"Shazam! Fury of the Gods" is the studio-produced sequel to the surprisingly decent 2019 franchise-starter "Shazam!" However, being a superhero movie made in 2023, it arrives with two strikes against it. One might expect a certain level of creative committee-mandated monotony, but the makers of the first film toned down both the Troma Lite cynicism and post-Spielberg sentimentality that's come to define the lighthearted James Gunn-style super-projects that dominate the landscape.
In "Shazam! Fury of the Gods," the focus remains mostly on the comic book formula that the first movie poked fun at. Nonetheless, star Zachary Levi delivers another strong comedic performance, and the leftovers still reheat well enough. Billy Batson (Asher Angel) and Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) return with their foster family members to fight the latest vengeful plot thread, a trio of vindictive sorceresses called the Daughters of Atlas, led by Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu), who want to avenge their father, Atlas (not in this picture). The identity of the third Daughter is briefly shrouded in mystery.
Despite yelling the magic word "Shazam," the Marvel Family, as comics fans know them, remain unknown to the residents of Philadelphia, where most of the movie takes place. They refer to the Marvels as the "Philly Fiascos," presumably because you can't successfully brand a DC Comics character as a Marvel anything. Billy also longs to know what his "superhero name" is, and he gets some answers after unexpectedly reuniting with his grumpy guru/mentor, the Wizard (Djimon Hounsou), who somehow survived the events of the first film.
The pre-chewed humor in "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" is charming thanks to the movie's ensemble cast members. Levi, who plays Billy's alter-ego Shazam (also known as Captain Marvel), and Adam Brody, who plays "Super Freddy" (AKA Captain Marvel Jr.), both stand out as adolescents struggling with thankless grown-up feelings and responsibilities. Although the movie's adult villains don't stand out, Mirren still smirks like a champ.
There are signs of a warmer and cleverer adolescent super-drama throughout "Shazam! Fury of the Gods." Clearly enunciated and frantically declaimed dialogue hints at Billy's prevailing fear of "aging out of" his family, especially now that he's about to turn 18 years old. His other family members also have lives to live, but we only catch glimpses of them whenever the plot stalls long enough to highlight likable but under-developed supporting characters, like the unicorn-loving Darla (Faithe Herman) or the closeted Pedro (Jovan Armand), both of whom graze the heart-strings with focus-group-level efficiency.
The movie might have been better if it were more focused on both Billy and Freddy and their hormonal anxieties. Billy dreams of wooing Wonder Woman (in two scenes), and Freddy's got a crush on new girl Anthea (Rachel Zegler, who sadly has no chemistry with Grazer). Billy keeps saying he's all about family, but maybe he should focus on feuding with his surrogate brother and wrestling with his super-ego? That worked before, so why not an encore?
Most of the big emotional moments lack cornball vigor, though Levi still takes all the extra room he's given to create a goofy character who, like an actual teenager, doesn't have a filter or an indoor voice. This makes up for some things, especially in
Despite its flaws, "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" still manages to entertain and offers plenty of moments of comedic relief. Zachary Levi delivers a great performance as the titular character, and his interactions with his foster family are heartwarming and funny. The movie also features a strong cast of supporting characters, each with their unique personalities and powers.
However, the plot can feel disjointed at times, with several storylines competing for attention. The introduction of the Daughters of Atlas, the search for Billy's superhero name, and the Marvel Family's struggles with growing up and maintaining their relationships with each other all feel like they could have been fleshed out more. As a result, the pacing of the movie can feel uneven, with some scenes feeling rushed while others drag on.
Despite these shortcomings, "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" still manages to deliver an enjoyable and lighthearted superhero movie experience. The humor is well-executed, and the characters are charming and endearing. The action scenes, while not as impressive as other superhero movies, still offer plenty of fun and excitement.
Overall, "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" is a decent sequel that manages to capture the spirit of the original while adding some new elements to the mix. While it may not be the most groundbreaking or innovative superhero movie, it still offers plenty of entertainment value and is sure to please fans of the genre.
Despite the film's shortcomings, there are still some enjoyable moments in "Shazam! Fury of the Gods." The movie leans into its comedic elements, which is where it shines the most. The interactions between the various foster siblings are charming and funny, and the moments where they get to use their powers are entertaining. Zachary Levi delivers another excellent performance as the titular hero, bringing his trademark charisma and humor to the role. He's particularly great in scenes where he's interacting with his foster siblings, showing off the chemistry between the cast.
However, the film's action sequences are lackluster and uninspired, lacking the excitement and energy that one would expect from a superhero movie. The visual effects are serviceable, but nothing particularly memorable. The film's villains, the Daughters of Atlas, are also underdeveloped and uninteresting. Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu do their best with the material they're given, but they're ultimately wasted in their roles.
One of the film's biggest issues is its lack of focus. The plot feels convoluted and overstuffed, trying to juggle too many characters and storylines. There are too many supporting characters that don't get enough development or screen time, and the film's attempts at emotional moments fall flat. The movie could have benefited from a tighter script that focused more on the relationships between the foster siblings and their struggles to balance their superhero lives with their personal ones.
In the end, "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" is a serviceable superhero movie that will appeal to fans of the first film and those looking for a lighthearted comedy. While it doesn't quite live up to its predecessor, it's still an entertaining watch with some standout performances and humorous moments. However, it ultimately suffers from a lack of focus and underdeveloped characters, making it feel like a missed opportunity to create a more compelling and engaging sequel.
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