It’s a rather slow weekend and a particularly cold one here in the Twin Cities, but for some reason, my hubby and I were in the mood to go to the movies. We loved the first Shazam! movie as it was zany, goofy, and silly but with a huge heart as Billy Batson (Asher Angel) gained superhero powers while navigating life as a foster kid, moving from one foster family to another. Now, at the end of the first movie, Billy’s powers end up spreading to his extended family so his orphan siblings all have a superhero alter ego, led by the eternally gregarious, overly exuberant Zachary Levi as the title character.
As the name says, the movie opens with an action scene involving two angry gods proclaiming to be the daughters of Atlas, played by Dame Helen Mirren as Hespera and Lucy Liu as Kalypso. Hell hath no fury like two female gods scorned. They wreak havoc at a Greek museum trying to retrieve an ancient wooden staff and hellbent on restoring their father’s power on earth. Given the comedic tone of the first movie, there’s no real suspense or sense of dread even as museum patrons collectively perish. It’s never clear just what they’re furious about but there’s clearly a sibling rivalry between them.
The Daughters of Atlas apparently aren’t in the comics and the writers clearly derived inspiration from Greek mythology for the characters. That is fitting considering the acronym of Shazam’s name stands for the six ancient mythical heroes whom he got his mighty powers from – Solomon (wisdom), Hercules (strength), Atlas (stamina), Zeus (power), Achilles (courage), and Mercury (speed).
The tone of the first movie is carried over to the sequel, leveraging the comedic strength of Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer as Billy’s bestie, Freddy. The Shazamily is still working out the kinks of working as a team, though they constantly bungle their crime-fighting-and-saving-people effort that they’re dubbed the ‘Philly fiasco’ by the city’s media. But hey, they are still kids and teenagers after all. In fact, Freddy still gets bullied at school though things start looking up for him when he meets a new transfer student Anthea (Rachel Zegler) who’s got a pretty big secret of her own.
What I like about the first movie is the delicate balance between a poignant coming-of-age story of an orphan, mixed with a tale of a kid discovering his magical powers. The duality of Billy/Shazam is hilarious and sets Shazam! apart from other superhero movies as Billy is so relatable even after he becomes a superhero. In this one, we don’t get to see much of that duality and we barely see Asher Angel in it at all. I’m glad that they gave Grazer more screen time here and some of his comedic scenes with Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) are some of the highlights. Hounsou revels in his comedic chops as he’s rarely given an opportunity to do so.
Shazam! prides itself on being the only superhero comedy movie and I actually laughed quite a bit watching this. I have to admit that I rolled my eyes at some of the juvenile jokes, but for the most part, I enjoy the fact that they poke fun at themselves and the crowded superhero genre. Even the dopey pop-culture references to Lord Of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Fast & Furious (it’s all about family!!), and fellow DC heroes, are pretty amusing. I even love Steve the magical pen who’s so good at letter dictation it yields hilarious results.
Sometimes the silliness goes overly absurd that it’s cringe-inducing, such as the one when the Wizard’s bearded head magically appears on Wonder Woman’s body [shudder]. Speaking of WW, SPOILER ALERT – apparently, WB had teased the cameo of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman but thankfully I missed seeing that on social media, so I was quite surprised when she showed up. Not that it really made much of a difference in the quality of the movie, but it was entertaining nonetheless.
Director David F. Sandberg is back at the helm after the success of the first movie, working from a script by Henry Gayden (who also worked on the original movie) and Chris Morgan. They strive to keep the familial aspect and the bit about Billy feeling angsty about aging out of the foster system is genuinely moving. Unfortunately, the emotionally-grounded scenes get drowned out by the fury-of-the-gods shenanigans that seem to have been concocted simply to include a goddess riding a giant dragon (hence the Khaleesi reference). I’ve been so CGI-ed out for a while and like many other DC movies, there are way too many computer effects that look garish visually. The third act especially suffers from a loud, overblown finale complete with product placement for um, Skittles?? Sorry but the whole tree root overtaking downtown Philly along with its demonic creatures looks so artificial it’s distracting. Is that all they could do given its $125 mil budget??
As for the cast, nice to see the same diversity we see in the first movie with practically every race represented. Levi and Grazer have great comic timing, but Levi’s schtick as an infantile boy in a grown man’s buff body gets pretty repetitive. Out of all the actors playing superhero versions of Shazamily, only Adam Brody is given something to work with, the rest simply look the part in their form-fitting costumes. Dame Mirren is always fun to watch in action-packed movies and it’s fun seeing Lucy Liu hamming it up as the main villain here, though the characters are so thinly written that they waste such a talented pair.
Most sequels are often worse than the original movie and that is the case with this one. The Rotten Tomatoes score drops significantly from 90% for the original Shazam! to 52% as of the time I’m writing this review. I personally think the script is a big step down from the original, losing much of the heartfelt elements we see in the first movie. Despite the flaws though, I think Fury of the Gods is pretty decent overall and managed to get a few laughs out of me to make it worth seeing on the big screen. So this sequel may not be as good as the satisfying crowd-pleaser of the original, but certainly is not an abomination the way some critics made it out to be.
That said, I’m not exactly clamoring to see more of this DC hero. Its box office receipt falls below expectations despite not having much competition this weekend, so I doubt we get to see another Shazam! movie under James Gunn/Peter Safran DC overhaul.
12 thoughts on “Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023) Review – not as satisfying a crowd-pleaser as the first movie, but still delivers some laughs”
I’m starting to think that we as an audience are kind of going into a bit of fatigue when it comes to superhero films and it’s starting to show. I do want to see this as I really enjoyed the last film but it seems like DC is going through some issues with this change in leadership but also trying to clean up the mess that the Crock made with Black Adam. I’m surprised how little this film made as I think it’s time that audiences get a break from superhero films for a bit. Right now, things in Marvel isn’t going well either as one of its key producers in Victoria Alonso just left the company as she was considered the right-hand woman to Kevin Feige and now I’m worried.
Oh for sure people are tired of superhero stuff. I know I am, that’s why I skipped Black Adam (even more tired of Dwayne Johnson’s smugness, ugh!). But I liked the first Shazam and having Helen Mirren in it made me want to check it out and I’m glad I did.
Yeah, I’m shocked about Victoria Alonso which I read that she herself was blindsided so sounds like she might have been let go instead of her leaving on her own accord. Hmmmm…
I just read what happened with Victoria Alonso and I feel like she’s become a scapegoat for what happened with Quantumania though I don’t think it was the visual effects that went wrong. It was the story and whoever made the decision to hire Jeff Loveness is the one that needs to be called out. I know it wasn’t her.
Speaking of Dwayne… last night when I was in the live chat for Solomonster’s AEW Dynamite review. There was a lot of talk about him and a lot of us wrestling fans do feel like he has changed into someone we don’t really know and don’t really like. Back then in his prime as a wrestler, he was one of the most selfless individuals that was beloved by everyone. Now, he is a selfish piece of shit who has now decided to become a brand. I’m sorry but if you decide to become a brand instead of doing good work and such. Then you’re a fucking asshole.
Yeah, the VFX of Quantumania isn’t great but there are way worse problems! I wonder what’s really going on but it’s a bummer they made a woman to be the scapegoat, ugh!
As for Dwayne, wow I never would have thought he was a selfless person at one point! But yeah, sounds like he’s now a byproduct of someone completely consumed by unbridled ambition. He’s already so famous but as you said, he wants to be his own brand which is so ridiculous. That’s why I’m rarely on social media anymore, so sick of fame-hungry ‘influencers’ type people who want to become a brand just like him, blech!
Some of us wrestling fans have started to sour on him nearly a decade ago when he did return to the WWE for a brief period and did that WrestleMania match with John Cena which was supposed to be a one-time thing. Instead, WWE decided to do the rematch the next WrestleMania at the expense of those who were trying to get the chance to headline WrestleMania which is why there’s bitterness towards him.
Back when he debuted in 1996 after having failed to play professional football in the Canadian Football League in the early 90s. People didn’t like him because he was a cheesy babyface with an awful hairdo and was pushed to the moon when he didn’t pay his dues in front of the fans. It was when he turned heel and joined the Nation of Domination is when the Rock was born.
Part of the reason he was so selfless then was that he had to be humbled and he did jobs to wrestlers that no one would think he would. In early 2003, he did it to Gregory Helms aka the Hurricane just before the Rock was to do his match with Stone Cold Steve Austin in WrestleMania XIX. Yet, it was the Hollywood Heel Rock character that Rock was playing as that was my favorite version of the Rock because he was such a superstar, so charismatic, and so funny yet he was also smug and full of himself in a comical manner.
I hate influencers as well. They’re just lazy losers who couldn’t handle the idea of getting a real job.
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I have yet to see the first film, one of the few super hero flicks that I don’t really want to see. Not sure if I’ll ever see the first one since Warner Bros. is rebooting their DCEU. I really think Marvel and DC needs to slow down with these super hero flicks, audiences are not showing up in theaters as much as they used to.
I hear ya Ted! I skipped Black Adam and Aquaman and was gonna skip The Flash too until I saw the trailer w/ Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton back as Batman, so I’ll see it for those two Batmen, ahahaha.
I’m not all that enthused that James Gunn is gonna direct Superman Legacy. To me the best Superman is still the Richard Donner original, that one is still the one to beat.
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