New to UK and US cinemas from today is the comic book action movie, Shazam!: Fury of the Gods. The film – a sequel to 2019’s Shazam! – stars Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Lucy Liu, Helen Mirren, and Djimon Hounsou, and sees the titular hero take on the daughters of Atlas.
In the film, young Billy Batson is at a crossroads in life. On the one hand he is part of a superhero family who can do pretty much anything; but on the other hand, he is about to reach the age of 18, which means he will ‘age-out’ of the foster system.
This is something which weighs heavy on his mind, as he knows that in the coming months his life is about to change. And despite his best efforts to keep the Shazam family together in order to maintain some consistency, things aren’t going the way he would like.
But what Billy doesn’t know is that another problem is on the horizon. The daughters of Atlas are in town, they have retrieved the magical staff that once belonged to the ‘Wizard’, and they are on the hunt for the Shazam family.
Their goal is to use the staff to remove Billy’s superhero abilities, as well as the abilities of his nearest and dearest. Once they have depowered the heroes, they will become all-powerful themselves, and will be a significant threat to the world.
Can Billy and Co. rally together to stop their new foes from causing havoc or is the world in mortal danger? And more importantly, is this Shazam sequel worth anyone’s time, in light of recent news that big changes are ahead for the DC Extended Universe?
*Takes a heavy sigh*
Before I discuss Shazam! Fury of the Gods, I believe it is important to highlight a particular issue surrounding this movie. It is an issue which may impact how well this film does at the box-office, and why audiences potentially might skip seeing this Shazam! sequel at the cinema.
For those that aren’t quite sure what I’m talking about, at the beginning of this year, newly appointed co-CEO of DC Studios, James Gunn, announced that the DC Extended Universe (i.e. the universe this movie exists in), is coming to an end. The era of Henry Cavill’s Superman, the Justice League, Black Adam and many of the films that have come before, are going to be put to one side in order for a reboot and revamp to take place beginning in 2025.
This reboot will usher in a whole new direction for DC movies, and will bring with it a new Superman, as well as a new Batman. The plan is to shake things up, start again in key places, and try and get the DC movie-verse into a much better shape than it has operated in for the past decade.
Now, while this is not necessarily a bad thing, as the last ten years of DCEU movies have been patchy at best, it does leave one significant issue: Between now and the launch of the new-look DC Universe, there are still four films to be released. These are movies that were shot a little while back, before the reboot was decided, and they are still being released as they are already in the can.
The first movie is Shazam!: Fury of the Gods, while the second is The Flash which arrives in June. Movies three and four are Blue Beetle which opens in August, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom which debuts in December.
So, while the DCEU continues for now and will keep going for the remainder of this year, the release of Shazam!: Fury of the Gods today, essentially marks the beginning of the end. The universe that we are still being asked to invest our time and money in at present will mostly fizzle out by the end of 2023, and will get replaced by something else.
Of course, this doesn’t mean these four new films are worthless and can’t still be enjoyed on their own merit, but knowing the DCEU is being overhauled, does leave a slightly sour taste in the mouth. It is difficult to get excited about a collection of movies that exist in an established universe, when we already know that universe is being dismantled and reworked.
There is a possibility that through some multiverse shenanigans, some of these movies will survive the forthcoming reboot, but I can’t help but feel that Shazam’s days are numbered. The young cast of the Shazam films aren’t getting any younger, no future Shazam projects have been announced, and I’m not convinced any of the major players will return in the future anyway.
Now, I am telling you all this to create a bit of context to the release of Shazam!: Fury of the Gods. This movie isn’t just coming out as usual, it exists at a point in time where the core fanbase know BIG changes are ahead and many of these fans are not happy.
I consider myself part of the core fanbase, and at present I am largely indifferent to the whole thing. While I do believe the DCEU has been a huge mess pretty much from the early days, I don’t believe a reboot at this stage (now we’ve come this far) is entirely necessary.
But either way, it’s happening. It is what it is, and in the next few years changes will take place for better or worse.
The only real problem I have with all this, is that in light of the changes, I don’t feel all that bothered about Shazam!: Fury of the Gods or any of the other DC movies coming out this year. I want to care about the release of this film, especially as I loved the first Shazam! movie, but I feel like the wind has been knocked out of this sequel’s sails, and nothing is going to alter this.
However, being the ultimate professional that I am, I still took the time today to see the movie, even if going into it, I was no longer excited about what lay ahead. But hey, it’s not the director’s fault if the universe is changing, so he still deserves a chance to entertain, right?
Yes indeed – and for the first 15 minutes of Shazam!: Fury of the Gods, I will tell you now that my disinterest faded away and my excitement returned. This is because the film starts off fun, it quickly brings in the humour, and shows a great deal of promise.
Unfortunately, once those first 15 minutes come and go, things are a lot less rosy. Structural problems began to appear, boredom set in, and all that disinterest took over once more.
I’m sorry to say, that irrespective of what is going on in the wider DCEU, Shazam!: Fury of the Gods is a mess. The pacing is off, it drags beyond belief, and it is overstuffed with ideas which bloat the picture terribly.
At various points throughout the film I just wanted it to end. Had the projector broken down or the building caught fire I would have happily walked away, not even caring if I saw the end of the movie.
The biggest problem with Shazam!: Fury of the Gods is that it tries to do too much. The first film was fairly simplistic in its approach, and this worked to its advantage; but this time around director David F. Sandberg throws the whole kitchen sink at the screen, along with anything else that isn’t nailed down.
The film includes a magical staff, an energy dome, a golden apple, a big-ass dragon, a family of six superheroes, and multiple villains, as well as various other things I won’t even mention. Just writing all this down is enough to give me a headache, so imagine how it feels to actually watch it all pop up on screen.
Actually, you don’t need to imagine because I will tell you: IT IS EXHAUSTING. There is so much going on in this movie, that not only does it become relentless, it becomes confusing and really tedious too.
The sheer amount of plot points thrown into the film also significantly impact the pacing. Whenever the film feels like it is finally going somewhere, another new element is introduced and this slows things down considerably.
And because the pacing is thrown off, the jokes feel off too. Shazam!: Fury of the Gods has the same type of humour as its predecessor, and therefore should be as funny as before, but it simply isn’t.
I laughed a couple of times, but for the most part I barely let out even so much as a titter. The same went for everyone else in my screening, who might have fallen asleep for all I know, as there was certainly no laughter in the aisles.
The other big issue with the film is that it loses sight of what it initially sets out to do. As the film begins, it makes it clear that Billy Batson is having a bit of an internal crisis, which could shape the rest of the film; however, once this idea is put in play, it largely falls by the wayside.
In fact, Billy Batson not only gets side-lined in the story, he barely appears in the movie at all. Actor Asher Angel, who takes on the role of Billy is mostly absent from this picture, and only pops up a few times when absolutely necessary.
His involvement in this sequel feels very much like a contractual obligation. He certainly doesn’t make an impression this time around, and this is a shame considering he was such an important part of the first movie.
With Batson (and Asher) out, the film tries to make up for things in the superhero department, by dazzling with scenes of spectacle instead. But if there’s no soul, and no heart, then all the bashing and crashing feels kind of pointless.
And when some of the scenes of spectacle also involve some ropey CGI, then it only makes matters worse. The effects aren’t always up to scratch and some look really bad.
To be fair to Shazam!: Fury of the Gods, it’s not all doom and gloom – even if I am giving that impression. Despite the many issues that plague this picture, it does get some things right.
Early into the movie there is a neat rescue scene which is well handled, and there are a couple of smile-inducing moments at the very end of the film. One of these moments is particularly likeable (I won’t spoil it here), and demonstrates some of the fun that can be had in the DCEU.
The returning cast are also on fine form, with the stand-out star continuing to be Jack Dylan Grazer, who plays Billy’s foster brother, Freddy Freeman. Grazer was excellent in the first movie, he’s just as good this time around, and he never faulters, even if the material he’s given sometimes lets him down.
Then to add to this, Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren are also great in the movie, playing the villainous daughters of Atlas. Both seem to have a ball as the ‘baddies’, they ham up their parts accordingly, and work their way around some of the CGI nonsense without missing a beat.
All of the above help this film out and stop it from being a disaster, and that is at least a positive. But sadly, it is still a wishy-washy movie, that feels incredibly clunky.
It’s not the worst entry in the DCEU, but it’s certainly not one of the good ones. It buckles under its own weight, and seems to place its focus in all the wrong areas.
Because I enjoyed the first Shazam movie as much as I did, I had high hopes for this sequel. I wanted it to build on what had come before, in a meaningful way, while still retaining the core values of what made the original film shine.
Yet, while there are signs those core values are still present in Shazam!: Fury of the Gods, the desire to go bigger gets in the way. Despite a few flashes of fun here and there, something gets lost in the mix, and the end result is a generic blockbuster which is very disappointing.
My general feeling about watching Shazam!: Fury of the Gods is that things happened around me, I saw them, I tried to make sense of it all, but at various points throughout I completely disconnected. I went in disinterested, and I came out feeling the same, and I can’t say at any stage did I have a good time.
I honestly don’t know if Shazam will survive the impending DC reboot, but based on this sequel I no longer think it matters. Stay or go I’m not fussed, as I feel I’ve had my fill for the foreseeable future and am happy not to sit through another messy film.
Thank you for taking the time to read this review on It’s A Stampede!. For more reviews, check out the recommended reads below.
Leave a Reply