"Shazam: Fury of the Gods" Review
With all the recent news about the future potential for James Gunn and Peter Safran’s new and revitalized DCU, it almost seems pointless to spend time, money, and energy on a grandfathered-in property from the old guard like Shazam: Fury of the Gods. It is an increasingly bad product of the modern studio landscape that giant blockbusters such as this can be rendered irrelevant by politics even before they’ve come out. We don’t have to look that much deeper within Warner Bros. to find the indefinitely-shelved Batgirl as a much harsher example.
But then again, it’s hard for me to feel sympathy for Fury of the Gods (and the entire old DCU regime) when it doesn’t provide any compelling reasons for its own existence. It’s an ultra-corporate tentpole telling a been-there-done-that story, with the only thing it excels at doing is being annoying.
Where the first Shazam was lighter on its feet and told a pretty straightforward story, Fury of the Gods muddies the waters as we dig deeper into the mediocre lore of the titular character. The three sisters of Atlas: Hespera (Helen Mirren), Kalypso (Lucy Liu), and Anthea (Rachel Zegler) have come to our mortal realm to claim their father’s staff, which can give and take the god-like powers from any person. Shazam (who doesn’t go by that name for “hilarious” reasons) and his superhuman foster family are their natural obstacles, although they have in-house troubles of their own as each member wants something a little different. Shazam doesn’t really know his place as a superhero, with Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) being overconfident with his abilities. The rest of the family fulfills their single character trait, so 75% of their interactions go exactly as expected.
Shazam’s identity crisis extends to the movie at large, as the edges of personality from the first film have been sanded off in favor of much more generic plotting and action. The stakes are again centered around the world being destroyed, with a MacGuffin about an item with limitless power. It even creates a sky beam (sort of), something we definitely haven’t gotten tired of!
There’s also still the problem of Zachary Levi and Asher Angel being the same character, despite the former having too much personality and the latter not enough. Director David F. Sandberg and writers Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan seemed to have sided with Levi, with Angel reduced to a much smaller supporting role. Grazer is grating as well as he overdoes everything. But there is talent evident within him, which he showed tremendously with Luca Gudagnino’s We Are Who We Are, so I still look forward to what he can do outside of franchises.
It’s hilarious that Dwayne Johnson didn’t want anything to do with Shazam when he was building his Black Adam movie, despite the two characters having a decades-long relationship in the comics. Now with both Black Adam and Shazam: Fury of the Gods being beacons of generic studio fodder, it seems only right for the two of them to finally get together and make something that finally kills the DCU. I wouldn’t mind if their power were also strong enough to suspend the MCU for a while, because the slope toward the gutter is getting increasingly slippier with each new entry.