Justice League Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Shazam! Fury of the Gods
dir David F Sandberg
prd Peter Safran
scr Henry Gayden, Chris Morgan
with Zachary Levi, Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, Rachel Zegler, Djimon Hounsou, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Adam Brody, Meagan Good, Faithe Herman, Grace Caroline Currey, DJ Cotrona, Jovan Armand, Ross Butler, Ian Chen, Gal Gadot, Mark Strong
release US/UK 17.Mar.23
23/US Warners 2h10

mirren liu zegler
See also:
Shazam 2019 Black Adam 20229

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cotrona, good, brody, levi, currey and butler
While this sequel goes much bigger than the surprisingly engaging 2019 original, it also succumbs to the worst pitfalls of the superhero genre. With an excessive amount of digital action, creatures and settings, all rendered in the drabbest grey imaginable, the movie feels like it's unfinished, missing every trick that comes along. And although the plot has potential, it bogs down as over-complicated mythology makes it oddly uninvolving.
As superheroes, sparky teen Billy (Angel) and his foster siblings (Grazer, Herman, Currey, Armand and Chen) earn the wrong reputation in Philadelphia due to the destruction they cause while saving people's lives. Then vengeful god Hespera (Mirren) and her bitter sister Kalypso (Liu) turn up, wreaking havoc as they seek a magical seed that will replant their realm after millennia of banishment. So Billy summons his alter-ego Shazam (Levi) and heads into the fray with his equally augmented friends. Discovering that the wizard (Hounsou) is still alive, they seek his help against this nasty menace.
Subplots add personal interest, such as how Billy worries that turning 18 will age him out of his loving adoptive home. And Grazer's fast-talker Freddy falls for Anna (Zegler), a new high-schooler who sees the good guy in him but has her own secret. The fairly predictable central plot is cluttered with ancient objects, realms, creatures and product placement. Plus the requisite ever-larger action set-pieces, which only blur the focus away from meaningful engagement with the characters.

Oddly, the movie is so busy that only some of the outlying actors are able to gain traction. Levi has a few solid moments of blathering charm, but is mainly relegated to get lost in the fiery mayhem. Grazer (and his alter-ego Brody) have some terrific scenes that generate both laughs and sympathy, plus some solid chemistry with the charismatic Zegler, but nothing about his character's arc feels organic. And Liu's role is so relentlessly brutal that there's nothing she can do with it. This allows supreme scene-stealers Mirren and Hounsou to walk off with the film.

While the story is loosely entertaining, the list of missed opportunities here is rather extensive, starting with the astonishingly dull colour palette, which clearly should have been candy and rainbows. And there's also the problem of an ostensibly comical action movie that's so overpoweringly dark, violent and destructive. In other words, this isn't the sparky Shazam sequel we wanted. Even with flashes of wit, it's little more than another brooding, grim DC blockbuster.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 14.Mar.23

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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall