, reminding us that not every comic book film has to be dark, gritty, and grounded. They can be full of zest, fun, laughs, and even a little childish. It had a big heart. What also made this film impressive was the director himself, David F. Sandberg, who came from the horror genre.
When the previous film was a critical and box office success, that’s when the real challenge begins. Can Shazam! Fury of the Gods also achieve success? It’s possible.
In the original film, Billy (played by Asher Angel) was an orphaned teenager who desired a family and also wanted to become a grown-up. He eventually gained a family and a superhero alter ego (portrayed by Zachary Levi), who is similar to a more lighthearted version of Superman. These powers were granted to him by Djimon Hounsou‘s character, the wizard.
This no longer a coming of age superhero adventure story, in Shazam!Fury Of The Gods Billy’s foster brothers and sisters are getting older. The main thing is he’s part of a family, but he’s now 17 and worried he may have to leaver his foster home in Philadelphia. His siblings all now have the same powers of his alter ego, but his parents Victor and Rosa Vasquez (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans ) have no clue their kids have the powers.
If Billy’s problem is only trying to balance his life as a teenager and an adult superhero, things are about to get worse for him and his family. He’ll have to deal with the daughters of Atlas, Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu), who have been released from their imprisonment due to Billy’s previous actions, and they want revenge. Meanwhile, Billy’s best friend Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) might have a love interest in Anthea (Rachel Zegler), who may not be who she says she is. That’s not the worst of their problems; Hespera and Kalypso are ready to punish those who banished them, as well as humanity itself.
The film is all about discovering your true identity. Billy once again struggles to get a grip on his superhero powers, constantly saying he doesn’t deserve them. He believes there is already a superhero with a red suit and a lightning bolt, and while he thinks Batman is cool, he believes he is a fraud. If you look at any origin comic book films, even the greatest superheroes (like Superman and Batman), they all experience identity crises and must have faith in their newly found abilities.
Billy is also worried about being 17 years old he’ll be soon leaving the foster system. The problem is until now we’ve mostly only seen him as Shazam! (who finally gets his official title), and his concerns don’t feel as convincing. The superhero element however does feel more convincing than the human side. Billy and Freddy’s friendship which played a big part of the first film seems to take more of a back seat in this one. We rarely see both boys together especially as there human versions.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods, like many sequels, tries to fit too much into its 2-hour running time. This makes the film feel messy, disconnected, and less alluring. However, the film still retains much of its humor, possibly being even “funnier” than the first film. The magic pen called Steve, a magic Skittles joke, and Helen Mirren reading out a bonkers letter are all standout moments.
Behind the plethora of one-liners, solid performances from Levi as the titular man-child and Mirren, who seems to be having a ball as Hespera, Shazam! Fury of the Gods has enough fun, charisma, and laughs to make the watch not an overall disappointment.
Action, Adventure | USA, 2023 | 12A | 17th March 2023 | Cinema | Warner Bros UK | Dir. David F.Sandberg | Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Helen Mirren, Lucy Lui, Rachel Zegler