The film continues the story of teenage Billy Batson who, upon reciting the magic word "SHAZAM!" is transformed into his adult Super Hero alter ego, Shazam. (adapted from IMDB)
2019's Shazam! was definitely an unusual-yet-sweet surprise when it released that spring. I had been a fan of Zachary Levi's portrayal of the titular character in the action comedy TV series, Chuck, and it was fun to see him make the transition to the superhero genre. Shazam seems like the perfect superhero fit for him, too. The first film, directed by David F. Sandberg, was this bizarre but unique blend of goofy humor and some surprising horror imagery. The plot largely involved these demons that represented the Seven Deadly Sins, and actor Mark Strong portrayed the central villain who wielded the power of these creatures to get revenge on those who wronged him. The themes of the movie heavily revolved around foster care, the importance of family, and how even adoption families can be just as much our real families as our biological family members. These themes, along with being a fun superhero feature, were perfect for family viewers, but the horror elements and some intense violence - including decapitation and a pretty dramatic car accident in the opening scene, among other things - made this anything but a family film. The creepy horror aspects made it a little difficult to want to revisit the movie on a more regular basis. And if it weren't for the unnecessary Christmas setting, it probably would work better as a creepy movie for the autumn Halloween season.
The success of the 2019 movie, however, has spawned its first sequel, titled Shazam: Fury of the Gods, which was slated for a Christmas 2022 release. Some significant DC cinematic universe changes forced the film to get delayed until March 2023, with the future of the franchise in question. But with director Sandberg back at the helm, one may wonder if, perhaps, Shazam: Fury of the Gods would be more suitable for younger viewers (Despite Levi telling us at a convention last year that this movie was "dope" and that we should take our then-11-year-old son to see it). And, while it doesn't feature anything as frightening as those Seven Deadly Sins, the shocking and sometimes intense violence does reoccur. For instance, the opening sequence introduces our new villains, two "gods" (little "g") played by Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu, who attack a museum to retrieve the very staff that gave Billy Batson the Shazam powers. The evil pair then proceed to whisper commands into innocent bystanders' ears which causes their eyes to turn a creepy black as they proceed to fight each other. The duo then turn others into stone, killing them (they specifically push one over - who had been begging for his life - so he shatters on the floor). It kicks the movie off with a bang for sure, and lets you know that you're in for another wild ride.
All of the kids from the first film reprise their roles, and it's obvious that a couple years have passed for them. Their adult superhero counterparts also return, except for Mary's, who is this time played by her child self, too (Grace Caroline Currey), just made up to look older when she's a superhero. With Billy mostly adjusted to accepting his foster family as his real family, he struggles with acting as a superhero and trying to make it work. He also has a hard time when his foster brother, and friend, Freddy starts taking interest in a girl at school, and enjoys "superheroing" solo. Although the family superhero team look like adults on the outside, all of them are still mostly immature teens who lack the experience needed to be successful superheroes. As a result, they tend to make a mess out of things more than actually helping. The villain dynamic is a little shaken up with supernatural human characters posing as the big threat, instead of a normal human wielding evil supernatural powers. However, most of the powers these villains possess are an even match for the heroes, instead of them being drastically different. The plot - with the villains seeking out the Shazam wizard's staff - makes this concept work, though. All of the superhero versions of the kids get a lot more screentime this time around, but efforts are also made to allow the teen actors some facetime as well. Also, Jack Dylan Grazer's role as teenage Freddy is drastically beefed up, and he does a really great job in the role, once again, serving as a highlight of the story. West Side Story's Rachel Zegler joins the cast as his love interest, and Djimon Hounsou makes a surprising return with a much more substantial role as the wizard Shazam. What may be really surprising is that Asher Angel's Billy Batson barely has much screen time, with Zachary Levi's adult Billy having much more this time around. Granted, Zachary's performance is always so lively and fun, so this isn't an issue, but with Angel's character playing such a pivitol role in the first film, it feels odd to see him sidelined this time around. Lastly, Helen Mirren as Hespera and Lucy Liu as Kalypso are the big bads, and Mirren especially turns in a good performance here. Unfortunately, while I've enjoyed Lucy Liu in movies like Shanghai Noon and the Sherlock Holmes-inspired TV series, Elementary, she seems miscast in the world of Shazam. Her performance as Kalypso lacks passion and so her character seems completely dull at times, especially during the finale.
In 2001, director Stephen Sommers responded to the success of his 1999 horror action comedy The Mummy with its first sequel, The Mummy Returns. The problem with that sequel was that Sommers seemed to forget what made the first movie so enjoyable and went for a "more is more" approach, totally overstuffing the film with action, special effects, and over-the-top scenarios. Sandberg treads a fine line here, nearly repeating Sommers' mistake 20 years later. Shazam: Fury of the Gods is a result of the "bigger is better" approach, but it doesn't stray too far from the DNA that made the first one so much fun. However, the movie still is pretty loaded from start-to-finish with one action scene after another. Sandberg slows down on occasion for a sweet moment or a character scene, but Fury of the Gods is more frenetic and, well, just bigger. The finale of Shazam took place at a Christmas carnival. This one involves much of the city of Philadelphia, including the Phillies' baseball stadium, complete with a massive dragon. Again, it goes for a lot bigger. Some of the more intimate character building is missed, but Sandberg keeps things moving to a speed that may make that tough to notice. Still, the pace here is nearly exhausting.
Thanks to writer Henry Gayden, Shazam: Fury of the Gods falls prey to the times, and is yet another superhero entry being used to push the gay agenda. Reportedly, the writer fought for the revelation that one of the foster kids, Pedro, is gay, and while it was ever so slightly hinted at in the first film, Gayden went for an all-out coming out here. Early on, we see young Pedro getting interested in watching baseball and then the camera focuses on him leering at a magazine that shows a baseball player with his buttoned jersey open exposing his muscular hairy chest. Later, superhero Pedro excuses himself to go watch baseball (with his true intentions now known to the audience), and in the heat of a key action sequence, young Pedro blurts out "I'm gay!" to which everyone around him frankly admits, "We know." Nothing about this feels organic or relevant to the story; it's clearly included to just check a box and appeal to that demographic. It definitely feels awkward and forced here.
As far as the other content goes, other violence includes a harrowing scene where Kalypso speaks into the ear of a teacher, whom Freddy is fond of, and his eyes turn black as he is put under their influence. The teacher then slowly walks to the edge of a rooftop and jumps to his death. Although we don't see the impact, Kalypso makes a comment that she forgot how humans burst like grapes. Another scene focuses on a man's fingertip as he pulls a toothpick sized piece of wood out from under his nail. It's bloody and shown close up. There's a sequence where mythical creatures - some pretty terrifying in appearance - fill city streets and attack people, sometimes killing them. One character is impaled on a creature's gigantic claw and, although not bloody at all, we see the claw sticking out of their chest. Some creatures turn to dust, and many scenes show superheroes battling with supernatural forces or creatures big and small. Language isn't pervasive, but it does include at least one implied "mother f---," surprisingly spoken by the young girl Darla, but drowned out by the bleeting sound a creature makes. There are also several uses of the "S" word, "h*ll," "-ss" (one with "hole"), and "Oh my G-d." A post-credits scene includes 2 uses of "g*dd*mn," and Shazam (adult Billy) censors himself when he realizes he's talking in front of his foster parents and says "G-d.... darn." Sexual content isn't frequent either, but there's the aforementioned gay revelation involving the Pedro character, and Shazam fantasizes about Wonder Woman and we see a dream sequence where Djimon Hounsou's wizard's face is pasted onto the full body of Wonder Woman while he talks to Billy.
Shazam: Fury of the Gods is no doubt a fun superhero outing and a good continuation of the Shazam story. Unfortunately, more isn't more in this case, and the movie tends to feel like an attack on the senses and can almost be overwhelming. It's not as strong a story or movie as the 2019 film, but it just might be more fun. Fans who don't take their superhero movies too seriously are especially likely to enjoy this one. Oh, by the way - there is a mid-credits scene and a post-credits scene, if you're curious. The post-credits scene directly relates to the post-credits scene from the first movie.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 3/19/23)
Shazam: Fury of the Gods, the latest (and one of the apparent final entries) of the current DCEU is coming home in a sleek 4K / Blu-Ray / Digital combo pack. The 4K picture for the movie is solid; it's crisp, colorful, and makes good use of the clarity and HDR that good 4K delivers.
Along with the feature film are the following extras:
SHAZAM! Let's Make a Sequel (24:50) - The biggest featurette gives us an overall look at the making of the sequel to the 2019 DC comics film. Topics covered include the Shazam family, pairing up Freddy with the Wizard for some of the story, Grace Caroline Currey being promoted to playing the superhero role of Mary in addition to the younger version of the character, super-suit design changes, and the several notable movie cameos (including the director, his wife, 1970's Shazam actor Michael Gray, and a certain Wonder Woman). The cast also gushes about working with director David F. Sandberg and how enjoyable it was to make this movie. (2 bleeped "F" words, 2 "S" words, 1 "bad*ss")
The Rock of Eternity: Decked Out (5:43) is all about how the superhero kids took over The Rock of Eternity as their lair after the first movie and how it's decorated with all kind of tiny details relevant to each individual character. They also talk about the Room of Doors and the new hidden library.
SHAZAM! The Zack Effect (4:21) - Here, the cast and crew talk about Zachary Levi, with his brimming positivity and childlike behavior, and how great he is to work with.
Sisterhood of Villains (7:55) is dedicated to the three sister villains: Hespera, Kalypso and Anthea. The actresses talk about how much fun it was to work together and play their respective, powerful roles, and how they all actually struck up a friendship off camera as well! (1 "bad*ss")
SHAZAM! Scene Deconstruction (10:07) - Sandberg gives a quick overview of several scenes, showing how they were filmed, starting off with the bridge scene. We see that they filmed it in what looks like a parking lot with blue screen walls surrounding the set. He then shows us the school rooftop, for which they utilized LED screens as the backdrop (and how actors jumped off the building), then the cheese steaks scene, the Greek monsters sequence, riding unicorns, and filming Lucy Liu riding a dragon. (2 "bad*ss")
Mythology of SHAZAM! Fury of the Gods (5:00) covers Greek mythology (obviously), specifically addressing the Atlas daughters and how they aren't from the Shazam comics. (And Sandberg talks about how he was shocked he was actually able to get Gal Gadot to make a cameo!). It then talks about the various mythological creatures that appear during the film's crazy climax.
Shazamily Reunion (5:02) features the cast talking about how excited they were to reunite with their Shazam family (or "Shazamily"), and how they hope they get to do it again someday. (1 "Oh G-d")
Deleted Scenes (31:07) - There is literally a half an hour of deleted footage included here! So I figure it might be time to try out a new formatting for this - in place of the usual block of text...
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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