It seems kind of pointless nowadays to talk about the DCEU. While the MCU has been losing a lot of steam and has been picking up a lot of negativity and indifference due to recent releases, DC is just irrelevant. With James Gunn announcing his plans for future DC films, there’s just an air about the last vestiges of its current slate of films that have no real future. Who cares about Black Adam or The Flash? By this time next year, most of it’s going to be meaningless, so the question I had was is Shazam! Fury of the Gods even going to matter by then?
I guess that’s why going into the film, I couldn’t help but feel like I was seeing the film out of an obligation. The first film was a pretty fun coming-of-age story that, while conventional at parts, still delivered a decent ride. The sequel doesn’t do that. It tries to be more of a superhero action film but losses a lot of the charm that the first movie had, with a much weaker emotional core that renders a lot of the character development from the first movie meaningless.
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Shazam! Fury of the Gods
Director: David F. Sandberg
Release Date: March 17, 2023 (Theatrical)
Two years have passed since the first film and Billy Batson (Asher Angel), now nearing the age of 18, is worried about losing his family once he graduates from the foster system. Because of this, he’s become a lot more possessive and worried about them when transforming into Shazam (Zachery Levi), which draws ire from the rest of the family when they’re out superheroing. Things get even worse when the daughters of Atlas, played by Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, and Rachel Zegler, attempt to steal Shazam and his family’s magical powers and use them to lay siege on the human world.
While the first movie had a lot of silly charm to it by framing it as a superhero version of Big, Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a lot more annoying. Billy, whether it be as a normal kid or as Shazam never shuts up and all of his jokes feel like a bizarre stream of consciousness. His personality is grating and overbearing and just sucks all of the energy out of the room. While before there was a lot of focus on the power of family, now it seems like the Billy show, which is directly counterintuitive to the themes of the original film. Plus when they do get a chance to shine, they’re just as basic and bland as can be.
Billy’s siblings all get the short end of the stick in a variety of different ways. Pedro (D.J. Cotrona/Jovan Armand) has an “arc” about him coming to terms with his sexuality that is only mentioned in a gag at the beginning and a throwaway line midway through the film. Darla (Meagan Good/Faithe Herman) has a love of unicorns that is brought back in the most laughable and absurd bit of marketing since the time Krispy Kreme was featured as a pivotal plot point in Power Rangers. Mary (Grace Fulton) is dealing with the pressures of trying to find a job and debating whether she wants to go to college… I think. I ask because the movie is so vague with its supporting cast to the point where I forget what their arcs in the film even are outside of supporting Billy and his antics.
The emotional core of the film is weak and disjointed, but it’s not as weak as the action is. What few action scenes there are have all been poorly shot and feel exceptionally fake. I know that is par for the course for superhero blockbusters of its type, but when I can tell that most of the action is shot on a green screen to the point where I question if any of the actors are in the same room as each other, it’s a bad look. Even the surprise cameo, which was spoiled in the marketing, looked like a quickly done last-minute addition to try and sucker more people into seeing the film.
I guess I’ve been spoiled by more competent action movies like The Batman and Bullet Train, but nothing that this film did really impressed me or wowed me. For a big action blockbuster, there’s an expectation that there should be at least some grandeur and impressive visual feats, but there’s nothing here to latch onto. Even the climax, which features a whole host of monsters invading Philly and a fight against a giant dragon, feels so hollow and lifeless in comparison. To be honest, I don’t even know the names of the villains because they’re so cookie-cutter generic that it’s actually impressive. It doesn’t help the film is basically just Zachery Levi quipping the entire time. The only thing that was remotely entertaining about the film was actually one of its post-credits scenes, which was only as good as it was because it reminded me how much fun another DCEU series is.
Let’s be real: there’s very little that’s worth recommending in Shazam! Fury of the Gods. It’s unremarkable in basically every way and doesn’t have anything that’s particularly noteworthy. It takes everything that was good about the first movie and makes it worse in nearly every respect. The few emotionally affecting moments are drowned out by a sea of crappy jokes, poor action scenes, and a dismissive attitude that undermines most of the heart that was present originally. By comparison, Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a soulless addition to the larger, now mostly worthless, DCEU that hopefully will improve with James Gunn’s new direction.