A Fun Superhero Romp With Shaky Execution

As the first DC movie to arrive since the official announcement of DC Studios, Shazam! Fury of the Gods is in a unique position as a project from a different era. Audience members probably know DC’s cinematic landscape will change drastically in the coming years, though this new effort, made during a time when Henry Cavill was still considered Superman, makes a case for these heroes to be included in whatever is coming next for the franchise. Continuing the story of young hero Billy Batson (Asher Angel), Shazam! Fury of the Gods isn’t quite a home run, saddled instead with sporadic character beats and a too-long climax. However, those willing to go along with Billy’s patchy journey just might find themselves entertained by what this DC sequel has to offer.


Set several years after 2019’s Shazam!, Billy and his foster siblings have settled into their powers and are making names for themselves as heroes — for better or worse. Billy (again played by Zachary Levi when at his full powers) has stepped into the role of team leader, though not everyone is as eager to stick together. Most prominently, Billy’s brother Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) has taken to the superhero life with gusto, though he prefers to strike out on his own and really build up his cred. Unfortunately, the Shazam family’s lighthearted antics take a turn when they cross paths with the Daughters of Atlas, Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu), two goddesses who have only recently broken out of their prisons and are looking for revenge.

Related: Zachary Levi On Hopes For A DCU Future After Shazam 2 & His Ideal Team Up

Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

The full story of Hespera and Kalypso’s past is delivered in a brisk info dump a decent way into Shazam! Fury of the Gods, though it sounds like such a rich backstory that one almost wishes it could nab its own spinoff. In short, the Wizard from the first movie (Djimon Hounsou, back for a bigger role this time) stole their powers and trapped them in a realm separate from the human world. Now, they want back what they lost and more. Mirren and Liu are excellent additions to the Shazam! world, embodying their characters with a formidable and fearsome air. While the script from Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan doesn’t spend much time establishing their characters or their powers, Mirren and Liu go a long way in building up the fraught, compelling dynamic between the two sisters. (There is a third, though mentioning her might be a spoiler for some.) Watching them play off each other is one of the highlights of Shazam! Fury of the Gods.

Before Hespera and Kalypso make their first move against the Shazam family, however, Gayden and Morgan lay the groundwork for some solid (if occasionally heavy-handed) character work for Billy. The first movie established his abandonment issues, stemming from his biological mother leaving him behind, and his hesitance to settle into his new foster family. Shazam! Fury of the Gods picks this up by exploring his reluctance to let his siblings go, even while he resists accepting foster mom Rosa (Marta Milans) as a true parent.

Ross Butler, Adam Brody, Grace Caroline Currey, Zachary Levi, Meagan Good, and DJ Cotrona in Shazam! Fury of the Gods
Ross Butler, Adam Brody, Grace Caroline Currey, Zachary Levi, Meagan Good, and DJ Cotrona in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

It’s a natural place for Billy’s arc to go, but once Hespera and Kalypso strike — in a scene that is perhaps the most striking example of the devastation the two are capable of — the character stuff falls to the wayside. Director David F. Sandberg certainly keeps the plot moving at a decent pace, and there is a lot of plot to pack in. However, this only serves to make the inevitable return to Billy’s deeper issues slow things down. Billy’s relationship with Rosa is a strong part of Fury of the Gods, yet the two only really share three scenes together, one of which is so quick it might not even count.

Furthermore, Shazam! Fury of the Gods‘ impact is hindered by a third act that drags on for too long. It’s a climax that stretches across the streets of Philadelphia and involves a number of mythological Greek monsters, yet quickly gets repetitive since the conflict really only boils down to two characters (though the various trailers give strong hints about where the plot goes). By that point, Shazam! Fury of the Gods lost some of the excitement that came before, even though the stakes were supposedly higher.

Zachary Levi in the burned Shazam suit in Shazam! Fury of the Gods
Zachary Levi in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Despite the slowdown near the end, Shazam! Fury of the Gods‘ middle section offers some genuine fun, namely through various locations that really tap into the mythic side of the DC world. In addition to further exploring the mysteries of the Rock of Eternity, the movie travels to Hespera and Kalypso’s godly realm, which is suitably majestic. Additionally, the cast is more than up to the task of shouldering the bigger plot, though not everyone gets equal opportunities to shine. Shazam! Fury of the Gods spends a bit more time with Levi’s version of Billy rather than Angel’s, whereas Grazer really shines as the non-powered version of Freddy (Adam Brody is his superhero persona). Grazer and Hounsou become an unexpectedly charming comedic duo, and franchise newcomer Rachel Zegler makes her mark on a very busy movie. The other members of the Shazam family aren’t as well-served by the script or the plot, though they’re still solid additions.

Anyone who wasn’t won over by the first Shazam! and its more lighthearted look at the DCU probably won’t find themselves buying into Billy’s journey now. And it is fair to say that DC’s imminent changes make parts of Fury of the Gods feel like they’re coming too late. However, as it stands on its own, Sandberg has crafted a fun sequel that has its heart in the right place. It has its stumbles, but it knows what kind of movie it wants to be: An earnest superhero romp that entertains and tugs at the heartstrings. It certainly succeeds there.

Next: Shazam! Fury Of The Gods Trailer

Shazam! Fury of the Gods releases in theaters Friday, March 17. It is 130 minutes long and rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and language.

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