Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods: a Sequel With Less Heart And More Problems

Sequels are a complicated phenomenon in the movie industry. Filmmakers set out to prove that they can measure up to, or be better than, their first work. And for comic book films, there’s even more pressure. Shazam: Fury of the Gods is a sequel that attempts to learn from the mistakes of the first movie while also producing a fresh take on the Shazam Family.

When we last left the Shazam kids, they had all received their powers and joined Billy (Asher Angel and Zachary Levi) in keeping Philadelphia safe from magical enemies. This provides some interesting conflict that reminds us of the kids’ position. All of the Shazam kids are foster kids, many of whom do not have contact with their birth families. Adding superpowers to that mix definitely makes their current struggles even more complicated.

Billy is afraid that because his siblings have powers now, they won’t need him. Freddie (Jack Dylan Grazer and Adam Brody) uses his powers to compensate for his inability to protect himself because of his disability. Mary resents her newfound role in this group of superpowered kids and yearns for the life of a normal college girl. All are very interesting storylines, but not all are fleshed out properly. And with a runtime of 130 minutes, it seems as if they could have but decided not to.

Zachary Levi as Shazam
“SHAZAM! FURY OF THE GODS,” Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

However, Freddie and Billy’s storylines are the heart of the plot. Freddie’s inability to work with the team leads him to be captured while attempting to show off for a new girl at school, and Billy’s overbearing persona drives him there. Although the movie leaves these storylines in the wind, the brief introduction of these plotlines adds some value to the family.

What The Movie Gets Right

One thing that the sequel gets right is not losing the focus on the titular character. Filmmakers, especially those beholden to studios, often attempt to use the sequel solely for world-building. Shazam: Fury of the Gods, fortunately, does not. This film’s focus is entirely on its characters, which is something we are missing in comic book movies. This could be because of the impending doom of the DCEU or this could be strategized by David F. Sandberg. Regardless, the focus on Billy is important here. The Shazam kids would not have their powers if it weren’t for Billy.

Still of the movie featuring Zach Levi as Shazam seated across from Hespera
“SHAZAM! FURY OF THE GODS,” Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

At the film’s beginning, The Shazam kids poke fun at Billy’s inability to plan as a hero. By the film’s end, Billy has taken ownership of his role as a hero. This makes for interesting dialogue, but something is missing. At some point in the film, it seems the entire movie is about building Billy up as THE hero. This is not the worst way to go about a sequel, but we do end up with lower stakes than the first film.

As stated before, the Shazam family is the heart of the film. These kids are the type of kids everyone agrees need a win in their lives and deserve happiness. So, for a family-friendly movie such as this one, it does flutter one’s heart. It is also impressive how the adult actors playing the kids’ superhero forms are aligned with the kids’ characters. All in all, the film’s spark comes from the family, and it’s great to see this part of the magic from the first film still present.

What the Movie Lacks

Still of the movie featuring the kids of the Shazam movie
“SHAZAM! FURY OF THE GODS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

While the relationships between the kids and their parents are important, this alone cannot move a plot, especially when this part of the plot is interrupted by the daughters of Atlas: Hespera (Helen Mirren), Kalypso (Lucy Liu), and Anthea (Rachel Zegler), who have been unleashed on the human world thanks to Billy breaking the Wizard’s staff when fighting Sivana in the previous film.

The sisters’ interactions make for amazing scenes; of course, look at who the actresses are. However, it does seem as if their roles in the film are not utilized to complement these actresses’ talent. Hespera is the head queen during most of the movie but says little to nothing memorable. Kalypso takes over as a raging maniac halfway through the film, which was to be expected. Ziegler’s Anthea was surprisingly the best performance out of the three. Watching the film, you could not help but think these characters, and actresses were wasted.

Within the Shazam family, we do not see the magic of the kids interacting with each other as we did in the first film. Our moments with Billy and Freddie are non-existent, and the kids spend most of their time in hero form. The focus on Billy was a great choice. However, I still question what character development Billy underwent at the conclusion. Does he become a better hero? No. Does he firmly become the leader of the pack? Not really. The only character development we see from Billy is internal. He has learned to deal with his trauma and anxiety about the future, but that begs the question: is that enough?

One of the things that’s hard about judging the film is that we are expected to give the kids the benefit of the doubt because they’re kids. But I don’t know how long that can last.

Final Thoughts

Shazam: Fury of the Gods is a great movie, a great movie to see on a whim, and a great movie to take your kids to. However, the future of this film is unknown. Will we see these characters again? Maybe. With the DCEU reshaping itself, everything is in limbo.

If this is the final film in this journey, I say it’s a nice goodbye. If not, our next time seeing the Shazam kids must have some stakes. That charm of the first film is wearing thin, and audiences will have to question if it’s worth seeing again.

For more from Deareyes check out his review of Black Adam here!

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