Action Adventure

Review: ‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ is a Satisfying Superhero Sequel that Takes the Genre Back to Basics

March 16, 2023Ben MK

The DC Extended Universe has often been criticized for being too dark and dour, especially in comparison to the more-established and ever-popular Marvel Cinematic Universe. All that changed, however, with David F. Sandberg's Shazam!, and things haven't been quite the same since. Fast forward four years and everyone's favorite live-action superhero family is back for another action-packed adventure — only this time, they're not just fighting ordinary criminals or battling megalomaniacal supervillains bent on world domination, but going head to head with the gods of mythology themselves.

Picking up where the first movie left off, Shazam! Fury of the Gods finds almost-18-year-old Billy Batson (Asher Angel) aka Shazam (Zachary Levi) in the midst of an emotional crisis. A few years earlier, an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou) bestowed upon him the magical abilities of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury, allowing Billy to save the world from the evil plans of the misguided Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong); yet, despite that impressive achievement, Billy still questions whether he's truly worthy to wield such power. It's a doubt his adoptive brothers and sisters to whom he's also granted his powers — Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer/Adam Brody), Mary (Grace Caroline Currey), Eugene (Ian Chen/Ross Butler), Darla (Faithe Herman/Meagan Good) and Pedro (Jovan Armand/D.J. Cotrona) — don't seem to share. However, when the Daughters of Atlas — Hespera (Helen Mirren), Kalypso (Lucy Liu) and Anthea (Rachel Zegler) — arrive on Earth to reclaim this hexad's magical gifts, Billy must put his worries on the back-burner and try to lead his super-powered family into battle.

For centuries, Hespera and her sisters have been prevented from setting foot in our world, thanks to a mystical barrier created by the same magic staff that gave Billy and his siblings their super powers. When Billy broke that staff in two during his showdown with Dr. Sivana, however, he also shattered that barrier, allowing the Daughters of Atlas to finally set into motion their plan to take back what was once theirs. With the elements under Hespera's control, Kalypso's ability to poison people's minds with chaos, and Anthea's talent for manipulating the planet's axis, there's no debating that this threesome is the most formidable group of opponents the Shazam family has ever faced. And if Billy and his fellow rookie superheroes are to have any hope of defeating them, they'll have to find a way to help him overcome the personal — and not so magical — demons holding him back.

Directed once again by Sandberg from a screenplay by Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan, the result is a slightly less family-friendly followup to the original 2019 crowd-pleaser that nonetheless does an superb job maintaining the same tone and themes as its predecessor while also upping the stakes and opening up the scope of the action. What will be most interesting to see, however, is just how much the events of this film (and its requisite post-credit scenes) will factor into the future of DC's big screen blockbusters, if at all. Because while James Gunn's recent announcement about rebooting the DCEU may imply that this is the last time audiences will be seeing these characters, there are definitely some aspects of the movie that might make it seem otherwise.

Suffice to say, if you enjoyed Shazam's first go-round at the box office, you'll almost certainly feel the same way about Shazam! Fury of the Gods. It's a safe and satisfying sequel that doesn't stray from the first installment's proven formula, giving audiences exactly what they came for. And in an era of dark and edgy comic book adaptations like The Boys and The Umbrella Academy, it's refreshing to see a film not try to subvert the genre, but rather restore the sense of awe and wonderment that goes along with being a superhero.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods releases March 17, 2023 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and language. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 10 min.

You May Also Like