‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ ups the stakes of its predecessor while losing none of its charm



Zachary Levi in “Shazam! Fury of the Gods.” (Warner Bros. Pictures/TNS)

By Tyler D'Errico, Contributor

Warner Bros. “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” which was released in theaters on March. 17, sticks the landing when it comes to a balance of humor and heart, plus a little splash of dark fantasy.

I really enjoyed the first “Shazam!” film. I thought it did a nice job at bringing back the sense of whimsy that has been missing from many darker-edged superhero films of late.

Reactions to “Fury of the Gods” have been mixed, with critics largely arguing that the film was inferior to its predecessor, while the majority of fans consider it an improvement.

I was unsure at first, but now I am squarely in the latter category. The humor in “Fury of the Gods” is much of the same, only more, but the stakes are more keenly felt in this one.

The action in the first “Shazam!” was largely confined to one carnival. While that worked for the film’s small-scale feel in comparison to other DCEU installments, increasing the area affected by the destruction to the entire city heightened the stakes considerably. And there was no indication that the Daughters of Atlas would stop there, either.

The one thing that was lacking in the first “Shazam!” was its villain. Dr. Sivana was largely a textbook superhero antagonist – same powers as the hero, only he uses them for evil.

“Fury of the Gods” instantly establishes the Daughters of Atlas as more formidable villains by including a horrifying dark fantasy scene that seems like a requisite for the “Shazam!” films. While having multiple villains can result in divided focus, each of the Daughters has different powers, which keeps them from being too repetitive in a movie where all the heroes have the same abilities.

The earth bending and monster manipulation powers of Helen Mirren’s Hespera and Lucy Liu’s Kalypso are nothing we haven’t seen before, but Rachel Zegler’s Anthea is an instant highlight with her axis manipulation powers, rotating entire cityscapes with ease.

The one thing that I didn’t get with regards to the villains of “Fury of the Gods” was the fact that they went with the Daughters of Atlas for this movie, when the post-credits scene in “Shazam!” clearly teased the return of Dr. Sivana with telepathic ally Mister Mind. The film doesn’t even attempt to answer this, instead giving us another stinger with them that raises the question once again.

The first “Shazam!” succeeded largely because it refused to be bogged down by the seriousness that often plagues superhero origin stories. Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer had razor-sharp comedic timing and bounced off of each other really well, and both are still in peak form here. Grazer actually has a new scene partner for most of the film in the form of Djimon Hounsou’s titular wizard, who actually has a role this time beyond appearing in one scene and disintegrating into a pile of ash.

“Fury of the Gods” also continues the self-awareness that was such a fun part of the first film, with one sequence making fun of Levi’s Shazam seemingly lacking the wisdom granted to him by the first ‘S’ of the titular word. The most hilarious scene, though, would have to be Hespera reading the letter that Shazam voice-dictated to sentient pen Steve (yes, you read that right). Mirren’s straight-faced delivery had me dying.

While it is quite campy at times, much like the first film, “Fury of the Gods” never skimps when it comes to the heart. Billy Batson, the boy behind the Shazam suit, still has mommy issues, which is a refreshing change of pace from the daddy issues of most superhero stories. This makes it all the more powerful when he finally calls his adoptive mother, Rosa Vásquez, “Mom” near the film’s climax.

Batson’s relationship with adoptive brother Freddy Freeman (Grazer) is also continued here, with Batson’s apparent death causing Freeman to break his usual self-confident façade. The film also expands a bit on Batson’s relationship with adoptive sister Mary Bromfield (Grace Currey), which I thought they could’ve done more of.

As this is a superhero movie, I feel obliged to talk about cameos. There are three of them in “Fury of the Gods,” and unlike in the first film, we get to see their heads this time. One of them in particular is quite important to the plot, even.

Overall, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” is supremely fun. While I realize that we might never see these characters again, that shouldn’t be a factor. It’s an entertaining movie, and that’s all that matters.