Review by Adam Donato
Did you grow up with iconic characters like Batman and Superman? That’s too bad because watching Warner Bros. conduct a cinematic universe is like watching a toddler drive on the highway — haphazardly planning their movies and sometimes not even releasing them. DC has been the talk of the town lately as the Zack Snyder divorce is not sitting well with the more aggressive of fans. The new man in the house is James Gunn and going forward, he decides what goes and what stays. During this awkward transitional period, the Shazam! team is trying to keep the focus on its big new sequel. Will Shazam! Fury of the Gods be the hit that it needs to be to live to see tomorrow?
Zachary Levi returns as Shazam after most recently starring in an Instagram Live where he’s on the edge of tears talking about the future of his character. His portrayal in the first movie was quite the revelation in the DCEU as we were graced with a character that was actually excited to be a superhero. He brings youthful joy to a character with the mind of a teenager. In the sequel, the cuteness of the character is beginning to wane. Maybe it was the second time he said “fam” where the realization kicked in that this character is kind of cringe. He faces the usual trappings of a character in a sequel as he doubts his own abilities and self worth. What if Shazam, like recent superheroes Ant-Man and the Wasp, doesn't need multiple movies of his own?
David F. Sandberg has become quite the Warner Bros. regular after the surprise hit Lights Out, the solid Annabelle sequel, and Shazam all saw box office and critical success. Notice the Annabelle doll in the background of the pediatrician scene? That Sandberg is so cute!
Sequels are supposed to improve upon the original. This effort is a lateral move at best. Some things are handled better like the superhero siblings, but other things stay the same, such as how the villain feels obligatory. Mirren and Liu were like bottom tier MCU villains, which would qualify as mid tier DCEU villains (Listen, the change in leadership at DC was warranted.) Sandberg seems like he was able to make the Shazam sequel he wanted to, though, and while this may be his last effort with the character, there doesn’t seem to be any meat left on that bone — especially since Dwayne Johnson was so obnoxious about Black Adam.
Standouts in Shazam! Fury of the Gods include Jack Dylan Grazer once again and newcomer to the franchise, Rachel Zegler. Especially after seeing Grazer’s character become a superhero himself, it’s clear now that he should’ve been the lead. After this and IT, it will be exciting how he continues as an actor now that he’s transitioning into adulthood. Zegler was also an immediate star and has great chemistry with Grazer here. Her powers are weird and her relationship with her sisters make no sense, but Zegler is always full of life on screen and is a welcome addition to this franchise. Djimon Hounsou is also given more screen time here and his character is taken in a more comedic direction.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a modest effort, but is more of the same and it’s starting to go stale. It's another clear sign the DCEU is ready for change. General audiences will be satisfied by this family-friendly superhero flick. The jokes are cheesy and the action is plentiful, despite being unspectacular. Fans of the first movie should check this one out in theaters because this could be their last chance.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods hits theaters on March 17.