In the long awaited sequel to 2019’s surprise success, we rejoin Billy Batson and his adopted family as they struggle to fill the roles of the everyday superhero.
The world is already protected by the likes of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, leaving Shazam:Fury of the Gods to tackle the question: where does this mismatched family of six fit in?
Zachary Levi reprises his role as Shazam, the super-powered adult alter ego of Billy Batson, and does an excellent job of playing into the humorous aspects of a child burdened with powers in the body of an adult. Just as he did in the first film, Levi plays a convincing teenage boy, with erratic and often disastrous decision making, and painfully accurate awkwardness. This is nothing new for Levi as his portrayal of Billy was one of the defining aspects of the first film.
In Fury of the Gods however, I found myself taken out of the story by some of Levi’s acting choices. Despite an overall good performance, Asher Angel, who plays Billy in his teenage form, seemed to be playing a different character at times. Because Levi appeared eager to recreate the humour and mannerisms that had everyone singing his praises in the first film, he forgot that in both the movie and real world, four years have passed and Billy is no longer 14 years old. Angel’s Billy looks and acts older than Levi’s version and while not detrimental to the film it stood out when compared to the other super-powered family members (who we spent far less time getting to know as characters).
Djimon Hounsou returned as ‘TheWizard’, and unlike the first film, he makes a real impact on the plot and enjoyability of the film. A begrudging help to Billy and his family, Hounsou plays the part of a powerful wizard who assumed his days of heroism and burdensome obligation were behind him after imbuing Billy with his god-like powers. Hounsou is a delightful injection of dry humour in an already funny film and perhaps opens the door for a new foray into comedy for an actor more known for serious roles.
In terms of plot, the film follows the usual end-of-the-world template that has serviced comic book movies for the last decade. The “Bad Guys” in this adaptation come in the form of Rachel Zegler, who jumped onto the scene in 2021 with Spielberg’s West Side Story, Helen Mirren (which was a shock to me too) and Lucy Lui. The trio make up The Daughters of Atlas, a kind of corrupt opposite to the goodness found in Billy’s family unit. Their motivations are somewhat trivial, but are saved by adequate performances from the very well-known and loved faces.
Fury of the Gods does well to not make the characters morals so cut and dry on both sides and had some relatable family dynamics – however skewed. Despite my disappointment with the predictable worldwide destruction narrative, I was pleasantly surprised by how grounded all the destruction felt. Yes, hundreds of nameless and inconsequential beasts were ransacking Philadelphia for much of the third act, but I still felt sympathetic toward the struggles that Billy and his siblings were fighting. In so many of the last-act large-scale superhero battles, the central conflict is lost behind huge CGI-filled fight sequences with no clear winner or loser. Family remains at the heart of this franchise and it’s all the better for it. It also helps that they quip and crack jokes as they contribute to the destruction of an entire city.
On a technical note, Fury of the Gods is well-paced and directed, using exciting narrative and characters to build upon the stories we were introduced to in 2019. An underwhelming performance at the global and domestic box office opening weekend belies what is a genuinely good and enjoyable film to watch at the cinema.
Shazam!: Fury of the Gods is leagues above the likes of Black Adam and the Latest Ant-Man and The Wasp film. Overall, I would recommend both the Shazam! films as fun and standalone introductions to DC Comics. It is a shame that new creative control at DC and Warner makes it unlikely that we will see these actors take on these characters again in the DC Universe.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is in UK cinemas now