Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023) Review
BILLY Batson and his foster family return for even more superhero wonder in Shazam! Fury of the Gods, a film that despite not tugging on the heart strings as much when compared to its predecessor, still manages to provide audiences with one thing superhero romps are sadly void of nowadays: fun.
The story picks up directly after the first movie, with Billy (Asher Angel) and the rest of his foster siblings being granted superpowers. The six youngsters look to use their powers for good as they balance their adolescent life alongside the immense responsibility of wielding godlike strength, but when a trio of ancient sisters threaten Shazam (Zachary Levi) and his friend's world, they must uncover the secrets surrounding their new foes before any harm can be done to the ones they love.
David Sandberg knocked it out of the park with 2019's Shazam! thanks to its overarching, simple story of a kid being given unprecedented power. However, there were concerns whether Sandberg could direct a follow-up film that could top the simplistic brilliance of the first, and despite minor slipups along the way, the sequel's plot feels like a natural progression for Billy as he struggles to deal with the weight of being a saviour to all. The interactions between him and his family feels earnest and natural, with very few scenes coming off as forced and a waste of time, and much like the first film, these are all bolstered by the terrific performances given by everyone (well...nearly everyone).
Zachary Levi once again excels in his portrayal of Shazam, with Asher Angel also delivering a genuine performance as Levi's younger counterpart. The two actors manifest their respective roles and feel like each version of Billy Batson is played by the same person despite their evident age difference. Newcomers to the DCU Rachel Zegler, Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu all deliver perfectly adequate performances, though despite her accomplished resume, Mirren felt like the weak link for much of the movie; an aspect which was sadly evident during pivotal moments towards the film's conclusion.
One of the reasons the original Shazam! performed so well was because of its down-to-earth screenplay which felt relatively small scale when compared to everything else in the DCU. Fury of the Gods increases its stakes tenfold, introducing cataclysmic threats that unfortunately don't mesh well with the constant humour being spouted. Don't get me wrong -- the humour being spouted still works on an elementary scale, but when combined alongside otherworldly threats and emotional character moments, they fail to work as effectively as they did in the 2019 predecessor. But thankfully, majority of the jokes are used during the film's downtime to bring levity to otherwise generic story moments which feel self-aware in its execution.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a perfectly fine superhero movie. The film doesn't set out to change the game; it embraces its simplistic formula by not attempting to overstep its boundaries by delivering a fun superhero romp. Much of the heart of the first Shazam! has been stripped away due to the nature of being a sequel, and while its second attempt at affectionate character arcs fails to hit home, the quality of the product mostly remains unaffected in what ended up being a magic-filled joyride worth seeing at least once.