Movie Review: 'Shazam Fury of the Gods' is Blandly Competent and Mindless
A little boring but far from awful, Shazam Fury of the Gods is unmemorable but otherwise inoffensive.
Shazam Fury of the Gods (2023)
Directed by David Sandberg
Written by Harry Gayden, Chris Morgan
Starring Zachary Levi, Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, Adan Brody, D.J Cotrona, Meagan Good, Rachel Zegler
Release Date March 17th, 2023
Published March 20th, 2023
Just as James Gunn is about to explode the D.C Universe, Shazam Fury of the Gods arrives to recall the Snyder-verse heyday just as it seems to be coming to an end. Yes, we still have an Aquaman sequel and a Flash movie in our future, but the path being cut in the D.C film universe still appears to have reached an end. Whether that is a good or bad thing is entirely subjective to your feelings about D.C's scattershot personification of superheroes in the movies. Sometimes the D.C Universe is dour and bleak and sometimes the D.C Universe is broad and goofy and nothing D.C has done has married these disparate tones despite the a clear sharing of characters across movies definitively linking the movies together.
Zach Snyder's vision of D.C's future as a wasteland ruled over by a bitter, out of control Superman still clashes violently with the vibrant, colorful and childlike wonder of Wonder Woman 84 and especially Shazam which leans further into the candy color of childhood with Shazam Fury of the Gods. Where Snyder eagerly drained the world of color, going as far as to make black and white versions of his films, Shazam and its sequel, clearly exist in a coloring book universe of childlike imagination and bright, bright colors. Shazam Fury of the Gods even has unicorns, albeit, scary snorting, warrior unicorns, they're still unicorns and that flies desperately in the face of Snyder's self-serious to the point of parody vision.
Perhaps that is why Shazam was never glimpsed in any of Batman/The Flash's visions of the future. There is no place in that universe for an angst-riddled, slacker, dreamer like Billy Batson. Shazam is the guy who would get too confident and get himself absolutely killed by an angry Superman. Say, now that I think about it, that actually tracks with the bleakness of the Snyder-vers. Evil of the future would totally demolish the young heroes of Shazam Fury of the Gods, a group who still marvels over their own powers and obsess about their superhero names. Well, now that I have talked myself into how the D.C Film Universe actually makes sense, via the likely horrific future death of Billy Batson and his family, let's talk about Shazam Fury of the Gods.
As we join the story, a pair of women dressed as ancient warriors have entered a museum to retrieve an evil wooden Staff. This Staff had been used by the big bad of the last Shazam movie. In that film, spoiler alert, Billy Batson busted the staff on the assumption that breaking it would destroy its world destroying magic. What Billy could not know was that the magic in the staff was all that was keeping sisters and ex-Gods, Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu), from entering the human realm. With the staff broken, the sisters come to Earth, reassemble the staff and proceed to murder a museum full of people. These deaths are never referenced again.
At home, Billy Batson is struggling to keep his family of superheroes together. Each of his brothers and sisters want to go off and do their own thing. This is especially true of Freddy (Jack Dylan Glazer as teen Freddy, Adam Brody as his superhero alter-ego) who has been sneaking out to fight crime on his own. Freddy has also met a girl, Ann (Rachel Zegler), who, much to his surprise, is immediately interested in him. If you find her sudden arrival and interest in a gawky teenage outsider suspicious, follow that instinct.
The Daughters of Atlas, as Hespera and Calypso are known in legend, have come to Earth with the plans not only to retrieve the coveted staff. They are also searching for the children to whom the powers of the Gods have been imparted. The staff is capable of stealing the powers back and that's what Hespera is attempting to take as she goes about drawing Shazam and his family into the open. Meanwhile, Calypso has her eye on 'the seed,' a weapon that in her realm could restore Atlas's Mount Olympus to its former glory. Used on Earth however, the seed would kill millions and destroy civilization for the foreseeable future.
Those are the basics of the plot of Shazam Fury of the Gods. What's left is a mélange of mildly amusing patter and big action sequences. In the end, none of it is particularly memorable with Zachary Levi's whiny doofus performance morphing from childlike and charming in Shazam into obnoxious and irksome in Shazam Fury of the Gods. Billy doesn't seem to have grown up much in the years since the original. He's still thin-skinned and angst-ridden. He's still inappropriately cutesy and naïve around life threatening danger, and the movie does little to nothing to give Billy an arc from being a doofus to becoming a better person.
The film is far more interested in making comic references to the Fast and the Furious franchise, cheeky references to the Marvel Universe, and product placement in movies, than it is in telling a well rounded story with strong character arcs. The film, at the very, very least, remains breezy with a strong intention of lightening up some heavy, world ending material. That said, the comedy doesn't hit hard enough to register as anything more than mildly amusing. The tone is light and deft and the pace doesn't linger for longer than needed but overall, the characters just haven't seemed to change all that much.
An early mention of how the group doesn't work together well is well demonstrated in a chaotic bridge rescue but that theme fails to come back in a meaningful way. The ending has Billy seemingly sacrificing himself to save his family and going it alone which defies the theme about the family learning to work together. The rest of the cast are spectators, especially after they all lose their superhero powers. Yes, admittedly, the family still acts heroically as part of the chaotic ending, but the choice to have Billy alone against the big bad of the movie is the wrong lesson to learn.
On a technical level, there isn't much wrong with Shazam Fury of the Gods. David F. Sandberg is a reliable pair of hands behind the camera. I would have rather see him push the boundaries of this out there, off-shoot franchise, but as it is, Shazam Fury of the Gods is technically sound with good camera work, spot on scene setting, costumes, and production design. It's all good work, for the most part, but since the script is so rote and predictable, the technical competence is merely a reassurance that you are watching someone do their job in a perfectly acceptable fashion.
There is nothing dangerous or exciting or different about Shazam Fury of the Gods, The film is a solid single into left field, a mild success. It's not a movie that takes big risks, though it does pretend toward a big risk. Studio dictates, I imagine, mean that the moviegoing public must go home happy, even if that means ruining the only different, exciting and bold choice the film makes, has to be upended in the most convoluted and goofy way possible. Shazam Fury of the Gods still isn't a terrible movie. Rather, it's just one in a growing line of competent, passable, boring movies that play it desperately, boringly, safe.
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About the Creator
Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for Everyone's a Critic Movie Review Podcast. I am a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.
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