In 2019, Shazam! burst onto the DCU’s cinematic superhero roster, bringing a refreshing dose of levity to an otherwise pretty dour lineup of serious heroes doing some serious hero work. It was a welcome change of tone from the stony-faced dramatics of the Zack Snyder run of Superman pictures, the reverential tone of Wonder Woman (2017), and the camp underwater antics of Aquaman (2018). The red-suited hero returns in Fury of the Gods — but can Zachary Levi recapture the same light-hearted fun of the first installment?
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This sequel sees his Shazam, played by Levi in superhero form and Asher Angel in teen Billy Batson guise, face off against a trio of goddesses. Embodied on screen by Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu and Rachel Zegler as Kalypso, Hespera and Anthea, they don grand gold outfits and conjure creatures and magic from myth in a quest to transform Philadelphia into a vengeful Grecian dystopia.
Alongside this godly turmoil, he’s also wrestling with his own struggles trying to keep his family of superpowered siblings together as a cohesive unit. Chief among them is Jack Dylan-Grazer’s Freddie, who — in a storyline mirroring that of Zegler’s — longs to be free of the shadow of his older brother and carve his own superpowered way in the world.
It’s got some interesting familial wrinkles to it, and there’s some nice, if post-it note character work for the other supporting members of the ‘Philadelphia Fiascos’. Although this dedication to adding some heart to proceedings does mean that between that and facing off against the villains, there’s a little less time for the light-hearted, Big-esque body swap romps of the first.
Speaking of the villains, they’re undoubtedly a highlight. It’s unusual for a (relatively) big-budget superhero romp to invest in not one, but three lead female antagonists. But in Liu and Mirren particularly, they clearly relish the chance to chew through some meaty exposition and the high campery of the ornate costuming and Greek mythos.
And then exposition is a three-course meal in itself: there’s a good deal of explanation about realm barriers, broken staffs, stolen powers and the burden of godly responsibility. But for the most part, this can wash over you until you reach the point at which Liu mounts a dragon for a good portion of the run time.
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Yes, it does deliver the requisite amount of smashing and crashing, but there are at least some fun Ray Harryhausen-inspired monsters to face off against our super squad (albeit, with one particularly egregious product placement moment).
The Fury of the Gods isn’t going to change the cinematic landscape, but for an easy superhero romp with fun, camp villains, you could do worse than spend time with this superpowered family.