Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)

Hey, it’s better than “Black Adam.”

That’s about the biggest glowing opinion I can give “Fury of the Gods” when all is said and done. The follow up to the 2019 crowd pleaser is a perfectly fine film. It’s a solid adaptation of a unique comic book series, and it’s a good chance this is the last time we’ll see “Shazam!” with this cast. That being said, I liked “Fury of the Gods” even if I wasn’t a big fan of how much they toned down the content to make it so much more appealing to the younger audience. “Shazam!” had demons, and “Fury of the Gods” has unicorns.

Billy Batson and his super powered alter ego Shazam are back and things are getting complicated. Especially now that Billy is about to turn eighteen and is faced with aging out of the foster care program he’s grown to love. He’s joined by his heroic foster siblings as they work to protect the city of Philadelphia from threats, but teamwork is starting to fade as plans for their futures are made. Billy’s anxiety is heightened by the arrival of Hespera and Kalypso, daughters of Atlas eager to retrieve the Staff of the Gods which will give them the power to control humanity.

This follow up catches Billy and his foster family a few years after their big adventure, and they’re now a big superhero team that love to save the world and help people (a huge refreshing juxtaposition from DCEU’s sullen, mopey Superman). Things get difficult for Billy because his underlying fear of being given up overwhelms his siblings, all of whom face new promising prospects socially and career wise. “Fury of the Gods” leans right in to the wish fulfillment prospect of the original film, and it does this by giving us much more of the Marvel family. Where as the Marvel family only functioned in the climax of the original “Shazam!” here they’re on screen for about three quarters of the film.

There’s a ton of focus on how they’re implementing their new powers and its fun watching them find new ways to benefit humanity. The entire cast all return (including the adult doubles) and there’s a lot of plot. That’s mainly a con as the narrative garners so many sub-plots and side plots. It’s tough to keep up and just feels absolutely messy. Plus the super villains here are never quite as devious as the original film’s villain; the writers can never decide if they’re bad guys or just misunderstood. Even in the finale, there’s not a clear indication on what the bad guys motivations really are and if Shazam! should be fighting them at all. For the most part Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu’s characters are charming in their own way but they feel like after thoughts.

There’s also not a ton of heart when it comes to the film’s whole message. A lot Billy’s own underlying fears of abandonment take a big back seat to a lot of slapstick comedy, and silliness. There was an undercurrent of sadness with Billy’s story in the original film, and here there’s not a ton of emphases on it. Jack Dylan Grazer gets a ton more screen time, and he’s very good as brother Freddy, another character that just loves being a superhero. Rachel Zegler (who was enormous in “West Side Story”) is also very good as new character Ann who takes a shine to Freddy.  “Fury of the Gods” is not the worst of the remaining DCEU movie stable, it’s just not what I’d put in the top five by any means.

At the end it’s a fairly underwhelming follow up, but it’s worth the time if only for its spirit and energy. It’s just too bad this is about all she wrote for this iteration of “Shazam!” and his family.