“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” is the sequel to the 2019 film “Shazam!” and the 12th entry in the DC Extended Universe.
It stars a returning cast of Zachary Levi and Asher Angel as Billy Batson/Shazam, Jack Dylan Grazer and Adam Brody as Freddy Freeman, Grace Currey as Mary Bromfield, Ross Butler and Ian Chen as Eugene Choi, D.J. Cotorona and Jovan Armand as Pedro Pena, Meagan Good and Faithe Herman as Darla Dudley and Djimon Hounsou as the original wizard Shazam. New additions to the cast include Rachel Zegler, Helen Mirren, and Lucy Liu who play the three daughters of Atlas. The film follows Billy and his family as they navigate Billy’s abandonment issues and grow together as a foster family.
I was a massive fan of the first film – it was light-hearted and silly but it owned its silliness and chaos, unlike most superhero films. It wasn’t trying to make sense or be realistic, it was a fun movie about an emotionally unstable “emo” foster kid getting superpowers and that is exactly what it delivered. It was fun, adventurous and surprisingly emotional, so much so that I got attached to this completely crazy foster family. I went into the theater a little worried about how they were going to tell this story, but I had faith in David Sandberg’s direction and Henry Gayden’s writing considering they had created a great first film.
Unfortunately, I was right to be worried – the sequel falls into the trap that most superhero sequels fall into – mediocrity. The biggest culprit is the horrendous screenplay. It’s bad enough that the tonal inconsistencies and bad act transitions aren’t even its biggest issues. It’s the scrambled narrative and poor character writing that are the real problems.
It takes a lot of bad writing for a viewer to go from being completely charmed by this cute foster family to simply not caring about them. Billy’s fear of abandonment, Freddy feeling like he’s being suffocated, and Mary losing out on living like a typical college student and instead having to act like the parent of the group are issues that are briefly mentioned and then brushed aside for the typical action-adventure-ish “the world is ending and only they can stop it” plot. Forget resolving these issues; they’re never even mentioned again in this two hour film. It makes these moments feel ingenuine and crafted for the sake of momentary drama.
This is backed by hastily done and mostly unrefined CGI. Even the VFX characters are designed and rendered poorly – it’s the same templates being reused for the thousandth time. The cinematography sticks to the boring drab dark and blue-green tones, oversaturating each frame and making it instantaneously forgettable. It is assisted by a hilariously clashing score that overdoes itself. The first film didn’t hit it out of the ballpark with its technical aspects either but it was, at the very least, passable. This, unfortunately, isn’t even that.
The lighting, sound design, cinematography, and VFX aren’t great individually and they become even worse when they’re layered onto a single frame. It’s badly oversaturated, tonally inconsistent, has no symbolic connection to the plot or the characters, and is simply boring. There’s chaos in every frame and yet somehow each shot is easily forgettable.
The fight choreography and editing are repetitive, with most of them being medium shots that are lined up together without any variety. The production design is mediocre at best and yes, our heroes reconvene at an abandoned garage and the climax battle takes place at Citizens Bank Park. When the director of photography does manage to take a rare visually stimulating shot, it is cut away quickly. Even the climax fight is boring and doesn’t make you fear for the characters’ safety, which is the nail in the coffin for an action-superhero film.
The film also lacks a strong villain or any villain to be honest because Kalypso is hilariously unconvincing. Lucy Liu’s performance is limited to one expression which some might quantify as her attempt at a villain smirk. The rest of the cast isn’t incredibly convincing either, partly because of the poorly written material and partly because I think they too, like us, have given up on the DCEU. There are some stand-out emotional moments but they are exceptionally rare and fleeting throughout the scattered narrative.
Overall, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” is a poorly made film with some rare moments of the characters we’d come to love shine through. Is it worth enduring two hours of absolutely nonsensical unstructured chaos for those fleeting moments? Not really.