Studio: New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures
Theatrical Release Date: March 17, 2023
Digital Media Release Date: April 7, 2023
Physical Media Release Date: May 23, 2023
Description: From New Line Cinema comes Shazam! Fury of the Gods, which continues the story of teenage Billy Batson who, upon reciting the magic word “Shazam!,” is transformed into his adult Super Hero alter ego, Shazam.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods stars returning cast members Zachary Levi as Shazam; Asher Angel as Billy Batson; Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman; Adam Brody as Super Hero Freddy; Ross Butler as Super Hero Eugene; Meagan Good as Super Hero Darla; D.J. Cotrona as Super Hero Pedro; Grace Caroline Currey as Mary Bromfield / Super Hero Mary; Faithe Herman as Darla Dudley; Ian Chen as Eugene Choi; Jovan Armand as Pedro Pena; Marta Milans as Rosa Vasquez; Cooper Andrews as Victor Vasquez; with Djimon Hounsou as Wizard. Joining the cast are Rachel Zegler, with Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren.
The film is directed by David F. Sandberg and produced by Peter Safran, both returning from the 2019 Shazam! film. Shazam! Fury of the Gods is written by Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan, based on characters from DC; Shazam! was created by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck. Executive producers are Walter Hamada, Adam Schlagman, Richard Brener, Dave Neustadter, Victoria Palmeri, Marcus Viscidi and Geoff Johns.
Joining director Sandberg behind-the-camera are director of photography Gyula Pados, production designer Paul Kirby and editor Michel Aller. The music supervisor is Season Kent and the music is by Christophe Beck. Visual effects supervisors are Bruce Jones and Raymond Chen. The costume designer is Louise Mingenbach.
New Line Cinema presents A Peter Safran Production of A David F. Sandberg Film, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, which is set to open in theaters internationally beginning 15 March 2023 and in North America on March 17, 2023.
By James Harvey
The Big Red Cheese faces off against big dragons and ancient gods in Shazam! Fury of the Gods, a satisfyingly lively though lacking follow-up to the 2019 original. While it can’t recapture the charm of its successor, this sequel still delivers plenty of laughs, action and more than a few heartfelt moments. It aims to match the stature of other recent comic book-based movies, but can’t quite make it, though it survives thanks to some stand-out set pieces and lively characters.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods follows Billy Batson and his foster siblings, who all transform into superheroes by saying “Shazam!” When they find themselves forced into action to fight the Daughters of Atlas, Billy and his “Shazamily” must do whatever it takes to stop them from using a weapon that could destroy the world. However, when Billy realizes the trio of Daughters are after him and his family explicitly, it becomes a race against time to stop them before the young heroes are stripped of their powers forever.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods starts off strong, immediately introducing us to the Daughters of Atlas courtesy of a great, horror movie-tinged introduction to the foes, before hopping right to the big-screen superheroics. Well, sort of. While Shazam and his fellow superheroes rescue scores of people from a collapsing bridge, they unfortunately fail to stop the actual bridge from crashing into the river, drawing criticism and derision from the citizens of Philadelphia, where our heroes are stationed. This botched incident, plus the Daughters’ arrival, effectively gets the ball rolling for the many problems the “Shazamily” will be facing in this airy, enjoyable two-hour-plus outing.
To quickly note, recent changes to DC Comics’ cinematic universe plans and the resulting upcoming reboot won’t be taken into account here. What matters is the movie itself and its story, that’s it, not any of the external forces outside of its control.
While the original Shazam! stayed primarily focused on the titular young heroes, Shazam! Fury of the Gods ups the stakes a bit. The whole world is at risk and it’s up to the Shazam kids to save the day. Director David F. Sandberg’s 2019 original worked so well because it kept the scale small and personal, but with enough self-aware humor and heart (think “Penny Marshall’s Big“) to feel fresh in the crowded superhero movie market. There’s hints of that in Shazam! Fury of the Gods, but the film’s clear attempts to bring the characters onto a bigger-scale stage doesn’t quite work as the Shazam kids get lost in the mix.
Despite keeping the original’s vibe of a 1980s kids adventure movie relatively intact, the sequel’s attempts to go bigger and broader falter as the film’s cast of characters get swept up in the plentiful superhero fisticuffs. Billy being worried here about aging out of the foster system and losing his new family is an engaging idea, and a natural progression of his story from the first Shazam!, but it’s never really given enough screen time to make it feel like it really matters.
The same can be said about Billy’s struggles with letting his siblings chart their own paths, which amount to just a few good character beats (including one character mustering up the courage to come out to his siblings) and not much else. This stronger material is unfortunately set aside to give more time for action and flashy heroics (despite those heroics usually going awry in some comical fashion).
Still, there’s a lot here that makes this a really enjoyable outing for both fans of the original Shazam!, or those just looking for fun, uncomplicated superheroics. There are some undeniably great bits of action and imagery, such as Shazam fighting a wooden dragon-riding goddess, along with the Shazamily duking it out with some imaginative (and creepy) creatures. The eye candy is abundant and mostly entertaining, but without the original movie’s heartfelt, “wish fulfillment”-type spark to balance it all out, the story and stakes don’t really connect and, as a result, the action doesn’t quite hit the high notes it should.
The foes at the heart of Shazam! Fury of the Gods help elevate the proceedings, especially Helen Mirren clearly having a blast as the villainous goddess Hespera. The same can be said for Luci Liu, playing fellow goddess Kalypso and hamming it up gleefully. Rachel Zegler as Anne, the Third Daughter of Atlas, gets the best arc among the Daughters when she gets romantically involved with Freddy, played by Jack Dylan Grazer (who repeatedly steals the show and provides most of the film’s laughs). This burgeoning romance, while a shade predictable, gives the film some of its most emotionally-charged moments, especially when it becomes clear that Anne is more than just a new exchange student in town.
When it comes to the film’s title character, there appears to be a bit of a disconnect between Asher Angel as Billy Baston and Zachary Levi as Batson’s superhero alter-ego. Angel’s Batson is frustrated with his siblings and is struggling to keep both his foster family and his Shazamily close, and that doesn’t really register whenever Levi steps in to take over the role as the Big Red Cheese.
Levi’s Shazam continues to come off as a hammy goofball, almost uncaring, and at times doesn’t even seem like he’s playing the same character as Angel. It’s not until the movie heads into the final act do these two disparate elements finally work together satisfyingly in some capacity, though not as effectively as they could. Levi does good work as Shazam, and embodies the role well, but the character’s dopey act starts to run very, very thin here.
With its faults, Shazam! Fury of the Gods unfortunately somewhat comes across as nothing more than just another take on the typical “good vs. evil” tale, despite director Sandberg’s best efforts. He truly gives it his all here, but he just can’t reproduce the magic of his 2019 original. A lot of what made Shazam! work, in particular the great and occasionally unflinching character material, gets lost along the way in its sequel. There are plenty of small moments with the cast here and there to latch onto, but they’re light and just not enough to balance out the movie’s abundant spectacle.
To boil it down, there’s really just too much “stuff” going on that takes time away from the characters audiences enjoyed during the Big Red Cheese’s first big-screen outing. A bit of that charm still remains, sure, but it gets buried under a lopsided story that seems more interested in setting up fights and exposition dumps than adequately further developing its characters. It’s not an entire loss, though.
The CGI work is strong and consistent from start to finish Shazam! Fury of the Gods, and there’s enough of a plot here to keep the story afloat, even if it tilts in the wrong direction. The film’s young heroes and supporting cast, despite their diminished screen- time this time around, also remain just as delightful and watchable as ever.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a serviceable follow-up to the 2019 crowd-pleaser, even though it lacks the fanciful touch of the original. Sure, it trades in the charm and pluck for bigger set pieces and theatrics, but it nevertheless remains a pleasantly enjoyable time. The directing is solid, there’s plenty of laughs to be found, and it’s got some inventive design and staging hidden amongst all the standard superhero tussles, but the story just doesn’t land. Shazam! Fury of the Gods may not match the heights reached with the original Shazam!, but it’s still a fine enough follow-up that fans should consider giving it a chance. Recommended, but with reservations.
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