Shazam! Fury of the Gods is one of the rare instances where a sequel is better than the original movie. In Shazam! (2019), young Billy Batson acquired superpowers and a new foster family.
Zachary Levi [Chuck Bartowski in Chuck, Fandral of the Warriors Three in Thor: The Dark World (2013) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017), and the voice of Flynn Rider aka Eugene Fitzherbert in Disney’s Tangled (2010)] plays the adult form of the superhero known as Captain Marvel in the comic books, but nicknamed the Philly Fiasco in this movie.
Asher Angel (James [Harris in Darby and the Dead (2022)] plays Billy Batson, the juvenile non-super alter ego of the Philly Fiasco.
Dame Helen Mirren [Victoria Winslow in Red (2010), Col. Katherine Powell in Eye in the Sky (2015), Cara Dutton in 1923) plays Hespera, Daughter of Atlas. Lucy Liu [O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill (2003), Alex in Charlie’s Angels (2000) plays her dragon-riding sister, Kalypso. Rachel Zegler [Maria in West Side Story (2021)], plays Anthea, the third sister.
- Setting: Contemporary Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, in the DCEU.
- Theme: family.
- Plot: the daughters of the Titan Atlas and the goddess Nyx are upset the wizard Shazam stole their parents’ powers and sealed off the realm of the gods from Midgard (sorry, wrong pantheon). Did I say upset? I meant enraged.
Revenge is sought. Battles are fought. Lips are locked. Bad guys are shocked. Secrets are revealed. Skittles are eaten.
The movie starts in a museum in Athens, Greece. Museums are accurately described as amusement parks for the mind. This particular museum is somewhat chaotic after two soldiers in ancient uniforms and armor come in to seize the broken pieces of the Staff of the Gods.
The Staff of the Gods was the staff used by the wizard Shazam to steal the wisdom of Soloman, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. The wizard, played by Djimon Hansou [Korath the Pursuer in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Cinque in Amistad (1997), Duke in Serenity (2019)] seemed “really most sincerely dead” in the first movie, but he’s recovered by the sequel. Billy Batson broke the staff in two in Shazam! (2019) to prevent Dr. Sivana from gaining its powers.
Billy Batson is a few months away from 18. He’s in his 12th foster home. He ran away from the first eleven, looking for his biological mother. He’s found and accepted a family with his current foster family. He is trying to lead his family of super siblings as team leader. The Pennsylvania Tribune nicknames the whole group the Philly Fiascos after one of their rescues is only partially successful. Freddy Freeman, who was Captain Marvel, Jr. in the comic books, calls himself Captain Everypower. He jests that Billy is his sidekick, Captain Everypower, Jr. As team leader, Billy in unconfident and demanding. Having shared his superpowers with the other children in the foster home, he now insists crimefighting missions are all or none. His foster siblings find this attitude a little stifling. However, in a few months he will “age out” of the system, and his foster parents could legally put him out on the street with his clothes and other belongings in a garbage bag, so he’s trying to hang onto his family while he has them.
The Daughters of Atlas are also prone to family problems. They disagree on how to seek revenge.
The special effects are impressive, and more than a little reminiscent of the special effects in Dr. Strange (2016). The most impressive creature in the movie is Ladon, the guardian dragon of the Garden of the Hesperides. The other monsters are also well done. The unicorns are worthy of Sue Dawe. The music is good. SciFi.Radio might want to consider buying the soundtrack CD. At one point Billy is struck by how appropriate it is that the woman he’s rescuing from a disaster is listening to “I’m Holding Out for a Hero” on her car radio at the time.
Fans were disappointed, but not surprised that Dwayne Johnson did not appear as Black-Adam. However, Gal Gadot does have an uncredited cameo as Wonder Woman. Another important cameo is Michael Gray (Billy Batson in the Saturday morning live-action Shazam TV show in the ’70s.) as an innocent bystander who suggests ‘Captain Marvel’ as a codename for the Philly not-a-Fiasco-after-all.
There are two end credit scenes, neither guarantees a sequel, but both set the roundwork for possible sequels.
Scriptwriters Henry Gayden, Chris Morgan, and Bill Parker make good use of foreshadowing. Minor things turn out to be important later.
The oldest and youngest members of the cast are the two biggest scene-stealers: Oscar & BAFTA winner Dame Helen Mirren as Hespera and Faithe Herman as little Darla Dudley, the youngest of the “Shazamily.”
The coming attractions were Barbie, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, and The Flash. There was no newsreel or cartoon. It would have been fairly easy for Warner Brothers to include a cartoon with the movie, and as a long-time movie-goer, I think they missed a bet.
It was a fun movie. I’d rate it eight out of ten. Shazam! Fury of the Gods is rated PG-13 for profanity and violence. It was directed by David F. Sandberg.
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