Directors: David F. Sandberg
Cast : Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Adam Brody, Rachel Zegler, Ross Butler, Ian Chen, Meagan Good, Faithe Herman, Grace Caroline Curry, D.J. Cotrona, Jovan Armand, Lucy Liu, Djimon Hounsou, Helen Mirren
Run Time : 131 min
Opens : 16 March 2023
Rating : PG13
2019’s Shazam! was generally considered to be a successful entry in the DC Extended Universe, and in 2023, its sequel arrives as the DC Universe is in a state of flux. The Shazam family is back, hoping to bring more of the adventure and heart that served the first film well.
Billy Batson/Shazam (Asher Angel/Zachary Levi) and his foster siblings Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer/Adam Brody), Eugene (Ian Chen/Ross Butler), Darla (Faithe Herman/Meagan Good), Mary (Grace Caroline Curry) and Pedro (Jovan Armand/D.J. Cotrona) are a superhero team operating in Philadelphia. Billy is struggling to keep the team together, and despite their best efforts, the group is pejoratively named “the Philly Fiascos”.
Kalypso (Lucy Liu) and Hespera (Helen Mirren), daughters of the titan Atlas, arrive on earth to reclaim the Wizard’s (Djimon Hounsou) magic staff. Having been locked away for millennia, they attempt to reclaim the power they once wielded. Freddy develops a crush on Ann (Rachel Zegler), a new classmate to whom there is more than it first appears. With the Shazam family in something of a transitional phase, Billy and his foster siblings must defeat the Daughters of Atlas as they unleash chaos in our realm.
The first Shazam! movie felt very much like an 80s live-action kids’ adventure movie but with an underlying dark streak, and this movie mostly maintains that. It is often exuberant and funny, but there are also moments that might be genuinely frightening for younger children, including the opening sequence introducing Kalypso and Hespera. Director David F. Sandberg mostly keeps a handle on the proceedings, which are much bigger in scale than in the first film, as sequels are wont to be. There are lot of visual effects-heavy sequences, but the computer-generated creatures and elements do not feel as synthetic as in many similar films. The climactic battle, involving Lucy Liu astride a dragon and creatures from Greek mythology running amok in Philadelphia, does have a bit of a Ray Harryhausen feel to it. This is generally a charming movie that benefits from not bending over backwards trying to be cool, a problem many DC movies in the past have faced.
There are times when Fury of the Gods feels a little bloated, as it struggles to give each character their moment to shine while also introducing new ones. At 131 minutes, the movie feels just a little too long, with a protracted multi-part ending battle that takes up about a quarter of the running time. The real-life passage of time becomes a problem as the conceit of children transforming into adults starts the wear thin as the gulf in age between the kid and grown-up versions of several of the Shazam family characters starts to narrow. One result of this is that Grace Caroline Curry portrays both her civilian and superhero form (replacing Michelle Borth from the first movie).
Most of the movie’s attempts at connecting to the larger DC Universe seem distracting, especially since the DCEU in its current form is not long for this world. Thankfully, this is mostly relegated to the mid-credits and post-credits scenes, which seem at least half-aware that they’re setting up things that may or may not happen, pending how the rebooted DC Universe goes.
Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren hamming it up as supervillains is a big reason to see this movie. Both actresses are having fun and their different screen presences complement each other. Mirren is both imposing, as she can do effortlessly, and also unexpectedly funny, yet in a way that doesn’t undercut the threat her character poses.
There’s a sorta-kinda twist of Rachel Zegler’s Ann turning out to be Anthea, a third daughter of Atlas. It’s treated as a twist in the movie, but the reveal happens early and Zegler is in full Anthea regalia on the poster and in the trailers. The breakout star of 2021’s West Side Story, Zegler is a highlight of this movie and has an innate, undeniable charisma.
Summary: Shazam! Fury of the Gods is one of the final entries in this current iteration of the DC Extended Universe. There are some connections to the other movies, but this mostly serves as a direct sequel to the earlier Shazam movie, carrying over that film’s earnestness, sense of adventure and sprinkling of dark moments. The spectacle now comes with a serving of high fantasy inspired by Greek mythology, and it feels like an 80s adventure movie. There’s too much going on, but it’s not afraid to be silly but is also refreshingly devoid of cynicism. Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu chew the right amount of scenery as the villains, while Rachel Zegler continues to establish herself as an up-and-coming star to watch.
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars